extended metaphor

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  1. a metaphor introduced and then further developed throughout all or part of a literary work, especially a poem:

    Robert Frost uses two roads as an extended metaphor in “The Road Not Taken.”

  2. a literary work that contains an extended metaphor.

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Word History and Origins

Origin of extended metaphor1

First recorded in 1710–20

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Example Sentences

The passage includes a meditation on a condom wrapper with a picture of a bee on it, captioned “cover your stinger,” which Gaetz claimed to have obtained from the Key West airport and serves as an extended metaphor for romantic despair.

Allegory has been shown to have had a long history as an extended metaphor--a rhetorical figure.

Allegory in the sense of Quintilian as a trope, an extended metaphor, Wilson mentions only once.


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More About Extended Metaphor

What does extended metaphor mean?

An extended metaphor is a metaphor in a literary work, such as a novel or poem, that isn’t just used in one line but is extended over multiple lines or throughout the work.

A metaphor is the applying of a word or phrase to something that’s not literally related in order to suggest a resemblance, as in She’s a walking dictionary (she’s not literally a dictionary, but her vocabulary resembles one).

Extended metaphors use this kind of comparison, but in a drawn-out and often complex way. When an author uses an extended metaphor, they will keep adding to it, developing it, or making reference to it. This can occur over more than one line, over multiple paragraphs, or even over the course of the entire work.

Extended metaphors are especially found in poetry and novels, but they can also be used in song lyrics, movies, speeches, and even nonfiction—anywhere metaphors are used.

Why is extended metaphor important?

The word metaphor comes from the Greek metaphorá, meaning “a transfer.” A metaphor transfers meaning from the thing it represents (what it really means) to the things that represent it—comparisons or symbols. After a metaphor is established, it can be extended—continued, prolonged, stretched out—by drawing further comparisons or making additional connections.

Shakespeare did this all the time. In Romeo and Juliet Act 2, Scene 2, Romeo admires Juliet on her balcony: “But soft! What light through yonder window breaks? / It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.” Shakespeare establishes the metaphor by comparing Juliet to the sun. But then he keeps it going, making reference to the moon, stars, and daylight, saying that the “light” that Juliet gives off is so bright that birds would start singing even at night because they think it’s the dawn.

This is a somewhat simple example. Some extended metaphors continue throughout the entire length of a poem or novel, adding elements and increasing in complexity. It takes skill to create a successful extended metaphor, but it’s worth it. Extended metaphors are extremely useful for revealing things about the characters, the theme of the work, or other elements of the story—often in a very memorable way.

Did you know ... ?

An extended metaphor is sometimes called a conceit, especially in poetry.

What are real-life examples of extended metaphors?

The possibilities for creating metaphors and extended metaphors are endless, and they can be used to express an unlimited amount of ideas.


What other words are related to extended metaphor?

Quiz yourself!

Which of the following entries is the best example of an extended metaphor?

A. Her eyes were like the sun.
B. There is an army of children in that house.
C. Life is a rodeo. You’ve got no choice but to get on and ride. And the ground is always waiting for you at the end of it all.
D. She was a ticking time bomb. Anything could make her lose her temper.




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