[ met-uh-fawr, -fer ]
See synonyms for: metaphormetaphorsmetaphoricalmetaphoric on

  1. a figure of speech in which a term or phrase is applied to something to which it is not literally applicable in order to suggest a resemblance, as in “A mighty fortress is our God.”: Compare mixed metaphor, simile (def. 1).

  2. something used, or regarded as being used, to represent something else; emblem; symbol.

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Origin of metaphor

First recorded in 1525–35; from Latin metaphora, from Greek metaphorá “a transfer,” akin to metaphérein “to transfer”; see meta-, -phore

Other words from metaphor

  • met·a·phor·i·cal [met-uh-fawr-i-kuhl, -for-], /ˌmɛt əˈfɔr ɪ kəl, -ˈfɒr-/, met·a·phor·ic, adjective

Words that may be confused with metaphor

Words Nearby metaphor Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use metaphor in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for metaphor


/ (ˈmɛtəfə, -ˌfɔː) /

  1. a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action that it does not literally denote in order to imply a resemblance, for example he is a lion in battle: Compare simile

Origin of metaphor

C16: from Latin, from Greek metaphora, from metapherein to transfer, from meta- + pherein to bear

Derived forms of metaphor

  • metaphoric (ˌmɛtəˈfɒrɪk) or metaphorical, adjective
  • metaphorically, adverb
  • metaphoricalness, noun

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Cultural definitions for metaphor


The comparison of one thing to another without the use of like or as: “A man is but a weak reed”; “The road was a ribbon of moonlight.” Metaphors are common in literature and expansive speech. (Compare simile.)

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.