[met-uh-fawr, -fer]


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

Origin of metaphor

1525–35; < Latin metaphora < Greek metaphorá a transfer, akin to metaphérein to transfer. See meta-, -phore
Related formsmet·a·phor·i·cal [met-uh-fawr-i-kuh l, -for-] /ˌmɛt əˈfɔr ɪ kəl, -ˈfɒr-/, met·a·phor·ic, adjectivemet·a·phor·i·cal·ly, adverbmet·a·phor·i·cal·ness, nounhy·per·met·a·phor·ic, adjectivehy·per·met·a·phor·i·cal, adjectivenon·met·a·phor·ic, adjectivenon·met·a·phor·i·cal, adjectivenon·met·a·phor·i·cal·ly, adverbsem·i·met·a·phor·ic, adjectivesem·i·met·a·phor·i·cal, adjectivesem·i·met·a·phor·i·cal·ly, adverbsub·met·a·phor·ic, adjectivesub·met·a·phor·i·cal, adjectivesub·met·a·phor·i·cal·ly, adverb
Can be confusedmetaphor simile Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for metaphoric

Contemporary Examples of metaphoric

  • As the ceasefire was announced, Peter Beinart asked me what Jerusalemites felt as we exited our own metaphoric bunkers.

    The Daily Beast logo
    As We Leave Our Metaphoric Bunkers

    Gil Troy

    November 23, 2012

  • This should reframe recent “failures” you experienced as opportunities for achieving greater goods, both real and metaphoric.

    The Daily Beast logo
    The Stars Predict Your Week

    Starsky + Cox

    October 9, 2011

  • On the contrary, you now discover innumerable ways to market your wares, be they real or metaphoric.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Your Week: What the Stars Hold

    Starsky + Cox

    September 4, 2011

  • The Solar Eclipse, Wednesday, meanwhile, brings welcome news regarding real estate, real or metaphoric.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Horoscopes: May 29-June 4, 2011

    Starsky + Cox

    May 28, 2011

  • If not, you will have created a more conducive environment for realizing next move(s), both real and metaphoric.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Horoscopes: The Week of March 27

    Starsky + Cox

    March 26, 2011

Historical Examples of metaphoric

  • Susie Bateman snorted like the metaphoric warhorse, for she scented battle.

  • With all the wealth of his prolix, poetic, metaphoric tongue, the Polish author gives them abundant consideration.

    The North American Slime-Moulds

    Thomas H. (Thomas Huston) MacBride

  • The metaphoric 'infancy' of which Guarini speaks is the pre-dramatic period of pastoral growth.

  • The rocks are metaphoric quartzites, and the river-bed is crossed by a belt of granite.

    Golden Alaska

    Ernest Ingersoll

  • After thousands of years the lines of metaphoric advance are still shown, and in many cases actually retained in the meaning.


    Ezra Pound

British Dictionary definitions for metaphoric



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 battleCompare simile
Derived Formsmetaphoric (ˌmɛtəˈfɒrɪk) or metaphorical, adjectivemetaphorically, adverbmetaphoricalness, noun

Word Origin for metaphor

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

Word Origin and History for metaphoric

1590s, from metaphor + -ic. Greek metaphorikos meant "apt at metaphors."



late 15c., from Middle French metaphore (Old French metafore, 13c.), and directly from Latin metaphora, from Greek metaphora "a transfer," especially of the sense of one word to a different word, literally "a carrying over," from metapherein "transfer, carry over; change, alter; to use a word in a strange sense," from meta- "over, across" (see meta-) + pherein "to carry, bear" (see infer).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

metaphoric in Culture


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.