[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 metaphors

Contemporary Examples of metaphors

Historical Examples of metaphors

  • I am ill skilled in beating the coverts of imagination for metaphors of gratitude.

  • Their language is full of metaphors which imply form and shape.

    The Meaning of Evolution

    Samuel Christian Schmucker

  • Parts of speech are metaphors, because the whole of nature is a metaphor of the human mind.


    Ralph Waldo Emerson

  • Bottle up your metaphors and give us a page of business-like fluency!

    Jack of Both Sides

    Florence Coombe

  • His invectives ate in like corrosives, his metaphors bit like adders.

    The Thunders of Silence

    Irvin Shrewsbury Cobb

British Dictionary definitions for metaphors



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 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

metaphors 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.