From LitWiki

A figure of speech in which a comparison between two things are made. Metaphors are one of the most common forms of figurative language. Perrine states that metaphor may take one of four forms:

  1. that in which the literal term and the figurative term are both named
  2. that in which the literal term is named and the figurative term implied
  3. that in which the literal term is implied and the figurative term named
  4. that in which both the literal and the figurative terms are implied (1461)

Connolly speaks of four figures of speech that are similar. They are simile, metaphor, personification, and allegory (141). Although a simile also uses comparisons they are usually connected by the words like, as, such, and thus. Sometimes a metaphor can be extended through a whole narrative, this is called allegory. The Encyclopedia Britannica suggest that there are two parts to a metaphor, the tenor and vehicle. Tenor is the literal meaning and vehicle is for the figurative meaning.


The word metaphor comes from Greek metaphora and is derived from meta which means “over” and pherein meaning “to carry”. Hawkes claims that characteristics of one object are “carried over” to a second object as if it were the first (1).


"The Bight" by Elizabeth Bishop, quotes “Pelicans crash / into this peculiar gas unnecessarily hard, / it seems to me, like pickaxes, / rarely coming up with anything to show for it, / and going off with humorous elbowings." Bishop paints the image of pelicans coming out of the water with the metaphor “humorous elbowings”(904).



A dead metaphor as a word or phrase that has lost its metaphoric force through common usage. Singleton gives an instance of a dead metaphor when he writes “Tenderfoot, for example, is one not yet inured to the hardships of an outdoor life, and the word once bore the image of someone whose feet were sore from unwonted exercise” (39).


A mixed metaphor is combining inconsistent or incongruous metaphors.

External Links

Metaphor Project contains methods for creating more vivid and effective new slogans, catch phrases, and metaphors.

Works cited

  • Ann Charters and Samuel Charters. Literature and Its Writers: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Boston: Bedford, 1997.
  • Connolly, Francis X. Poetry: Its Power And Wisdom. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1960.
  • Hawkes, Terence. Metaphor. London: Methuen & Co Ltd, 1972.
  • Perrine, Laurence. Literature Structure, Sound, and Sense. 4th ed. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1983.
  • Singleton, Ralph H. Style. California: Chandler Publishing Company, 1966.