Figure Name metaphor
Source Ad Herennium 4.34.45 ("translatio"); Quintilian 8.6.4-18; Susenbrotus (1540) 7 ("metaphor," "translatio"); Sherry (1550) 40 ("metaphora," "translatio," "translacion"); Fraunce (1588) 1.7; Putt. (1589) 189 ("metaphora," "figure of transsporte"); Day 1599 77 ("metaphora"); Hoskins 1599 8 ("metaphor," "translation"); Melanchthon (1531);Silva Rhetoricae (; Ad Herennium (343-345); Garrett Epp (1994) ("translatio," "metaphor"); JG Smith (1665) ("metaphora"); Gibbons (1767) 22 ("metaphor"); Hart (1874) 154-159; Vinsauf (1967) ("metaphor (translatio)"); Macbeth (1876); Holmes (1806) ("metaphor," "metaphora"); De Mille (1882); Bain (1867) 30 ("metaphor"); Hill (1883); Waddy (1889); Demetrius (1902) 139; Jamieson (1844) 143; Blount (1653) 1; Raub (1888) 194; Blackwall (1718); Bullinger (1898) ("metaphor; or, representation"); Johnson (1903) ("metaphor"); Norwood (1742) ("a metaphor"); Kellog (1880) ("the metaphor"); Vickers (1989) ("metaphor")
Earliest Source None
Synonyms metaphora, translatio, translation, figure of transport, representation, transference
Etymology from meta “beyond, over” and pherein “to carry”
Type Trope
Linguistic Domain Semantic

1. A comparison made by referring to one thing as another. (Silva Rhetoricae)

2. Metaphor occurs when a word applying to one thing is transferred to another, because the
similarity seems to justify this transference. Metaphor is used for the sake of creating a vivid mental picture. (Ad Herennium)

3. Application of a word in a transferred sense from one thing to another that is in some way similar or analogous. (This most elaborate of tropes is too well known and too varied to be usefully illustrated here.) (Garrett Epp)

4. Translation: it is a Translation of words from one species to another: a trope when we expresse our selves by a word of like signification unto that which we mean, &c.; Metaphora, gr., Translatio, translation, or a removing over; derived from [metapherò] transfero, to translate. (Note in marg: Esteum nomen aut verbum ex prop io loco, in m transfertur, in quo aut proprium d...) It is the artificial Translation of a word, from the proper signification, to another not proper, but yet nigh and alike: Or it is a Translation of words from one species to another: Or the friendly borrowing of a word to expresse a thing with more light and better note, though not so directly and properly as the natural name of the things meant would signifie. It is a Trope when we expresse our selves by a word of a like signification to that which we mean: or when the property of one thing is translated to another: as, Gen. 6.6. God is said to repent; where the property of man is translated to the omnipotent and omniscient God. A Metaphor is pleasant, for that is enriches our knowledge with two things at once, with the Truth and a similitude. Two necessary Rules to be observed, viz.

1. A Metaphor ought not to be so far fetcht, as that the similitude may not easily appear.

2. It ought to be drawn from the noblest things, as the Poets do, that choose rather to say, rosie-fingerd, then red-finger'd Aurora; as appears by the first English Example, where 'tis thought unfit to stoop to any Metaphor lower then the Heaven. (JG Smith)

5. "A metaphor is a trope, by which a word is removed from its proper signification into another meaning upon account of comparison." (Gibbons)

6. Metaphor is a figure founded upon the resemblance which
one object bears to another. Hence it is nearly allied to
Simile. A metaphor is, indeed, a sort of abridged simile. In metaphor, the comparison, if made at all, is not formally expressed in words. One object is ass8umed to be so like another, that things properly belonging to the one are attributed to the other, without stopping to draw a
formal comparison between them - without, in fact, stopping to think whether such a likeness exists or not. (Hart)

7. ... [T]he artistic transposition of words. If an observation is to be made about man, I turn to an object which clearly resembles man (in the quality or state of being I wish to attribute to him). When I see what that object's proper vesture is, in the aspect similar to man's, I borrow it, and fashion for myself a new garment in place of the old. (Vinsauf)

8. In metaphor, the subject of which the metaphorical affirmation is made is always taken literally; the metaphor lies wholly in the copula or verb, which asserts something of the subject that is not literally proper to the nature of that subject:
"Judah is a lion's whelp." (Macbeth)

9. A Metaphor, in place of proper words, Resemblance puts; and dress to speech affords. (Holmes)

10. 100. METAPHOR.
A metaphor is an implied comparison. In comparison the resemblance between two things is formally expressed, as, for example, "He is as brave as a lion." In metaphor the sign of comparison is dropped, the two are identified, and the one is asserted to be the other, as "He is a lion." Hence metaphor is attended with a higher degree of animation, and involves a bolder effort of the imagination.
Metaphors have had various classification, but the best known is that of Quintilian, which is as follows:
1. Where one living thing is put for another.
2. Where one inanimate thing is put for another.
3. Where inanimate things are put for thing having life.
4. Where inanimate things are represented as endowed with life. (De Mille)

11. "a comparison implied in the language used… this figure is in frequent use. By dispensing with the phrases of comparison--like, as, &c.--it has the advantages of being brief and of not disturbing the structure of the comparison. Like similitudes generally, metaphors may (1) aid the understanding, (2) deepen the impression on the feelings, and (3) give an agreeable surprise." (Bain)

12. 1. Nature of Metaphor.
In the metaphor, resemblance is not formally expressed, bu so emphatically implied as to affirm an identity of the objects compared. (Hill)

13. Metaphor is a figure of speech founded upon resemblance. It is often called an abridged simile. IT agrees with the simile in being founded upon resemblance, but differs from it in structure. In the simile one object is said to resemble another; and, generally, some sign of comparison (as, like, etc.) stands between them. In the metapor, an object is spoken of as if it were another, and no sign of comparison is used. (Waddy)

14. "a figure founded entirely on the resemblance which one subject bears to another. ...The comparison is only insinuated, not expressed; the one object is supposed to be so like the other, that without formally drawing the comparison, the name of the one may be put in the place of the name of the other." (Jamieson)

15. "A METAPHOR or Translation is the friendly and neighbourly borrowing of a word, to express a thing with more light and better note, though not so directly and properly as the naturall name of the thing meant, would signifie." (Blount)

16. "Metaphor is an implied comparison. A metaphor may be regarded as an abridged simile. The chief difference between metaphor and simile lies in the form of statement. ...In the metaphor, terms of comparison are omitted. ...Metaphor aids the memory by multiplying meanings without multiplying words. ...Metaphor aids the understanding. ...Metaphor impresses the feelings. Metaphor secures both brevity and smoothness." (Raub)

17. Metaphor is a Trope by which we put a strange Word for a proper Word, by reason of its Resemblance and Relation to it. (...) A Metaphor is a Simile or Comparison intended to enforce and illustrate the Thing we speak of, without the Signs or Form of Comparison. (...) So in short, a Metaphor is a stricter or closer Comparison; and a Comparison a looser and less-compact Metaphor. (Blackwall)

18. A Declaration that one Thing is (or represents) another; or, Comparison by Representation... Hence, while the Simile gently states that one thing is like or resembles another, the Metaphor boldly and warmly declares that one thing IS the other... The Metaphor is, therefore, not so true to fact as the Simile, but is much truer to feeling. (Bullinger, 729)

19. Met'aphor.—This figure consists in suggesting a likeness between two things by asserting one to be identical with the other, or calling it by the name of the other... One of the most necessary duties of the rhetorician is to warn his pupils against mixed metaphors. Many of these might be cited from good writers... A metaphor should not only be pure (unmixed), but should present a conceivable picture, not repulsive to good taste or common sense... If the mind conceives that picture at all, it must perforce view the Creator in the character of a convict wearing a ball and chain, to say nothing of an entanglement that would stop the movements of the
universe. A common metaphorical expression that is inelegant, not to say repulsive, is seen in the sentence, "He drank in the words of the orator." Some metaphors that were originally good have become so hackneyed that any further repetition of them should be avoided. (Johnson, 151-153)

20. A METAPHOR. A Metaphor is an artificial translation of a word, from the proper signification of it to another, because there is some proportion between the similitude, and the very thing signified. This kind of Trope is extremely pleasant, and not without excellent use; for it enriches our mind with two ideas at the very same time, with the
truth, and the similitude. (Norwood, 54-55)

21. A metaphor is a figure of speech in which, assuming the likeness between two things, we apply to one of them the term which denotes the other. This figure is encountered everywhere in speech. In almost every sentence that drops from the pen or tongue, there are words whose metaphorical significance has so faded out of them that we fail to detect it. Richter has called language "a dictionary of faded metaphors." (Kellog, 115-6)

22. Metaphor (or translatio), when a word is transferred from one thing to another, for illumination and for emotional emphasis. (Vickers 496)


1. No man is an island —John Donne
For ever since that time you went away
I've been a rabbit burrowed in the wood —Maurice Sceve
Life is a beach.
Who captains the ship of state? (Silva Rhetoricae)

2. " This insurrection awoke Italy with sudden terror " (Ad Herennium)

2. " The recent arrival of an army suddenly
blotted out the state" (Ad Herennium)

2. "Whose mother delights in daily marriages " (Ad Herennium)

2. " No one's grief or disaster could have appeased this creature's enmities and glutted his horrible cruelty" (Ad Herennium)

2. " He boasts that he was of great help because, when we were in difficulties, he lightly breathed a favouring breath " (Ad Herennium)

5. "...he is a lion." (Gibbons)

5. "Thus our blessed Lord is called a vine, a lamb, a lion, &c. Thus men, according to their different dispositions, are styled wolves, sheep, dogs, serpents, &c." (Gibbons)

4. The skie of your vertue overcast with sorrow.

You are the most excellent star that shines in the bright Element of beauty.

The wounds of grief.---flowers of Oratory.

Drops of dew are pearls.

Flowers in medows are stars.

The murmuring of the waters is musick.

To divorce the fair marriage of the head and body; where besides the cutting off of the head, we understand the conjunction of the head and body to resemble marriage.

To keep love close prisoner; which is to conceal love.

There came through Cheapside a whole fleet of Coaches; for a great number. (JG Smith)

6. "He is the pillar of the state." (Hart)

6. "Full many a glorious morning I have seen, Flatter the mountain-top with sovran eye, Kissing with golden face the meadows green, Gilding pale streams with heavenly alchemy." -Shakespeare (Hart)

6. "The white light of truth, in trancersing the many-sided transparent soul of the post, is refracted into iris-hued poetry." -Herbert Spencer (Hart)

6. "The vessel was now full, and this last drop made the waters bitnerness overflow." -Bolingbroke (Hart)

6. "In the shipwreck of the state, trifles float and are preserved; while everything solid and valuable sinks to the bottom, and is lost forever." - Junius (Hart)

6. "In peace, thou art the gale of spring; in war, the mountain storm." -Ossian (Hart)

6. "She was covered with the light of beauty; but her heart was the bearer of the pride." -Ossian (Hart)

7. For example, taking the words in their literal sense, gold is said to yellow; milk, white; a rose, very red; honey, sweet-flowing; flames, glowing; snow, white. Say therefore: snowy teeth, flaming lips, honied taste, rosy countenance, milky brow, golden hair. These word-pairs are well suited to each other: teeth, snow; lips, flames; taste, honey; countenance, rose; brow, milk; hair, gold. (Vinsauf)

8. "A scolding woman's tongue is the only edge-tool that grows sharper by constant use." - Washington Irving (Macbeth)

9. A Tide (Excess) of Passion. Breath on (favour) my Enterprizes. The golden (pure, untainted) Age. (Holmes)

10. 1. Where one living thing is put for another:
"His rustic friend, his nut-brown maiden, are no longer mean and homely, but a hero and a queen, whom he prizes as the paragons of earth." -CARLYLE. (De Mille)

10. 2. Where one inanimate thing is put for another:
"An Englishman's house is his castle."
"Athens, the eye of Greece." -MILTON (De Mille)

10. 3. Where inanimate things are put for things having life:
Kaled, the "Sword of God."
"Stonewall" Jackson.
"A true poet soul, for it needs but to be struck, and the sound it yields will be music." -CARLYLE (De Mille)

10. 4. Where inanimate things are represented as endowed with life. This is identical with personification in its lower grades (see Personification).
A hard heart.
A thirsty ground. (De Mille)

11. "he bridles his anger; he was a lion in combat; the fact is clear." (Bain)

12. Thus Byron so vividly realized the resemblance between the swaying of a suspended ball and man's oscillation between joy and sorrow, as to identify the two in his thought in the beautiful line which he says of man,
"Thou pendulum between smile and tear." (Hill)

13. Thus: "Man is as the flower of the field" is a simile. "Man is a flower of the field" expresses the same thought by a metaphor. (Waddy)

14. "From 'neath his wings he pours
A strain of piercing notes :
Far up that fiery vapour-veil it soars
Which o'er the landscape float." (Demetrius)

14. "When of some great minister it is said, 'that he upholds the state, like a pillar, which supports the weight of a whole edifice,' a comparison is made; but when it is said of such a minister, 'that he is the pillar of the state,' it is now become a metaphor." (Jamieson)

15. "As to say, Drops of Dew are Pearls; Flowers n Meadows are Starres, and the murmuring of waters, Musick; that little Birds are Angels of the Forrests; Whales are living Rocks, or Ships with souls; that the Sea is a moving Earth; and foundtain water, liquid Crystall." (Blount)

16. "The stars are night's candles" (Raub)

17. God is a Shield to good Men. (Blackwall)

17. -- who did ever in French Authors see
The comprehensive English Energy?
The weighty Bullion of one sterling Line
Drawn in French Wire wou'd thro' whole Pages shine. (Blackwall)

17. Piety and Virtue in Persons of eminent Place and Dignity are seated to great Advantage, so as to cast a Lustre upon their very Place, and by a strong Reflexion double the Beams of Majesty. - Archbishop Tillotson (Blackwall)

17. Vile is the Vengeance on the Ashes cold;
And Envy base, to bark at sleeping Fame. - Spencer (Blackwall)

18. Ps. 23:1. -"The LORD is my Shepherd." Here, we have a Metaphor; and in it a great and blessed truth is set forth by the representation of Jehovah as a Shepherd. It is He who tends his People, and does more for them than any earthly shepherd does for his sheep. All His titles and attributes are so bound up with this care that in this Psalm we have the illustration of all the Jehovah-titles:-

In verse 1. "I shall not want," because He is JEHOVAH-JIREH (Gen. 22:14), and will provide.

In verse 2. "He leadeth me beside the waters of quietness (margin), because He is JEHOVAH-SHALOM (Judges 6:24), and will give peace.

In verse 3. "He restoreth my soul," for He is JEHOVAH-ROPHECHIA (Ex. 15:26), and will graciously heal.

In verse 3. He guides me "in the paths of righteousness," for He is JEHOVAH-TZIDKENU (Jer. 23:6), and is Himself my righteousness, and I am righteous in Him (Jer. 33:16).

In verse 4. In death's dark valley "Thou art with me," for thou art JEHOVAH-SHAMMAH (Ezek. 48:35).

In verse 5. "Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies," for Thou art JEHOVAH-NISSI (Ex. 17:15), my banner, and will fight for me, while feast.

In verse 5. "Thou anointest my head with oil," for Thou art JEHOVAH-MEKADDESCHIEM (Ex. 31:13, etc.), the LORD that sanctifieth me.

In verse 6. "Surely" all these blessings are mine for time and eternity, for His is JEHOVAH-ROHI (Ps. 23:1), Jehovah my Shepherd, pledged to raise me up from the dead, and to preserve and bring me "through" the valley of death into His glorious kingdom (John 6:39) (Bullinger, 731)

19. Thus, when an American orator speaks of the Constitution as "the aegis of our liberties," he uses a metaphor. The aegis, in mythology, was the shield that was given by Zeus to Apollo and Minerva; and the Constitution resembles a shield in that it is a protector. Metaphor is the boldest of all the figures of speech, and the most frequent. In many instances a word has been used in a metaphorical sense so long and so constantly that this appears like a literal sense. Ophelia uses a metaphor when she speaks of Hamlet as "the glass of fashion," and Hamlet himself uses a metaphor when
he speaks of the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune." He uses a less simple one when he says, "I have shot mine arrow o'er the house and hurt my brother." In Scott's description of Ellen, in The Lady of the Lake, he writes:

What though the sun with ardent frown
Had slightly tinged her cheek with brown.

"Ardent frown" is a metaphor of the milder kind, the kind with which our whole language is strewn. Longfellow, in The Arsenal at Springfield, writes:

Peace!—and no longer from its brazen portals
The blast of war's great organ shakes the skies.

" War's great organ " is a metaphor.
Shelley, in his Hymn to Intellectual Beauty, has the couplet:

Ask why the sunlight not forever
Weaves rainbows o'er yon mountain river,

in which "weaves rainbows" is a metaphor. Emerson, in his Wood Notes, makes a quick and striking metaphor in the line:

Leave thy peacock wit behind.
for instance, Hamlet's " take arms against a sea of troubles." But perhaps the definition may be most readily suggested by means of an exaggerated example that was probably constructed for the purpose, in which a florid orator is represented as exclaiming, "I smell a mouse! I hear it brewing! I'll nip it in the bud!" A British orator is said to have originated this remarkably mixed metaphor: "The British lion, whether it is roaming the deserts of India or climbing the forests of Canada, will not draw in its horns or retire into its shell." A famous speech of Macbeth's presents a fine example of a succession of metaphors, which, though they follow rapidly, are not mixed:

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more; it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury.
Signifying nothing.
One of the worst offenses in this respect occurs in Tennyson's Morte d'Arthur:

For so the whole round world is every way
Bound by gold chains about the feet of God.
One of the most notable of these is, "At sea, without rudder or compass." Some metaphors have crystallized into excellent proverbs ; but even these may be repeated too often. Examples: "Where the shoe pinches," "Half a loaf is better than no bread," "Still waters run deep." When it has been determined that a proposed metaphor is good in itself, the question of correct taste in its application still remains. The frequent recurrence of the military figure in hymns and sermons! is hardly in good taste. Devotional singing, especially, should be as far as possible from polemics. The effect that sacred music is intended to produce is certainly not produced by such strains as—

Onward, Christian soldiers,
Marching as to war,

even when they come from the pen of a writer like Sabine Baring-Gould. They are hardly consonant with a Gospel of Peace. William E. Channing, in his lecture on War, begins the peroration with, "Go forth, then, friends of mankind, peaceful soldiers of Christ." "Peaceful soldiers" is a contradiction in terms; and it is doubtful whether Mr. Channing would have committed the solecism were it not for the fact that military expressions have become so common as almost to lose their metaphorical character. (Johnson, 151-154)

20. Deut. 32. 42. I will make my arrows drunk with blood, and my sword shall devour
flesh: the first Metaphor is borrowed from excessive and intemperate drinking, intimating to us the mighty effusion of blood, and the exceeding greatness of their ruin and destruction. The second is taken from the most eager and hungry appetites of a bean; which makes the images of death come much more lively, to the understanding, and how impossible it is for us to escape the edge of the sword, when God himself is concerned in our ruin and execution. (Norwood, 55)

22. That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
--Shakespeare, "Sonnet 73" (Vickers 496)

Kind Of Symmetry
Part Of
Related Figures simile, catachresis, allegory, Ornament of Style, personification
Notes From Hart, rules for metaphors: 1. The metaphorical and the literal should not be mixed in the same sentence. 2. Two different metaphors should not be used in the same sentence and in reference to the same subject. 3. Metaphors on the same subject should not be crowded together in rapid succession. 4. Metaphors should not be multiplied to excess. 5. Metaphors should not be carried too far.
Confidence Unconfident
Last Editor Daniel Etigson
Confidence Unconfident
Editorial Notes added synonyms added source (gibbons), def. & examples (MC)
Reviewed No