The Big List of 125+ Metaphor Examples and Tips for Writers

Metaphors are everywhere! To help you understand this rhetorical device, here’s a big list of 125+ metaphor examples  (plus tips for writers). But first, let’s talk about the engine of storytelling that make metaphors work.

All About Metaphors

125 Metaphor ExamplesWe weave a web of words and live inside it, and call it world. That’s what human beings do. The connected threads of that great web of story are built of strands we call metaphor.

What is a metaphor?

A metaphor compares two dissimilar things by equating one thing as the other thing. By this comparison, our minds can bring one idea into the conceptual space of another idea. When you compare two objects, one of them is seen in a different light, illuminated and re-configured through that comparison.

The concrete becomes abstract, the ephemeral grounded momentarily, the unknown related to the known in a way that helps us understand. This tendency to compare two unlike things is a very human activity.

In fact, our brains are designed to think in metaphorical constructs. George Lakoff explains that “One of the fundamental findings of cognitive science is that people think in terms of frames and metaphors […] The frames are in the synapses of our brains, physically present in the form of neural circuitry. When the facts don’t fit the frames, the frames are kept and the facts ignored.” We see things differently when we look through the lens of metaphor.

Our minds weave ideas together continuously so that we can better understand events, objects, and even people and their motivations. Metaphors are not literal at all — in fact, they are intentionally told as figurative retellings of the world, laying a fabric of imaginative story over raw reality and transforming that reality into a mini-story.

Before we get to the big list of metaphor examples, it’s useful to know there are different ways of writing metaphors.

Metaphor VS. Simile

Metaphor is the big idea behind the comparison between two different objects. However, in English, we use two different words to describe different instances of the rhetorical device known as a metaphor.

A metaphor proper compares two things by simply stating that this thing is that thing. A = B.

Metaphor Examples

Examples of basic metaphors include:

  • “Mary is a ray of sunshine.”
  • “I’m swimming in emails.”
  • “Vacation is heaven.”
  • “Love is a battlefield.”
Simile Examples

A simile is a metaphor that uses the words like or as to make the same sort of metaphorical comparison.

Examples of similes in action include:

  • “Dale works like a grumpy donkey.”
  • “Life is like a box of chocolates.”
  • “Her face shines as a jewel.”

Writers on Metaphorical Writing

Metaphors can bring the joy of storytelling into every sentence that you create and can propel your readers forward through your story. To provide you with a navigational map through the sea of metaphors, I’ve listed 125 metaphor examples at work. But before we get to the big list, let’s see what famous writers have said about the power of metaphor.

The British novelist Mary Anne Evans (who published as George Eliot) wrote about how metaphor compels us to act: “For we all of us, grave or light, get our thoughts entangled in metaphors, and act fatally on the strength of them.”

The Czech writer Milan Kundera agreed with Eliot. He wrote: “Metaphors are dangerous. Metaphors are not to be trifled with.” Yet despite this danger, novelists need to use metaphor to communicate deeper truths.

The hilarious Terry Pratchett sums up the idea in one of his novels: “A metaphor is a kind o’ lie to help people understand what’s true.”

Pratchett was on the right path. Because as one of the authors of the entire modern way of thinking about logic and storytelling told us, achieving master in metaphor is the height of storytelling. Aristotle said: “The greatest thing by far is to be a master of metaphor; it is the one thing that cannot be learnt from others; and it is also a sign of genius, since a good metaphor implies an intuitive perception of the similarity in the dissimilar.”

The inimitable Ray Bradbury described his writing this way: “I speak in tongues. I write metaphors. Every one of my stories is a metaphor you can remember. The great religions are all metaphor. We appreciate things like Daniel and the lion’s den, and the Tower of Babel. People remember these metaphors because they are so vivid.”

Finally, the Italian novelist and critic Umberto Eco explained the device precisely: “Metaphors set up not only similarities but also oppositions. A cup and a shield are alike in their form (round and concave), but opposite in their function (peace vs. war), just as Ares and Dionysus are alike insofar as they are gods, but opposite with regard to the ends they pursue and to the instruments they use.”

The Big List of 125+ Metaphors

Metaphors make us human and bring us into a story. They serve as guideposts on the storytelling path and help us navigate our experience. The wonderful novelist Haruki Murakami tells us that we should not try to explain them, but instead embrace the idea. Murakami writes: “Allegories and metaphors are not something you should explain in words. You just grasp them and accept them.”

In the big list of metaphor examples below, you’ll find metaphors from many writers in many genres of literature.

Browse freely — skip around! Enjoy swimming in the sea of metaphor!

Everyday Expressions

Human beings naturally think in metaphor. So you probably use metaphorical ideas in conversation every day. Metaphorical expressions populate the English language with verve and insight. Here are a few everyday expressions that are, in fact, metaphors.

  1. Fit as a fiddle

  2. Happy as a clam

  3. Dull as dishwater

  4. That man is a pig.

  5. She is an old flame

  6. Silent as the grave

  7. Time is money

  8. He is sharp as a tack

  9. You are my sunshine

  10. You are the light in my life.

  11. That politician is a lame duck.

  12. Don’t talk to a brick wall

  13. She has ants in her pants.

  14. Fear feeds on attention.

  15. Depression is a dark shadow.

  16. Joy is a gift.

  17. Life is a journey.

  18. She’s a late bloomer.


Human beings invented storytelling when our communication was an oral culture. Stories we told around the fire, or sung by storytellers who memorized by listening to other storytellers. In fact, early writers such as Socrates and Plato argued about the relative merits of writing stories down instead of telling or singing them! Today, storytellers continue to use song to entrance us — and every lyricist uses metaphors.

  1. It might seem crazy what I’m ’bout to say / Sunshine she’s here, you can take a break / I’m a hot air balloon that could go to space / With the air, like I don’t care, baby, by the way– Pharrell Williams – Happy

  2. I can’t let you go, your hand prints on my soul / It’s like your eyes are liquor, it’s like your body is gold– End Game, Taylor Swift

  3. See the girl with the diamonds in her shoes? Yeah / She walks around like she’s got nothing to lose / Faith– Stevie Wonder and Ariana Grand

  4. Did I ever tell you you’re my hero? / You’re everything, everything I wish I could be / Oh, and I, I could fly higher than an eagle / For you are the wind beneath my wings / ‘Cause you are the wind beneath my wings
    “Wind Beneath My Wings,” Bette Midler

  5. If this town / Is just an apple / Then let me take a bite– “Human Nature,” Michael Jackson

  6. You are my fire / The one desire / Believe when I say I want it that way– “I Want It That Way,” Backstreet Boys

  7. Your body is a wonderland / Your body is a wonder (I’ll use my hands) / Your body is a wonderland– “Your Body Is A Wonderland,” John Mayer

  8. The world was on fire and no one could save me but you / It’s strange what desire will make foolish people do…. / What a wicked game you play, to make me feel this way
    — Wicked Game, Chris Isaak

  9. I’m walking on sunshine (Wow!) / I’m walking on sunshine (Wow!) / I’m walking on sunshine (Wow!) / And don’t it feel good—“I’m Walking On Sunshine,” Katrina and the Waves

  10. If you wanna be with me / Baby there’s a price to pay / I’m a genie in a bottle / You gotta rub me the right way– “Genie in a Bottle,” Christina Aguilera

  11. If God is a DJ, life is a dance floor / Love is the rhythm, you are the music / If God is a DJ, life is a dance floor / You get what you’re given it’s all how you use it– “God Is A DJ,” P!nk

  12. My heart’s a stereo / It beats for you, so listen close / Hear my thoughts in every note– “Stereo Hearts,” Gym Class Heroes

  13. I’m the sunshine in your hair / I’m the shadow on the ground / I’m the whisper in the wind / I’m your imaginary friend– “I’m Already There,” Lonestar

  14. A tornado flew around my room before you came / excuse the mess it made, it usually doesn’t rain in Southern California– Thinking Bout You
    – Frank Ocean

  15. Oh, she got both feet on the ground / And she’s burning it down / Oh, she got her head in the clouds / And she’s not backing down / This girl is on fire– Alicia Keys – Girl On Fire


Metaphor is used extensively in the literary arts.  In fact, much of the formalist movement in literary criticism focused on analyzing the effects and the implications of metaphor in literature.

Writers therefore often think in metaphors. This is the common mode of expression of great writers. Here are examples from several of our greatest literary thinkers.

    1. In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer. —Albert Camus

    2. Books are mirrors of the soul. Virginia Woolf

    3. She is a friend of my mind. She gather me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order.― Toni Morrison

    4. “Anger is the wind which blows out the lamp of the mind.”― Bodie Thoene

    5. “If funkytown was a trailerpark, this guy would be a double-wide.”― Maya Angelou

    6. What therefore is truth? A mobile army of metaphors, metonymies, anthropomorphisms: in short a sum of human relations which become poetically and rhetorically intensified, metamorphosed, adorned, and after long usage seem to a nation fixed, canonic and binding.—Friedrich Nietzsche

    7. Dying is a wild night and a new road.—Emily Dickinson

    8. I have a huge and savage conscience that won’t let me get away with things.― Octavia E. Butler

    9. And your very flesh shall be a great poem.– Walt Whitman

    10. “Happiness is the china shop; love is the bull.”
      ― H.L. Mencken

    11. “Life is a moderately good play with a badly written third act.”
      ― Truman Capote

    12. “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people…. Religion is only the illusory Sun which revolves around man as long as he does not revolve around himself.”
      ― Karl Marx

    13. “Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.”
      ― Truman Capote

    14. “I’m a little pencil in the hand of a writing God, who is sending a love letter to the world.”― Mother Teresa

    15. “Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. ”
      ― Edna St. Vincent Millay


Poetry is often constructed of extended metaphor. This is a technique that takes a single comparative idea and explores how that idea works in a longer work of poetry. In earlier times, this extended metaphorical device was also known as a conceit. Here are some examples from poetic history.

Let’s start with a famous yet complete poem that contains several metaphors throughout:

  1. Hold fast to dreams
    For if dreams die
    Life is a broken-winged bird
    That cannot fly.
    Hold fast to dreams
    For when dreams go
    Life is a barren field
    Frozen with snow.
    — Dreams, Langston Hughes

And in this poem, Syliva Plath describes her pregnancy:

  1. An elephant, a ponderous house
    A melon strolling on two tendrils…..
    I’ve eaten a bag of green apples,
    Boarded the train there’s no getting off.
    — Sylvia Plath, Metaphors

  2. Before high piled books, in character,
    Hold like rich garners the full-ripened grain.— When I have Fears, John Keats

  3. Hope is the thing with feathers
    That perches in the soul,
    And sings the tune without the words,
    And never stops at all.
    – Emily Dickinson

  4. The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
    It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
    It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
    — God’s Grandeur, Gerard Manley Hopkins

  5. We often sing lullabies to our children that we ourselves may sleep.
    All our words are but crumbs that fall down from the feast of the mind.
    Thinking is always the stumbling stone to poetry.
    A great singer is he who sings our silences.“Sand and Foam,” Khalil Gibran

  6. The caged bird sings
    with a fearful trill
    of things unknown
    but longed for still
    and his tune is heard
    on the distant hill
    for the caged bird
    sings of freedom.—“Caged Bird,” Maya Angelou

  7. Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
    I took the one less traveled by,
    And that has made all the difference.

    —“The Road Not Taken,” Robert Frost

  8. Marriage is not
    a house or even a tent
    it is before that, and colder:
    the edge of the forest, the edge
    of the desert—“Habitation,” Margaret Atwood.

Metaphors in the Bible

One of the earliest written collections of a culture’s literature is today known as the Bible. The Bible is actually a collection of many shorter works, which were later compiled into one volume. The Bible contains many examples of literary technique, among them many instances of metaphorical language.

  1. The teaching of the wise a fountain of life.— Proverbs 13:14

  2. You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.– Matthew 5:13

  3. Jesus said to them, ‘i am the bread of life; he who comes to me will not hunger, and he who believes in me will never thirst.’– John 6:35

  4. O Lord, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand.– Isaiah 64:8

  5. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.– Psalm 23:1

  6. Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, ‘i am the Light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.’– John 8:12

  7. “I am the good shepherd, … and I lay down my life for the sheep.”– John 10:14-15

  8. The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.– Psalm 18:2

  9. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.– John 15:5


William Shakespeare is broadly considered to be the greatest playwright in the English language. It might be interesting to know that many of the common metaphors we use in everyday speech today originated in Shakespeare’s prose. Here are some examples of both everyday phrases that came from Shakespeare’s pen, as well as other metaphorical examples from Shakespeare’s wonderful writing.

  1. ‘wild goose chase’― William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

  2. ‘seen better days’― William Shakespeare, As You Like It

  3. ‘forever and a day’― William Shakespeare, As You Like It

  4. ‘good riddance’― William Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida.

  5. “When the devout religion of mine eye
    Maintains such falsehood, then turn tears to fires,
    And these, who, often drowned, could never die,
    Transparent heretics, be burnt for liars!
    One fairer than my love? The all-seeing sun
    Ne’er saw her match since first the world begun.”
    ― William Shakespeare,  Romeo and Juliet

  6. But, look, the morn, in russet mantle clad,
    Walks o’er the dew of yon high eastern hill
    ― William Shakespeare, Hamlet

  7. Look, love, what envious streaks
    Do lace the severing clouds in yonder East:
    Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day
    Stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops
    — William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

  8. His face is all carbuncles, and whelks, and knobs, and flames of fire; and his lips plows at his nose, and it is like a coal of fire, sometimes blue, and sometimes red; but his nose is executed, and his fire is out.

    ― William Shakespeare, Henry V

  9. Thou sure and firm-set earth,Hear not my steps, which way they walk, for fearThe very stones prate of my whereabout,And take the present horror from the time,Which now suits with it.

    ― William Shakespeare, Macbeth

  10. For his bounty,There was no Winter in’t; an Autumn ’twasThat grew the more by reaping: his delightsWere dolphin-like; they show’d his back aboveThe element they liv’d in: in his liveryWalk’d crowns and crownets

    ― William Shakespeare, Antony & Cleopatra

  11. Death, that hath suck’d the honey of thy breath,Hath had no power yet upon thy beauty:Thou art not conquer’d; beauty’s ensign yetIs crimson in thy lips and in thy cheeks,And death’s pale flag is not advancèd there.Why art thou yet so fair? shall I believeThat unsubstantial Death is amorous;And that the lean abhorrèd monster keepsThee here in dark to be his paramour?

    ― William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

  12. O, then th’ Earth shook to see the heavens on fire,And not in fear of your nativity.Diseasèd Nature oftentimes breaks forthIn strange eruptions; oft the teeming EarthIs with a kind of cholic pinch’d and vex’dBy the imprisoning of unruly windWithin her womb; which, for enlargement striving,Shakes the old beldame Earth, and topples downSteeples and moss-grown towers. At your birth,Our grandam Earth, having this distemperature,In passion shook

    ― William Shakespeare, Henry IV

  13. Come, thick night,And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of Hell,That my keen knife see not the wound it makes,Nor Heaven peep through the blanket of the dark,To cry Hold, hold!

    ― William Shakespeare, Macbeth

  14. Heaven’s cherubin, hors’dUpon the sightless couriers of the air,Shall blow the horrid deed in every eye,That tears shall drown the wind.

    ― William Shakespeare, Macbeth

  15. It is suppos’d,He that meets Hector issues from our choice:And choice, being mutual act of all our souls,Makes merit her election; and doth boil,As ’twere from forth us all, a man distill’dOut of our virtues.

    ― William Shakespeare,Troilus and Cressida

  16. To be, or not to be; that is the question:Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to sufferThe slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,And, by opposing, end them.

    ― William Shakespeare, Hamlet

  17. O thou day o’ the world,Chain mine arm’d neck; leap thou, attire and all,Through proof of harness to my heart, and thereRide on the pants triúmphing!

    ― William Shakespeare, Antony & Cleopatra

  18. This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle,This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,This other Eden, demi-paradise,This fortress built by Nature for herself…This precious stone set in the silver sea,Which serves it in the office of a wall,Or as a moat defensive to a house,Against the envy of less happier lands,This blessed plot, this earth, this realm this England…

    ― William Shakespeare, Richard II

  19. All the world’s a stage,And all the men and women merely players;They have their exits and their entrances,And one man in his time plays many parts

    ― William Shakespeare, As You Like It

  20. I wasted time, and now doth time waste me;For now hath time made me his numbering clock:My thoughts are minutes; and with sighs they jarTheir watches on unto mine eyes, the outward watch…Now sir, the sound that tells what hour it isAre clamorous groans, which strike upon my heart,Which is the bell: so sighs and tears and groansShow minutes, times, and hours.

    ― William Shakespeare, Richard II

  21. Like to the Pontic sea,Whose icy current and compulsive courseNe’er feels retiring ebb, but keeps due onTo the Propontic and the Hellespont,Even so my bloody thoughts, with violent pace

    ― William Shakespeare, Othello

  22. But soft! What light through yonder window breaks?It is the East, and Juliet is the sun!Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,Who is already sick and pale with griefThat thou her maid art far more fair than she.Be not her maid, since she is envious.Her vestal livery is but sick and green,And none but fools do wear it.

    ― William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

  23. Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?Thou art more lovely and more temperate:Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,And summer’s lease hath all too short a date;

    ― William Shakespeare, Sonnet 18

  24. Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire,That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,As the death-bed, whereon it must expire,Consumed with that which it was nourish’d by.This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,To love that well, which thou must leave ere long.

    ― William Shakespeare, Sonnet 73

  25. My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
    Coral is far more red, than her lips red:
    If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
    If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
    I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
    But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
    And in some perfumes is there more delight
    Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.

    ― William Shakespeare, Sonnet 130

Writing Metaphor Examples

Now that you have some grounding in the historical use of metaphor in song, poetry and literature, here are some additional examples from writers through the centuries.

  1. “The sun in the west was a drop of burning gold that slid near and nearer the sill of the world.”– Lord of the Flies, William Golding

  2. “Her mouth was a fountain of delight.”– The Storm, Kate Chopin

  3. “The parents looked upon Matilda in particular as nothing more than a scab. A scab is something you have to put up with until the time comes when you can pick it off and flick it away.”– Matilda, Roald Dahl

  4. “’Well, you keep away from her, cause she’s a rattrap if I ever seen one.’”– Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck

  5. “He could hear Beatty’s voice. ‘Sit down, Montag. Watch. Delicately, like the petals of a flower. Light the first page, light the second page. Each becomes a black butterfly. Beautiful, eh? Light the third page from the second and so on, chainsmoking, chapter by chapter, all the silly things the words mean, all the false promises, all the second-hand notions and time-worn philosophies.’”– Fahrenheit 451Ray Bradbury

  6. “There was an invisible necklace of nows, stretching out in front of her along the crazy, twisting road, each bead a golden second.”– Cuckoo Song, Frances Hardinge

  7. “Every word was a singing sparrow, a magic trick, a truffle for me. The words made me laugh in delight.”― Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

  8. “Know that diamonds and roses are as uncomfortable when they tumble from one’s lips as toads and frogs: colder, too, and sharper, and they cut.”― Neil Gaiman, Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders

  9. “But it is just two lovers, holding hands and in a hurry to reach their car, their locked hands a starfish leaping through the dark.”― Updike, John, Rabbit, Run

  10. “If Bagel’s face was a lump of clay on a pottery wheel, it’d been rapidly thrown from an angry grey blob to a rather enthusiastic vase.”― Mandy Ashcraft, Small Orange Fruit

  11. “I want to paint the way a bird sings.”― Claude Monet, Monet By Himself

  12. “He is capable of turning everything into anything–snow into skin, skin into blossoms, blossoms into sugar, sugar into powder, and powder back into little drifts of snow–for all that matters to him, apparently, is to make things into what they are not, which is doubtless proof that he cannot stand being anywhere for long, wherever he happens to be.”― Robert Musil, The Man Without Qualities

  13. “She remembered love, though, and a feeling of warmth. It was like remembering light, or the glow that sometimes persists after a light has gone out.”― Alexander McCall Smith, Emma

  14. “God blows on the leaves, they turn to gold, and we call it autumn.”― Joyce Rachelle

  15. “What is it that you contain? The dead, time, light patterns of millenia opening in your gut. What is salted up in the memory of you? Memory past and memory future.”― Jeanette Winterson, Gut Symmetries

  16. “The sky is diluted scarlet. It is an oddity, a noticeable wound in the fabric of our world. In specific areas, like Solange’s island, it stands out like a blooming flower in a dying garden.”― Ilse V. Rensburg, Time Torn

  17. “His music gave no lesser joy than a vacation. Creativity in his music and its success stood out as an example to all kinds of artists, in the lectures of business speakers, engineers, and to anyone who built or constructed something in their respective profession.”― Amit Kalantri, One Bucket of Tears

  18. “She looked playful and eager, but not quite sure of herself, like a new kitten in a house where they don’t care much about kittens.”― Raymond Chandler, The Lady in the Lake

  19. “It’s like the tide, Jo, when it turns it goes slowly–but it can’t be stopped.”― Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

  20. “Reminiscences of old, dried-over pains were no consolation in the face of this. They had the effect of cold beads of water on a hot iron – they danced and fizzled up while the room stank from their steam.”― Gloria Naylor, The Women of Brewster Place

  21. “Depression is kind of quantum physics of thought and emotion. It reveals what is normally hidden. It unravels you”― Matt Haig, Reasons to Stay Alive

  22. “At one extreme…the hours seemed to aggregate and sell like a wave, swallowing huge chunks of her day. At the other extreme when her attention was disengaged and fractured she experienced time at its most granular wherein moments hung around like particles diffused and suspended and standing in water. There used to be a middle way, too, when her attention was focussed but vast and time felt like a limpid pool ringed by sunlit ferns.”― Ruth Ozeki, A Tale for the Time Being

  23. “Life is a hurricane, and we board up to save what we can and bow low to the earth to crouch in that small space above the dirt where the wind will not reach. We honor anniversaries of deaths by cleaning graves and sitting next to them before fires, sharing food with those who will not eat again. We raise children and tell them other things about who they can be and what they are worth: to us, everything. We love each other fiercely, while we live and after we die. We survive; we are savages.”― Jesmyn Ward, Men We Reaped

  24. “It was one of those dangerous moments when speech is at once sincere and deceptive, when feeling, rising high above its average depth, leaves flood-marks which are never reached again.”― George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss

  25. “Garbage in, garbage out. Or rather more felicitously: the tree of nonsense is watered with error, and from its branches swing the pumpkins of disaster.”― Nick Harkaway, The Gone-Away World

  26. “I said nothing for a time, just ran my fingertips along the edge of the human-shaped emptiness that had been left inside me.”― Haruki Murakami, Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman

  27. “Half the people in the world think that the metaphors of their religious traditions, for example, are facts. And the other half contends that they are not facts at all. As a result we have people who consider themselves believers because they accept metaphors as facts, and we have others who classify themselves as atheists because they think religious metaphors are lies.”― Joseph Campbell, Thou Art That: Transforming Religious Metaphor

  28. “I wonder which is preferable, to walk around all your life swollen up with your own secrets until you burst from the pressure of them, or to have them sucked out of you, every paragraph, every sentence, every word of them, so at the end you’re depleted of all that was once as precious to you as hoarded gold, as close to you as your skin – everything that was of the deepest importance to you, everything that made you cringe and wish to conceal, everything that belonged to you alone – and must spend the rest of your days like an empty sack flapping in the wind, an empty sack branded with a bright fluorescent label so that everyone will know what sort of secrets used to be inside you?”― Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin

  29. “Illness is the night side of life, a more onerous citizenship. Everyone who is born holds dual citizenship, in the kingdom of the well and in the kingdom of the sick. Although we all prefer to use the good passport, sooner or later each of us is obliged, at least for a spell, to identify ourselves as citizens of that other place.”― Susan Sontag, Illness as Metaphor

  30. “I found myself in a sea in which the waves of joy and sorrow were clashing against each other.”― Naguib Mahfouz

  31. “The water made a sound like kittens lapping.”— The Yearling, by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

  32. “Her romantic mind was like the tiny boxes, one within the other, that come from the puzzling East . . .” — Peter Pan, by J. M. Barrie

  33. “Computers are like Old Testament gods; lots of rules and no mercy.”
    ― Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth

And just for fun…. here’s one last metaphor to wrap up the list!

  1. “Love is a snowmobile racing across the tundra and then suddenly it flips over, pinning you underneath. At night, the ice weasels come.”
    ― Matt Groening, The Big Book of Hell

How to Use Metaphors in Writing —  3 Essential Tips

125 Metaphor ExamplesWriters are naturally drawn to metaphor, as this is one of the key tools in the writing toolbox. Here are a few tips to help you use metaphors effectively.

1. Avoid Common Idioms and Clichés

Part of the reason that lists like the ones above exist is that most writers know about these comparisons. If you wish to be original, then you would do well to avoid re-using common metaphors that famous writers like William Shakespeare, George Eliot, and Toni Morrison have already used.

Using clichés in your writing will bore your readers and lead them to find more original, inspired writers to read. Here’s one helpful list of clichés you’ll want to avoid in your writing.

2. Compare Logically

A metaphor compares two dissimilar things. While these things should on the surface be very different, they must share some sort of detectable common attributes. Don’t compare two things that just can’t be compared. The metaphor should make some sort of logical sense to the reader.

For example, if you wanted to use a metaphor to describe the rhythmic sound of a drum, it would make sense to compare this to another thing with a rhythmic motion, such as a heartbeat or waves. But it would not make sense to compare a drumbeat to oil sitting in a pan, or a still pool of water. The connection has to exist for you to use it in your work.

Make your metaphors easy to understand so a reader can quickly grasp your point.

3. Avoid Purple Prose with too many metaphors

It is possible to over-use metaphors. Storytelling that launches into metaphorical descriptions without a good grounding in plot and the basics of character description turns into “purple prose” — writing that is full of colorful images but without a sense of momentum or purpose.

Your writing slows down when you use too many metaphors or use them in the wrong way. If you over-use the metaphorical toolset, you risk boring your reader.

Furthermore, if you use too many metaphors, this actually lessens the impact of each metaphor, since they’ll all start to blend together and each one will become less memorable on its own.

If your prose seems over-loaded with metaphors, try to strip down the description to the bare bones, and only use a metaphor that helps us to experience the scene in a new light. If the bare bones description works without a metaphor, it’s always wise to leave it out.

Less is more in the use of metaphors!

Good luck and keep writing!

Read more notes on writing: 

Literary Devices & Terms: 52+ Definitions Plus Examples
What Kind of Writer are You? Pantsers VS Plotters
A Word Count Guide for Every Book Genre: Fiction & Nonfiction 
How Many Words Do Famous Writers Write Every Day?
How to Deliver a Book to an Editor: Formatting Your Manuscript