Metaphors Made Easy: Enhance Your Communication Skills

Metaphors are an important part of our everyday language. They are used to make complex ideas and emotions simple. From literature and poetry to business and science, metaphors are used in every field to make communication more effective and engaging.

In this blog post, we will explore the art of metaphor-making and how to use it to enhance your writing, speaking, and overall communication skills.

Metaphors are figures of speech that make comparisons between two things that are not alike but share similar qualities, to explain or illustrate an idea or emotion. They are widely used in literature, poetry, and everyday language to create images in the mind that stir the imagination.

Learning about metaphors is a valuable investment in yourself and your communication skills. Keep reading to discover how to create and use metaphors to improve your communication and creativity.

Why Should I Learn Metaphors?

Why Should I Learn Metaphors?

Metaphors are significant in communication because they can:

Enhance understanding: Metaphors help to clarify complex ideas and make them easier to understand by connecting them to familiar concepts.

Create vivid images: Metaphors create powerful and thought-provoking images in the mind that help to make ideas more memorable.

Evoke emotions: Metaphors can evoke strong emotions by connecting abstract ideas to things that people care about.

Encourage creativity: Metaphors encourage creative thinking by forcing us to make connections between seemingly unrelated concepts.

Build Rapport: Metaphors can create a sense of shared understanding between people by connecting them through common experiences or concepts.

Common Metaphor Examples

Below is a list of common metaphors. You might recognize that some of these metaphors can also fall into the idiom category. They all use a description to express a feeling or an idea.

  • Life is a journey.
  • Time is money.
  • Happiness is a warm blanket.
  • Success is a ladder.
  • Memories are treasures.
  • Laughter is the best medicine.
  • I’m a fish out of water.
  • She’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
  • His words were a dagger in my heart.
  • The world is your oyster.
  • Her voice was music to my ears.
  • He has a heart of gold.
  • The situation was a powder keg waiting to explode.
  • His words were a breath of fresh air.

Have you heard any of these metaphors before?

One of the most commonly cited examples of a metaphor in English literature comes from the “All the world’s a stage” monologue from the play – As You Like It:

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players

William Shakespeare, As You Like It
Metaphor – Wikipedia

The Silence Was Deafening

Some metaphors may seem to contradict themselves. For example, the silence was deafening is a common metaphor, but it can be confusing as silence cannot be loud. [The adjective deafening means very loud.

This metaphor means that the silence was so profound and intense that it had a serious effect on a person or people. (As if it were creating a loud and overpowering noise.) It’s often used to describe situations where someone should be talking or contributing to a discussion, but they are not

An example could be during a presentation when the speaker asks a question and no one in the audience answers, the silence that follows could be described as deafening. It might be a sign that no one cares and no one is listening to the presentation, making the speaker feel shocked or uncomfortable. 

The silence had a serious effect on the speaker.

Another example might be when someone looks for support for their position but doesn’t receive any from the people they expect.

  • “I know no one at my job is happy with the boss’ strict demands. When I confronted my boss about this and looked for support for my coworkers, the silence was deafening.”

The lack of support from his co-workers (the silence) had a serious effect on the speaker.

Where can we find metaphors?

Metaphors can be found in many places, including:

Literature: Metaphors are commonly used in literature, including poetry, novels, and plays. Many writers use metaphors to create vivid imagery and evoke emotional responses from readers.

Metaphors - He has a heart of gold

Speeches: Politicians, public speakers, and other individuals who engage in public speaking often use metaphors to make complex ideas more accessible to their audience.

Music: Metaphors are commonly used in song lyrics to create emotional connections with listeners and add depth to the message of the song.

You can find a list of some popular songs whose title is a metaphor at the bottom of this post. 

Conversation: People often use metaphors in everyday conversation to explain concepts or express their feelings more creatively.

Advertising: Advertisers use metaphors to create memorable slogans and taglines that help consumers remember their products.

Here are a few examples of metaphors used in advertising:

  1. Taste the rainbow.” – Skittles uses the metaphor of tasting the rainbow to convey the wide variety of flavors available in their candies.
    COMPARE – Try the wide variety of flavors. VS. Taste The Rainbow
  2. Finger-lickin’ good.” – KFC uses the metaphor of finger-licking to emphasize the deliciousness of their chicken.
  3. Red Bull gives you wings.” – Red Bull’s tagline uses the metaphor of wings to convey the idea that their energy drink can give you an extra boost of energy.
Advertisers use METAPHORS to create memorable slogans

Create Your Own Powerful Metaphors

Creating powerful metaphors can be challenging, but it is also an important skill to master for effective communication. Here are some tips on how to create powerful metaphors:

Identify the main idea: Start by identifying the main idea or concept you want to convey. This will help you to focus your thoughts and find the right metaphor. What is the subject of your metaphor? What is the message you want to express? 

Main idea: Love is a powerful thing.
Metaphor: Love is a nuclear furnace of emotions and experiences.

The idea of heat and fire is often used in English expressions. Explore the Idiom Take the Heat at my blog post.

Find a comparison: Look for a comparison that can help you clearly illustrate your message. Think about similarities or differences between the idea and other things, such as objects, animals, or experiences.

Main idea: The internet is vast and expansive.
Metaphor: The internet is a digital ocean that never stops flowing. [An ocean can also be described with the same adjectives.] 

Use sensory language: Use sensory language to create vivid and engaging images. Think about how the metaphor can appeal to the senses of sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell.

Main idea: The city is busy and chaotic.
Metaphor: The city is a symphony of honking horns, and flashing lights. [Horns and lights are experienced through the senses of our ears and eyes.]

I just wrote a complete blog post on idioms that use the word EYE. You can explore these idioms at my blog post – 31 English Idioms with EYE (Free PDF – Real Examples)

Keep it simple: Avoid using overly complex metaphors that may confuse or distract your audience. Keep your metaphors simple and easy to understand.

Main idea: Hard work leads to success.
Metaphor: Success is a ladder that you climb one step at a time. [This metaphor compares hard work to the basic idea of climbing a ladder. Simple and easy to understand.

Be creative: Use your imagination and be creative when creating metaphors. Experiment with different comparisons and see which ones work best.

Main idea: Creativity is a spark that ignites the imagination.
Metaphor: Creativity is a wildfire that spreads through the mind, consuming everything in its path. [Being creative took the idea of a spark and made it into a wildfire.] 

Test it out: Once you have created a metaphor, test it out on your family and friends to see if the message has the effect you want. Revise or refine the metaphor as needed based on feedback.

The Benefits of Learning Metaphors

Expert Tips for Brainstorming and Refining Metaphors

Brainstorming Your Ideas

  • Write down the main idea or concept you want to convey.
  • List out words, phrases, or images that are associated with the idea.
  • Identify comparisons or analogies that could help you explain the idea in a way that is easy to understand. 
  • Play with different ideas and make note of those that stand out to you.

Refining Your Ideas

  • Review your list of metaphors and eliminate any that don’t quite fit or that are too complicated.
  • Look for ways to make the metaphor more vivid and engaging by using sensory language or adding details.
  • Experiment with different word choices and phrasing to find the most effective metaphor.
  • Consider your audience and make sure the metaphor will resonate with them.

Exercises for developing your metaphor-making skills

Metaphor-making is a creative skill that can be developed with regular practice. Here are some exercises that can help you improve your metaphor-making abilities:

Analogies: Start by creating analogies, which are comparisons between two things that are similar in some way. Practice creating different analogies to describe different situations or concepts. For example –

Life is like a rollercoaster, with its ups and downs.

Visualize: Choose an object or scene and visualize it in detail. Then, think of ways to describe it using metaphors. For example –

The tree was a giant umbrella, shading me from the hot sun.

IN the Shade or UNDER the Shade? (English Prepositions)

Expand Metaphors: Take a simple metaphor and expand it by adding more details and layers to it. For example –

The wind was a gentle whisper, rustling the leaves and caressing my cheek.

Metaphorical Thinking: Practice thinking metaphorically by imagining the world around you as a metaphor. For example –

The city is a giant maze of streets and alleys. The people moving around the city are just rats in that maze, looking for food or a way out.

10 Common Idioms with Rats and Mice (Real example sentences)

Object Metaphors: Choose an object and describe it using metaphors. For example –

The pen is mightier than the sword.

Sensory Metaphors: Choose a sensory experience, such as taste or smell, and describe it using metaphors. For example –

The smell of freshly brewed coffee is a warm hug that helps me start my day.

Mix and Match: Take two unrelated concepts and try to create a metaphor that connects them. For example –

Love is a puzzle, confusing at first, but once you fit all the pieces together it creates a beautiful picture.

Remember, the key to improving your metaphor-making skills is to practice regularly and let your imagination run wild!

Metaphors - I’m a fish out of water

Benefits Of Using Metaphors In Business, Education, And Personal Communication

Metaphors are powerful tools for communication, and they can be used in various settings, including business, education, and personal communication. Here are some benefits of using metaphors in these contexts:

Simplifying complex ideas: Metaphors can help to simplify complex ideas by comparing them to something more familiar or concrete. For example, a business leader might use the metaphor of a sports team to explain how teamwork is essential to achieving success in the workplace.

Making abstract concepts more concrete: Metaphors can also make abstract concepts more solid by providing a simple image. For example, a teacher might use the metaphor of a puzzle to help students understand how different pieces of information fit together to form a larger picture.

Creating emotional connections: Metaphors can help to create emotional connections with the audience by tapping into their personal experiences and feelings. For example, a motivational speaker might use the metaphor of climbing a mountain to inspire their audience to persevere through difficult challenges.

Enhancing creativity: Metaphors can spark creativity by encouraging people to think outside of their usual frame of reference. For example, a marketing team might use the metaphor of a blank canvas to brainstorm new ideas for a campaign.

Making messages more memorable: Metaphors can make messages more memorable by creating a vivid image in the listener’s mind. For example, a politician might use the metaphor of a bridge to emphasize the importance of building connections and unity within the community.

Missteps to Watch Out for When Using Metaphors

Inappropriate metaphors: Be careful not to use metaphors that could be offensive or inappropriate. For example, using a racial or ethnic metaphor to describe a situation could be insensitive or even racist.

If you’re not sure about another culture’s tradition then you shouldn’t use it in your metaphor.

Confusing metaphors: Make sure your metaphors are clear and easy to understand. If your audience is not familiar with the elements of your metaphor, they may miss your intended meaning.

Try to avoid pop culture references that may not be shared by your audience. 

Forced metaphors: Avoid forcing a metaphor where one does not exist.

If you cannot find a good metaphor to describe an idea or situation use simple, direct language instead.

Metaphors In Pop Music

Metaphors are commonly used in pop music to convey complex emotions and ideas in a relatable and memorable way. Here are some examples of metaphors used in popular music:

Love is a battlefield by Pat Benatar, this metaphor suggests that love can be a difficult and painful experience, much like a battle.

Life is a highway by Tom Cochrane, this metaphor suggests that life is a journey with twists and turns, ups and downs, and that we need to keep moving forward.

I’m on fire by Bruce Springsteen, this metaphor suggests intense passion or desire.

You’re a sky full of stars by Coldplay, this metaphor suggests that someone is full of wonder and beauty, much like a sky full of stars.

You’re the sunshine in my life by Stevie Wonder, this metaphor suggests that someone brings warmth, joy, and happiness into someone’s life, much like sunshine.

Metaphors Frequently Asked Questions

How are metaphors different from similes?

Metaphors and similes both compare things, but a simile uses the words “like” or “as” to make the comparison explicit, while a metaphor implies the comparison without using these words. For example –

  • Her hair is like a golden waterfall is a simile.

  • Her hair is a golden waterfall is a metaphor.

Can a metaphor also be an idiom?

Yes, metaphors can also be idioms. An idiom is a group of words whose meaning cannot be understood from the literal definition of the individual words. Instead, the meaning of an idiom is figurative or metaphorical.

Many idioms are made up of metaphors that have become so commonly used that they have taken on a new meaning as a group. 

  • Time is money.
Metaphors - Time is money

120 Idioms About MONEY (Common Financial Idioms + Video)

What is the origin of the word metaphor? 

The word Metaphor late 15th cent.: from French métaphore, via Latin from Greek metaphora, from metapherein ‘to transfer’.
metaphor noun –

I hope this post has been valuable to you. Now you can understand and use metaphors in your own English conversations. Can you think of any common metaphors that I didn’t include? Tell me in the comments.

A list of my latest blog posts.

Thanks to a division of for the great images. Images that were used in this post are linked below.

People illustrations by Storyset
Work illustrations by Storyset
Money illustrations by Storyset
Home illustrations by Storyset
Shopping illustrations by Storyset

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