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English Figures of Speech

Apostrophe, Hyperbole, Metaphor, Metonymy, Oxymoron, Simile

2001 to present
All textual content on this website is original material by Leon of Leon's Planet.  Permission to copy and use for educational purposes is granted.
Just give credit where credit is due, please.


 Table of Contents
Just click and go  ('cause this page is quite long).

1.  Definitions of terms (

2.  Metaphors  

3.  Metonymy (

4.  Lessons about metaphors (a few metonymies, similes)

6.  Colorful Metaphors

7.  Contrastive Analysis of World metaphors  

...for Alliterations ( which are NOT figures of speech)   Click here


This web page was updated: June 20, 2017







Figure of Speech = When the meaning of the words have a "deep" meaning, which is different from the "surface" meaning.

          Example:  Don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today.

          Meaning:  Put off doesn't literally mean 'put off'.  It has a "deep" meaning, which is postpone.

Apostrophe = speaking to an inanimate object, or to a person who is absent

          Example:  Oh, Rain, how long will you fall upon me?

          Explanation:  Rain is an inanimate object.  It cannot hear nor understand you.  You can talk to it, but it won't respond.

Hyperbole = exaggeration to effect an emotional response

          Example:  It'll take me a million years to fix this problem.

          Explanation:  It won't really take a million years, but we sometimes exaggerate the truth for affect.

Metaphor =  one thing is equated with another (not related, but have some common ground; that common ground is supposed to give understanding)

          For Examples:  click here  (I have so many metaphors to teach you!)

Personification = an inanimate object or animal is given human qualities

          Example:  The night embraced me and the moon smiled down upon me.

Metonymy = one thing used to refer to another (related and used for reference, not understanding)

          For Example:  click here

Synecdoche = part represents the whole (a kind of metonymy)

          Example:  God bless the hands which prepared this food.

          Explanation:  The hands (part) refers to the person (whole) which owns the hands. 

Oxymoron = two contradictory words used together

          Example:  Childhood is so bittersweet.

          Example:  Time can pass so slowly or so quickly.

          Example:  I am an idiotic genius.

Simile = two things shown to be similar in some way

         Example:  As sly as a fox

         Example:  As wise as an owl

         Example:  Eat like a bird (eat very little)

         Please visit my Simile Page.



Metaphors For
Primary Pupils

(for Grade 4, Grade 5, Grade 6)

A metaphor is like this:
A is b.
or Object "A" is object "B".


He is an ox.

(meaning:  He is big and strong, like an ox)

She is a fox.

(meaning:  She is beautiful, like a fox)

Those people are couch potatoes.

(meaning:  Those people sit on their couch and don't move, like a potato.)


Metaphors for
Secondary Students

(From Grade 7 to Grade 12)

A metaphor is like the mathematical formula:  a = b, where a = noun and b = noun (different noun); and where a is equal to b in some way that is commonly understood by speaker and listener / writer and reader. 


I am a lion.

(meaning:  I am strong and powerful, like a lion.)

You are a lamb.

(meaning:  You are quiet and nice, like a lamb.)

Love is a rose.

(meaning:  Love looks nice, like a rose, but it can hurt, like the thorns of a rose.)

You are the wind beneath my wings.

(meaning:  You make me feel "up" (happy), like the wind makes wings go up.)

Uh, Oh


...sometimes the metaphor is hiding from view in the sentence,

but it is is indicated by other parts of speech.


Adjective:  It's a fly ball.  (hidden metaphor:  ball = bird)

Verb:  Time flies.  (hidden metaphor:  time = bird)

Adverb:  The car went flying down the street.  (hidden metaphor:  car = bird)


A metaphor MUST be noun = noun, BUT it is sometimes disguised as another part of speech.

There are lots of METAPHORS in SONGS!

 "...but all that I can see... is just another lemon tree."

(From "Lemon Tree" by Fool's Garden)
(metaphor:  lemon tree = sadness)
(metaphor meaning: see a lemon tree = to feel sadness)



"...just enjoy the show."

(From "The Show" by Lenka)
(metaphor:  the show = life)
(metaphor meaning: enjoy the show = enjoy life)



Metaphors for University Alumni

A metaphor is like a = b, where "a" is something and "b" is some non-related thing, but...

there must a common ground between "a" and "b".

For example, in English, a common metaphor is:

John is a teddy bear.

In that example:

the word "John" is called, "the tenor of the metaphor"

the word "teddy bear" is called "the vehicle of the metaphor"


The common ground is:  both are cuddly and loveable


Many metaphors are "hidden", i.e., not so obvious.

For example:

I made up my mind to do something.

Therein above, the metaphor is "hidden" from view.

The actual metaphor is:  my mind is material/matter that can be composed.

Tenor = mind
Vehicle = material/matter that can be composed
Common Ground = both are changeable; both are able to be manipulated

The phrase: "make up", is a two-part verb.

The whole expression:  "make up one's mind", is considered a metaphor, but not in the traditional sense.

How do I mean?

Well, the word "mind", alone, does not function as a metaphor.  It is the collocating verb, "make up" which makes it function as a metaphor.  Thus, it could be called a "metaphorical expression", even though the actual metaphor is "hidden" from view.

Let me give you some more examples, 'cause I realize that perhaps one is not enough for all persons to "grasp" the concept.  Hey!  There's a metaphorical expression:  "Grasp a concept."  Wow!  Metaphors are so common, aren't they?!

Let's look at that one:  "Grasp a concept", because there are two ways of looking at it.  What we really mean, of course, is "Understand a concept", because we cannot actually "grasp" a concept, because a concept is intangible (untouchable).  So, there are TWO metaphors hidden from view.

First metaphor:  the mind is something that has appendages (such as hands) that can grasp
Tenor = mind
Vehicle = something that has grasping appendages
Common Ground = both can attain things

Second metaphor:  a concept is a tangible object
Tenor = concept
Vehicle = a tangible object
Common Ground = both can be attained

You might not believe this but Lakoff and Johnson, (1980), in their ground-breaking (wow! another metaphor) book, Metaphors We Live By, estimate that 70% of our spoken language (in English, of course) is metaphorical in nature.  If you would like to do more research on metaphors, I would highly recommend Metaphors We Live By.  It is a classic.


The best book ever written about metaphors
& my main source for this page
(university level English)


Different Kinds of Metaphors

Lakoff and Johnson (1980) set us (linguists) in motion to study, identify, and categorize the different kinds of metaphors.  Others have endeavored to continue the work.  To me, Lakoff and Johnson are the fathers (a metaphor) of our understanding of metaphors and their use in the English language.  To some it might seem like a futile waste of time in that it may seem useless.  A metaphor is a metaphor, right?  Well, yes, and no.  Some metaphors differ greatly from other metaphors.  For instance, personification is quite different than other types of metaphors, so different, in fact, that we have had a separate label for it long before we even recognized it as a kind of metaphor.  Herein below, I shall endeavor to elucidate different kinds of metaphors:

(1) Conceptual Metaphor

There is what one might call a "conceptual metaphor", where A is equated with B, but they are not related, and where A is to be understood as having a "common ground" (common concept) with B.

Example:  I am a lion.
Common Ground:  strong, ferocious
Meaning:  I am strong and ferocious, like a lion.

Example:  "All the world is a stage."  (Shakespeare)
Common Ground:  place for acting
Meaning:  The world is a place for people to act our their lives, as if they were on a stage.

(2) Dead Metaphor

There is what is called a "dead metaphor", where the metaphor has become so institutionalized, that it is NOT recognized as a metaphor any longer.

Example:  cycle

Explanation:  We know that "cycle" means circle, as in "bicycle" (two circles), but the word "cycle" by itself connotes a series of events that repeat over and over again.  We don't think in terms of a cycle as being a circle until we try to depict it in diagram form.  In essence, we are NOT trying to understand the word "cycle" in terms of a circle; therefore, the metaphor is "dead".

(3) Hidden Conceptual Metaphors

Example:  Life is so bittersweet.

Explanation:  A metaphor MUST BE:  noun = noun.  "Sweet" is an adjective; therefore, the actual metaphor is hidden.  It is based upon a conceptual metaphor:  likeable thing = good taste (sweet) and unlikable thing = bad taste (bitter).

Meaning:  Life is full of unlikable things as well as likable things.

(4) Extended Metaphors

Example:  Life is a journey.  You can take the high road or the low road.  You should stop along the way to smell the roses.  If you live life in the fast lane, you're bound to cut your life/journey short.  Sometimes the road is rocky, sometimes it is smooth going.  Sometimes you encounter a dead end, and you have to try a different road.  The journey of life is so much more enjoyable if you have a traveling companion.

Explanation:  The conceptual metaphor is "life is a journey".  However, I have extended that metaphor into an analogy.



More metaphors on this page:  [a list of common English metaphors]   [metaphors around the world]



Everything you wanted to know about...

A metonymy is similar to a metaphor, but different in function.

The function of a metaphor is understanding.

  The function of a metonymy is reference.


Metonymy Type 1:  Part refers to whole (Also Known As: Synecdoche)

There are two mouths to feed in my family.

[mouth = person]


God bless the hands that prepared this food.

[hand = person]


I count twenty heads at the party.

[head = person]


Metonymy Type 2:  Producer refers to product:

Our company just bought a new Xerox machine.

[Xerox is the name of a company that produces copy machines;  Xerox machine = copy machine]

A: What kind of motorcycle do you have?
B: I have a Honda.

[Honda is the name of a company that produces motorcycles; Honda = motorcycle]


Metonymy Type 3:  Object refers to user:

The crown ordered all soldiers to arms.

[crown = king]

The pen is mightier than the sword.

[pen = writer; sword = fighter]


Metonymy Type 4:  Controller refers to controlled person/thing:

Usama bin Laden (UBL) attacked the World Trade Center in New York.

[UBL = AlQaida forces]

Bill Gates is the king of operating systems worldwide

[Bill Gates = Microsoft]


Metonymy Type 5:  Institution refers to person(s) in charge:

The Pentagon announced it's new policy yesterday.

[Pentagon = chiefs of staff at the Pentagon]

The White House called a press conference.

[White House = chiefs of staff at the White House]


Metonymy Type 6:  Place refers to Institution (in the place):

Washington (D.C.) petitions Beijing.

[Washington = U.S. government;  Beijing = Chinese government]

Houston defeats L.A.

[Houston = Houston Rockets;  L.A. = L.A. Lakers]


Metonymy Type 7:  Place refers to an Event (that occurred or occurs there):

Remember the Alamo!

[Alamo = the battle at Alamo, Texas, USA]

Pearl Harbor was a sad event in America's History.

[Pearl Harbor = the battle at Pear Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941]


Two More types of Metonymy *** (added: Feb. 19, 2004):

Metonymy Type 8:  Person in group refers to the whole group (similar to type 1)

Yao Ming defeated Shaquille O'Neal.

[Yao Ming = Houston Rockets;  Shaquille O'Neal = L.A. Lakers]


Metonymy Type 9:  Date refers to the event of that date (similar to type 7, but different)

Hopefully, 9/11 will never happen again. 

[9/11 = the destruction of the World Trade Center Towers in New York on that day: 9/11/2001]


[back to top]



Memorable Metaphors & Sample Similes

(with a few Metonymies thrown in for good measure)

These lessons have been stopped a long time ago, but I'll leave them here for perpetual education.

2001 to present by Leon of Leon's Planet (

May be reproduced for educational purposes, but please give credit to me, and please provide a link to this page.


Posted:  for the week of Dec. 9, 2001:

"Be water"  [ Metaphor ] 


"I am water" means:  [In Chinese astrology] I have a water symbol, which means that I have water characteristics: soft, fluid (flexible), flowing (consistent), etc.

Also:  "Be a mouse" [ Metaphor ]


"I am a mouse" means: [In Chinese astrology] I have the astrological sign of a mouse, which means that I have the characteristics of a mouse: quiet, nosy, surreptitious, industrious, clever, etc.


Posted:  for the week of Dec. 9, 2001:

"Be like water"  [ Simile ]

Original Quote by Bruce Lee:

"You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water my friend. 


Like the best water filters, a person's mind, body and soul should be able to adapt to his surroundings. When water filters out of a faucet it is the form of the faucet but changes shape once it's in a glass. A person at peace with their surroundings in all aspects is a happy person. As the rain water filters from the sky in drops it will then coalesce into a puddle. To be like water is to have an open view of the world and life that can help you achieve your goals.


Posted:  for the week of Dec. 2, 2001:

Be "out of one's mind"  [ Metaphor ]  


"I'm out of my mind" means:  I don't know what I'm doing;  I'm temporarily insane.

Also:  Change one's mind  [ Metonymy ]


Mind = function of the mind; i.e., thinking

So, "I've changed my mind," means:  "I have changed my thinking."

Posted:  for the week of Dec. 2, 2001:

Be "like-minded"  [ Simile ]  


"We are like-minded individuals," means we have similar minds.

Also:  The mind is like a house.  [ Simile ]


As a house has rooms, so the mind has compartments.  The mind categorizes information into compartments, just as one would store things in a house.  For instance, one puts cookware in the kitchen.  One puts tools in the garage.  One puts clothing in the bedroom.  The mind does the same in that it compartmentalizes information, with doorways (links) to other rooms (compartments).

Posted:  for the week of Nov. 25, 2001:

The customer is king.  [ Metaphor ]


A salesperson should treat the customer/client like a king, in order to make a lot of money.

Posted:  for the week of Nov. 25, 2001:

To live like a king.  [ Simile ]


Living like a king means living in luxury.

Posted:  for the week of Nov. 11, 2001:

Actions speak louder than words.  [ Personification (conceptual metaphor) ]


The conceptual metaphor:  An action is a person.  (Because it can speak).

Meaning:  What somebody does is more important than what somebody says.

Posted:  for the week of Nov. 11, 2001:

Two heads are better than one.  [ proverbial metonymy, or metonymous proverb? ]


Head refers to person.  [Synecdoche:  The part = the whole].  [Synecdoche is a kind of metonymy].

"Two head are better than one" means:  two thinking people are better than one thinking person (usually to solve a problem).

Posted:  for the week of Nov. 4, 2001:

To get under one's skin.  [ Metaphor ]


"To get under one's skin" means to bother to somebody.

"I've got you under my skin" or "You are under my skin" means "you bother me."


1.  My creditors keep bothering me for more money.  They are getting under my skin.

2.  My job is very boring and tedious.  It is getting under my skin.

3.  I am so infatuated with you.  I've got you under my skin.

Posted:  for the week of Oct. 28, 2001:

To be a demi-god / diva.  [ Metaphor ]


"Demi-" means 1/2.  So, a demigod is half god... a male being who is half god. (A "demigoddess" is a female, who is half goddess; BUT, we usually use the word: "Diva").  Hercules was a demigod.  However, this term is used metaphorically to/about  any person who has reached a very elevated level of fame and popularity.


Michael Jackson was a demigod in the music world.

Madonna (the singer) is a diva.

Posted:  for the week of Oct. 21, 2001:

To be a ten.  [ Metaphor ]


In the English-speaking communities, we tend to use a scale of 1 to 10 for rating things.  Therefore, to be a ten, means:  to be perfect.  Sample sentences:

Sample Dialogue:

A:  How is your new girlfriend?

B:  She's fine.

A:  No, I mean how IS she?

B:  Oh, she is a perfect ten!

A:  No kidding?

B:  Yeah.... great body, great personality, great sense of humor.

Posted:  for the week of Oct. 14, 2001:

To be/feel down, or to be/feel down in the dumps  [ Metaphor ]


The metaphor is a hidden one.  If I say, "I'm down" or "I feel down," I most likely mean that I feel sad.

It's an orientational metaphor:  DOWN IS BAD.  UP IS GOOD.

If I say, "I feel up,"  I mean that my feeling is good.

If I say, "He's looking up," I mean that he's looking good.

If I say, "She appears to be down in the dumps,"  I mean she seems to be very sad.

Posted: for the week of Oct. 7, 2001:

The circle of life  [ Metaphor ]


The circle of life is sometimes called the cycle of life.  It means that the events of being born and dying recur over and over again, like a circle/cycle.

Posted: for the week of Oct. 7, 2001:

like a circle  [ Simile ]


A cycle is like a circle, because it has no beginning and no end.


"Cycle" literally means "circle" in Greek, but in English the word "cycle" is used both literally and figuratively.  When combined with "bi" to make "bicycle", it is being used literally.

Listen to "The Circle of Life" by Elton John

Posted: for the Week of Sept. 23, 2001:

to go on a ________ run  [ Metaphor ]


"To go on a ______ run" means: "to drive [not run] to the store and buy/get ____((sth))______."

Sample sentence:

We're out of beer.  I'm going to go on a beer run.

Other "Run" metaphors:

1.  I have some errands to run.

2.  I have a run in my stocking.

3.  Do you have running water in your house?

4.  There's a run on the bank.

5.  What's the running total?

6.  Let's run this flag up the flag pole.

7.  I'm running on empty.

8.  My car is running on empty.

9.  I don't know how to run a company.

10.  Please run those statistics by me one more time.

Posted: for the Week of Sept. 23, 2001:

like lightning  [ implicit simile ]

as lightning  [ implicit simile ]

as fast as lighting  [ explicit simile ]


"like lightning" means "to be as fast as lightning"

"like lightning" = "as lightning"


1.  He ran as fast as lightning.  [ Hyperbole ]

2.  Bad news travels like lightning.  [ Hyperbole ]

3.  Satan, as lightning, fell from heaven.


Posted:  for the week of Sept. 16, 2001:

to bear one's cross  [ Metaphor ]


The cross is a symbol of the pain and suffering that people used to experience when crucified.  This is an allusion to the Jesus Christ story.  When Jesus Christ was to be crucified, he was forced to carry (bear) his own cross to the crucifixion site.  So, to bear one's own cross means to bear (endure) one's problem(s) alone.  Since the cross was a tool of torture and execution, the implication is that your problem(s) include pain and torment. 


I bear my cross by enduring the pain of lost wife and being a single dad.

Posted:  for the week of Sept. 9, 2001:  

having a monkey on one's back  (linguistic metaphor)


Having a monkey on one's back means having a serious problem that just won't go away.

Sample Sentences:

My dad has a monkey on his back.  He can't seem to stop smoking.

I have a monkey on my back.  My ex-wife keeps bothering me for money.

Posted:  for the week of Sept. 2, 2001:

  Blue skies  [ Metaphor ]

  Gray skies  [ Metaphor ]


The metaphor, "Blue skies," means/represents a state of happiness.  The metaphor, "Gray skies," means/represents a state of melancholy.

BE CAREFUL:  "To be blue" means "to be sad".


There are only blue skies in their life right now, because they just got married.  On the other hand, my life is full of gray skies, because I just got a divorce.

I wish some woman would bring my blue skies back.  I'm sick and tired of the gray skies in my life.

I wish I knew how to make these gray skies go away.

Listen to "Blue Skies" by Noah and the Whale

Posted:  for the week of Aug. 27, 2001:

A vehicle is a female[ Conceptual metaphor ]


Men usually refer to their vehicles in the feminine.  The reason for this is because usually vehicles are cherished, delicate, and beautiful, just as a woman is to a man.  This kind of metaphor is called "personification."


I just got a new car.  Isn't she a beauty?

Our ship is old.  She needs a new paint job.

My motorcycle is sounding terrible.  I think I'll give her a tune-up.

Posted:  for the week of July 29th, 2001:

A stitch in time saves nine  (proverbial metaphor)


"in time"  means:  as soon as possible, i.e., immediately

"saves nine" means:  conserves nine extra stitches.

The whole thing means:  if you mend some clothes immediately after a tear appears, it'll take nine less stitches (saving time, money, and resources).

The metaphor is that if you fix any problem immediately, it'll save a lot of time, and money and resources.

Posted:  July 25, 2001:  bridge metaphors (linguistic)

bridge over troubled water = solution to a problem [bridge = solution; troubled water = problem]

let's cross that bridge when we come to it = let's deal with that problem when is arises.

it's water under the bridge = it's history

bridge (v.) = make a connection

Listen to "Bridge Over Troubled Water" by Paul Simon

Posted:  July 24, 2001:  tree metaphors  (linguistic)

the tree of life  (symbol of eternal life)

the tree of knowledge of good and evil  (symbol of carnal knowledge)

the family tree (symbol of one's genealogy and relatives)

He has deep roots here.  (roots = ancestors)

A man with no roots, is not a man for me.  (roots = prominent ancestors)

Posted:  July 23, 2001:  water metaphors (linguistic)

The fountain of youth.  (tonic of rejuvenation and eternal youth)

An ocean of ideas.  (many ideas)

He is a river of ideas.  (his ideas just keep coming)

Posted:  July 22, 2001:  ideas = food  (conceptual metaphor)


raw facts

half-baked ideas

warmed-over theories

That's a fishy story.

It's food for thought.

Let's let that idea percolate for a while.

Let's let that idea simmer on the back burner for a while.

That idea has been fermenting for year.

This is the meaty part of the paper.

Posted:  July 21, 2001:  cognition = eating  (conceptual metaphor)


That information is hard to swallow.

I couldn't quite digest your lecture.

All that heard the choir were edified.

I'm still chewing on your words from last night.

I regurgitated everything that I learned for the test.

Don't make me throw up.

It's food for thought.

He has a voracious appetite for science fiction.

Some teachers spoon-feed their students.

I devoured that book.

Posted:  July 20, 2001:  see the world through rose-colored glasses


This is a linguistic metaphor.

The metaphor means that the person wearing the rose-colored glasses perceives the world to be a wonderful place.  That's why we say, "rose-colored."  Yet the fact that the person is wearing lenses means that the person's perception is not 100% realistic.  In fact, the person is usually blind to the bad things in the world.  Why?  Because that person's life is quite good at that time.

He sees the world through rose-colored glasses.

{Meaning: He has a good out-look on life. }


Posted:  July 19, 2001:  energy is money (conceptual metaphor)


Don't waist your energy.

Oh, I spent too much energy today.  I'm exhausted.

Let's save energy.


Posted:  July 18, 2001:  kinds of metaphors

There have been people who've attempted to categorized metaphors.  For now, I will discuss only two kinds of metaphors:  conceptual metaphors and linguistic metaphors.  


Conceptual Metaphors are metaphors in our psyche.  There is big controversy about which came first, the concept or the metaphor.  Conceptual metaphors are not written nor spoken, but do influence our writings and speech.


Linguistic metaphors are written and spoken.  These are divided into old and new linguistic metaphors.  The old are common knowledge.  The new are made by someone to illustrate a point, as for a speech or a debate.  Linguistic metaphors have influence on our conceptual system, and therefore, old linguistic metaphors might be considered to be conceptual metaphors as well.


Posted:  July 13, 2001:  heart = the container of one's good emotions


I love you with all my heart.

I thank you from the bottom of my heart.  (I deeply thank you, with all the contents of gratitude and love in my heart).

You broke my heart.  (You broke the container of my good emotions and all the contents have spilled out.)

You are a heartless jerk! (insult; "jerk" is slang, check out the slang page)

Eat your heart out!  (You may be envious.)

Have a heart, please.  (Please be generous/merciful.)

I gave you my heart.  (I gave you my love.)

Lionhearted (a.) = very generous/merciful


Posted:  July 12, 2001:  head = most important, #1, top


He is the head of this department.

The headlines are at the top of the article.

She is the head coach of the basketball team.

The captain is the head of the ship.

The capital is the head city of a country.

George W. Bush is the head of state.


Posted:  July 11, 2001:  carte blanche (white card)


A long time ago in France (and maybe England), if a rich man or a nobleman gave you a white card (maybe with his/her personal seal (도장)) and instructed you to write what ever you wanted on it, you could get it, at the card owner's expense.  At least, that's what I heard about the origin of the expression.  In essence, the person with the white card had complete power, within the power of the giver of the 'white card'.  In English, "carte blanche" is commonly used as an adverb:

He was given control carte blanche of the company.

We have another expression in English which is very similar:

One can write his/her own ticket

Posted:  July 10, 2001:  in/on is right/good, out/off is wrong/bad


Get out.  (You must be wrong... I don't believe you.)

You are in.  (You are popular.)

You are way off base.  (You are very wrong.)

You are right on!  (You are exactly correct.)

You hit the nail on the head.  (You are exactly correct.)

He is off his rocker.  (He is crazy.)

He is out of his mind.  (He is crazy.)

She is in tune with life.  (She is astute/sensitive to life.)

She is right on track.  (She is going in the right direction.)

She is off track.  (She is going in the wrong direction.)

Her argument has been derailed.  (Her argument has been proven wrong.)

I'm in the groove.  (I'm in a good mood, because my situation is good.)

He is out in left field.  (He is out of the right, and in the wrong.)

The  price is in the ballpark of my price range.  [near, almost right]

***He's in the doghouse.  ***(He has done something wrong and his wife/girlfriend is punishing him.)  This seems contrary to the metaphor (above), but it is not, because "in the doghouse" means "outside the house."

He is out to lunch.  (He is temporarily insane.)

Posted:  July 9, 2001:  Life is a journey.


Look at my life!  So far so good.

On the road of life, there are many crossroads.

I took the path less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.  (Frost)

Your journey through life will be much easier if you heed the road signs.

Put yourself in my shoes!

Life is a roller coaster ride.

I wanna go back home.  (I want to die.)

Stop and smell the roses.  (Stop working and enjoy life from time to time.)

We're at the end of the line.  (We will die soon.)

We're lying (knocking) at death's door.  (We will die soon.)

See you on the other side.  (Life's journey doesn't end at death...)

When life bucks you off, you should get back on.

Take the reins of fate.  (Take control of your life.)

If you don't ride life, she will ride you.  (same as above)

Listen to "End of the Line" originally by Tom Petty and the Traveling Wilbury's, but performed by Stevie Riks

Posted:  July 8, 2001:  Relationships are a journey.


Our far so good.

Our relationship is a dead-end street.

Our relationship has been a long, bumpy road.

Our marriage is on the rocks.  (sea voyage)

Our love has gone off the tracks.  (train trip)

In our relationship, we are just spinning our wheels.  (car trip)

We are past the point of no return.

There's no turning back now.

I don't think this relationship is going anywhere.

We're at a crossroads.

Look how far we've come, baby.

Posted:  July 7, 2001:  Love is War.


She captured my heart.

You stole my heart.

He broke my heart.

You hurt me.

There is a fortress around your heart. (Sting)

You broke down my defenses.

I'm a prisoner of your love.

Let me go! i.e., Release me, and let me love again.  (Elvis Presley)

What's your strategy to make her love you?

She shot me down.

I'll take a shot at love.

I surrendered my heart to her.

Posted:  July 6, 2001:  Life is a game.


You win some and you lose some.

     (meaning:  sometimes you have success in life, and sometimes you don't.)

There are two kinds of people in this world:  winners and losers.

     (meaning:  There are successful people and unsuccessful people.)

Three strikes and you're out!

     (meaning:  You only get three chances in life.)

It's not whether you win or lose that matters, it's how you play the game.

     (meaning:  Living honestly (no cheating) is the best way to live.)

Don't run faster than you have strength.

     (meaning:  Don't try to do more than you can do.)

In the game of life, there's no reset button.

     (meaning:  You only live once, so make the best of it.)

Game over.

     (meaning:  death.)

Posted:  July 5, 2001:  Time is money.


How do you spend your time?

My time is valuable.

Don't waist my time.

If you give me some of your time, I'll pay you back with some of my time.

The criminal spent twenty years in jail.  He paid his debt to society.

Posted:  July 4, 2001:  Sorry, I made a mistake yesterday!

"New face" is NOT a metaphor.  It is called a metonymy.  A metonymy is:  part equals the whole.  For example:  

1.  God bless the hands that prepared this meal.

          hands = person

2.  I have three mouths to feed.

          mouths = persons

3.  How many heads of cattle do you have?

          heads = cows

4.  Nice wheels!

          wheels = car

5.  I like your new threads!

          threads = clothes

On the other hand, a metaphor is one thing equals another thing, because they have something in common.  They are not 100% equal; only parts of the two are equal.  For example:

1.  Life's a bowl full of cherries. ( 삶은 제리로 가득찬 그릇이다. )

Why do we say that?  Because life and cherries have some things in common.  Eating cherries can be fun.  Life can be fun.  Eating cherries can be difficult, because you have to avoid swallowing the pits.  Also, life has it's difficulties.

Posted:  July 3, 2001:  new face

A 'new face' is a new celebrity, or a new person in the office, or a new person on a team.


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A Long List of Some Common

English Metaphors

Written, complied by, and brought to you by Leon


vegetable metaphors meaning
a vegetable a quadriplegic
a couch potato a person who sits on the couch and eats potato chips all day long
an ear of corn one 'stick' of corn
a head of lettuce one lettuce plant

fruit metaphors meaning
big banana (not polite) boss (not polite)
lemon a machine that breaks down shortly after purchase
a pickle a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't situation
pumpkin term of endearment to a cute child
The Big Apple New York
The apple of my eye my most cherished person
sour grapes envy
melon head
nuts testicles
cucumber penis
peach pretty girl
peachy fine, okay
crabapple bitter person


animal metaphors meaning
fox beautiful woman
chicken scared/frightened person
pig dirty person
sloth lazy person
dog bad man, ugly woman

scroll down for more dog metaphors

rat tattler
snake / serpent cunning person
whale very fat person
cow reasonably fat person
ox big, strong man
moose big, athletic man
owl night person
wolf aggressive person (bad meaning)
tiger aggressive person (good meaning)
bottom dweller scavenger, freeloader
sheepish embarrassed
mouse timid, shy
turtle physically slow person
snail physically very slow person
ham a show-off
hog greedy person
lionhearted generous
clam up (phrasal verb) close one's mouth and refuse to talk
bookworm person who likes to read a lot
cuckoo crazy
dodo dummy / idiot
duck (v.i.) stick your head down like a duck fishing in a pond/lake.
shark hustler
weasel avoider
weasel out of (doing sth) use cunning to avoid some responsibility
shrew nagger, complainer (esp, about a woman)
urchin trouble-maker (esp. used for children)
skunk disliked person (왕따)
worm lowest, most-hated person (상놈,녀)
kid human child
dinosaur (derogatory) very old person
yellow-bellied lizard coward
turkey dummy / idiot
shrimp small person


dog metaphorical idioms ( + proverbs & dog similes) meaning
It's a dog-eat-dog world. There are plenty of people in the world who will take advantage of you, if given the chance.
I'm dog-tired. I'm really tired.
work like a dog.  (simile) work really hard.
sick as a dog. (simile) really, very sick.
in the doghouse out of one's good graces
go home and kick the dog relieve one's stress or anger, by hurting an innocent party
Let sleeping dogs lie. Let bygones be bygones.
dog one's trail (verb phrase) follow (sb)
top dog best person (at doing sth)
underdog the weaker party in a competition
dog-eared pages pages with one corner folded down
hotdog 1.wiener/frank/sausage link on a bun
2.a show-off
corndog a wiener/frank/sausage link covered with corn bread
Dog gone it! [instead of] God damn it!


Metaphorical Proverbs meaning
Time is money. Time is a precious/valuable thing.
The customer is king. The salesperson should treat the customer like a king.
The squeaky wheel gets the grease. Noisy people get attention.
One rotten apple spoils the whole barrel. One bad person in a group can have a bad effect on the whole group.
Suck the marrow out of life. Enjoy life to the fullest.
Life sucks. Life is hard to endure.
Cease the day. Take the opportunities each day.
Don't bite off more than you can chew. Don't try to do more than you can do.

Colorful Metaphors


1.  to see red = to be angry

2.  to be in the red = to be in financial danger

3.  red flag, as in "red flag going up" = danger

4.  red card = foul (can be used as a linguistic metaphor as well as a symbol)

5.  red carpet, as in "roll out the red carpet" = royal treatment; treat like royalty



1.  to be yellow = to be cowardly

ORIGIN:  It is the educated opinion of this author that the origin of this colorful metaphor has nothing to do with skin color.  It comes from the metaphor:  yellowbelly.  Originally, a yellowbelly is a kind of lizard with a yellow belly indigenous to the Western U.S.A..  The metaphorical meaning is a coward.  The common ground between (1) a cowardly person and (2) a yellowbelly lizard  is:

 they both run away to avoid a confrontation with someone or something bigger than they

2.  yellow card = warning



1.  to be green = to be immature; to be new at something

2.  greenie = a newbie, a novice; a neophyte

3.  green thumb = skill at growing plants

4.  greens = green vegetables [this is not a metaphor, but I thought I'd throw it in anyway]

5.  green light = safe to proceed



1.  to be blue = to be sad

2.  blue skies = happiness [rain = sadness, grief]

3.  to be blue in the face = to be exasperated [not a metaphor; just thought I'd throw it in]

4.  the blues = sad songs

5.  "singing the blues" = being sad, being melancholy

6.  blue balls = pain in the testicles from lack of ejaculation



1.  purple heart = bravery


1.  lily white = innocent; pure

2.  white as the driven snow = pure white [this is a simile, not a metaphor]

3.  white glove = inspection (comes from the military, where inspectors use white gloves to inspect the cleanliness of rooms)

4.  "whities" = Caucasians (those with pale skin)  [this is a metonymy, not a metaphor]

5.  white head = a pimple with a white top [this is a metonymy (white), mixed with a metaphor (head)]



1.  black = tainted, impure, wicked

2.  black-hearted = wicked

3.  to be in the black = to be out of financial danger

4.  black magic = wicked magic [white magic = righteous magic]






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