50 Common Metaphors with Meanings


She’s the man of the house! What do you think the above sentence implies? The ‘women’ is being called the ‘man’ to draw a parallel with the idea of taking all the responsibility and being the bread earner in the house. This was an example of a common metaphor! Metaphors are widely used across English language and hold an important place in exams like IELTS, TOEFL, PTE, TOEIC and many more. If you are someone preparing for a competitive exam, then this blog on common metaphors can help you out in many ways. Read on to know more!

What are Metaphors?

Metaphor (Etymology: ‘Metaphora’ in Greek meaning “to transfer”) is an interesting way to emphasize and map certain descriptive qualities of two terms. They come under the branch of figures of speech in literature and poetry. Metaphors create a beautiful blend between concepts, to form comparisons between a particular behaviour, concept or a feeling with something impractical or unrelated to it.

The evolution of language has witnessed many metaphorical descriptions turn into a conventional language used today. However, metaphors can be used in abstract forms also. The best examples of abstract metaphors are seen in movies. For e.g.: Parasite – A South Korean movie where the characters are attributed to the quality of leaching off wealth

Trivia: Many words have their origin as metaphors. For e.g., ‘Window’ comes from a metaphorical description of the object “Wind eye”. The etymology of the flower ‘Daisy’ is also from a similar metaphorical description “Day’s eye” because the petals of the flower open in the morning and close at night.

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Is it a Metaphor or a Simile?

Inarguably, the most common comparisons and mistakes people tend to make are between similes and metaphors. Similes are explicit comparisons, for e.g. He ran like a cheetah. A metaphorical sentence for the same would be: He was a cheetah in the race. Similes are cognitively more complicated because it includes addition of cognizing the two objects. Similes include the words ‘as’ and ‘like’ to draw a comparison between two terms. Metaphors instantly help the reader/listener to apply all attributes of the particular concept to another one.

‘The simile is also a metaphor. The difference is but slight’.
– ‘Aristotle’ by Jonathan Barnes, 1984

List of 50 Common Metaphors

1. The wind screamed in his face while he was riding the bike.
Meaning: The wind is compared with a scream to emphasize on how furiously it blew.

2. Go for a walk or you’ll become a couch potato.
Meaning: Here, the person is told that he/she will turn fat and bulgy like a potato if they avoid exercising. 

3. Her heart of stone was the result of the previous unfortunate events in her life.
Meaning: In this sentence, the heart is symbolised by a stone, emphasizing on the lack of empathy she developed.

4. Her mom warned her about the monsters in the world.
Meaning: The denotation of the bad, wicked people is made by monsters.

5. He was a diamond among the sea of glass.
Meaning: The man (diamond) is said to be unique like a diamond among other ordinary men (sea of glass).

6. You’re sitting on a winning lottery.
Meaning: The term winning lottery is used to emphasize on a golden opportunity. 

7. She started with a new chapter by choosing him.
Meaning: A major new phase in the girl’s life is denoted by a new chapter which is void of the unnecessary past associations. 

8. He was a cheetah in the race.
Meaning: The runner’s speed is being attributed to the speed of a cheetah. 

9. You’ll be left in the dust.
Meaning: Here leaving one in the dust, implies being left far behind.

10. The professor was a guiding light for him.
Meaning: The professor is compared with light, so as to help him pave his way easily.

11. The curtains of life fell.
Meaning: The phrase ‘curtains of life’ are compared to that of a show which has fallen denoting that the person’s life is over.

12. Life is a maze.
Meaning: Life is being said to have its own navigation as you move ahead with surprises at every turn.

13. There’s a rat among us.
Meaning: Rats are said to be sneaky animals and are associated with betrayal.

14. Her heart sank on hearing the terrible news.
Meaning: The sinking of the heart is termed to emphasise on deep sorrow.

15. Laughter is the best medicine.
Meaning: Laughter is compared with medicine so as to help you heal or recover from an event. 

16. India’s culture is a salad bowl.
Meaning: Salad bowl is a common cultural idea to reflect India’s multiple cultures, yet having their own individual identities.

17. His heart was made of gold.
Meaning: Here, gold is used to indicate abundance and generosity. 

18. She was drowning in grief.
Meaning: Drowning is used to emphasize the amount of sorrow or problems in a person’s life.

19. The mind is an ocean.
Meaning: The mind is attributed to its endless capacity and also to characterize calmness.

20. Her heart melts when she sees him.
Meaning: The melting of the heart means to be sympathetic and compassionate.

21. Your words cut deeper than a knife.
Meaning: The phrase is used to emphasize the intensity of a certain hurtful speech.

22. You’re a firework.
Meaning: The word firework is used to characterize ample potential and to make the best out of your talents.

23. She’s a walking dictionary.
Meaning: Walking dictionary implies knowledge or facts known to the person.

24. She’s the man of the house.
Meaning:  The word ‘man’ is used to draw a parallel with being the responsible person or the bread earner of the house.

25. His fear became his prison.
Meaning: Prison here is used to denote the walls created by the person due to their fears.

26. The news of the accident was a dagger in her heart.
Meaning: The word dagger is used to emphasise on the depth of the agony suffered. 

27. The world is your oyster.
Meaning: The world is said to hold endless opportunities for you to explore and find your pearl. 

28. She was an angel in disguise.
Meaning: The word angel is used to draw a parallel with the altruistic nature of the person.

29. He has got the eye of the tiger.
Meaning: The eye of the tiger reflects the intensity of focus and strength of a person.

30. She was born with a silver spoon in her mouth.
Meaning: The term silver spoon is used to highlight privilege.

31. His anger was a wildfire waiting to ignite.
Meaning: The wildfire is used to denote the characteristic of extreme enrage.

32. He’s the diamond in the rough.
Meaning: The above sentence shows that the boy is unpolished but has potential and talent.

33. The stormy ocean was a raging bull.
Meaning: The ocean is being compared to a raging bull which highlights danger.

34. Teachers mould their students for their future.
Meaning:  The word Mould is used to draw a parallel with development and growth of the student.

35. His lawyer is a shark.
Meaning: The lawyer being compared to a shark means the implication of vicious or ruthless behaviour.

36. He thinks that the world revolves around him.
Meaning: Here, the ‘world revolving around someone’ is used to describe a self-centred person or behaviour.

37. The mind is a computer.
Meaning: The mechanisms of the computer are compared to the brain.

38. Sarojini Naidu is the nightingale of India.
Meaning: The attribution of poetry and a melodious voice is associated with the nightingale and hence, the comparison.

39. A friend is a treasure.
Meaning: The friend is given the attributes of a treasure being precious and hard to find.

40. Love is a rose.
Meaning: Rose is used to characterize both- beauty and hardships (Petals and thorns).

41. Her smile lights up my world.
Meaning: To light up one’s world means to seek pleasure and happiness from the act and to illuminate their mood.

42. She’s an early bird.
Meaning: Early bird indicates to wake up early or arrive early to an event/place.

43. His anger bottled up inside.
Meaning: Anger is shown to be repressed inside.

44. Life is no bed of roses.
Meaning: This sentence describes the nature of life being filled with hardships and sacrifice.

45. I’ll make sure she pays for her doings.
Meaning: Here, paying for something means to fix or pay redemption.

46. I’m the master of my sea.
Meaning: The sentence emphasizes the fact that the person is the master of his own world and his own fate.

47. See the world from a different lens.
Meaning: Different lens indicates a different perspective. 

48. The classroom was a zoo.
Meaning: The comparison of a classroom with a zoo is used to imply that the students were misbehaving in class.

49. Life isn’t black and white.
Meaning: The term ‘black and white’ is used to highlight the ambiguous nature of life.

50. Her soul is black.
Meaning: The soul being called black or dark describes the insensitive nature of a person.

[BONUS] 10 Additional Metaphors

  1. He carries the weight of the world on his shoulders. 
    Meaning: A huge amount of trouble is emphasized by the weight of the world.
  1. The police officer was digging up details about the suspects.
    Meaning: The constant search about the suspects is shown by the word ‘digging’
  1. His irresponsible behavior made his health turn south.
    Meaning: Here, ‘turn south’ means that his behaviour worsened. 
  1. She wears different hats to earn a livelihood.
    Meaning: Wearing different hats means doing different jobs to earn a living.
  1. The complex case landed the detectives barking up the wrong tree.
    Meaning: Barking up the wrong tree is used to indicate that the detectives ended up at the wrong conclusion.
  1. The good news about the profit made lifted his spirits.
    Meaning: Here, lift someone’s spirits means to make someone feel carefree.
  1. Taxes are a minefield for people who are careless.
    Meaning: Here, ‘minefield’ is used to denote the presence of dangerous consequences and problems the person is in.
  1. She soon realized that she had been taken for a ride.
    Meaning: Taken for a ride means that she had been tricked.
  1. She followed her instincts and changed tack.
    Meaning: Here, changed tack means try a different way/method.
  1. Her new job helped her wipe the slate clean.
    Meaning: Here, wipe the slate clean means to start something in a fresh manner and forget the past mistakes.

Hope these metaphors helped you explore some new terms. Metaphors are the most beautiful form of figurative speech which can help you communicate your thoughts and imaginations poetically. They don’t just add enrichment to the language but also help us draw parallels between incidents, people, and objects in our everyday lives. Interested in studying Creative Writing courses? Reach out to our Leverage Edu counsellors and we will guide you in selecting the best course and university to actualise your career aspirations! Sign up for a free session with us now!

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