This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (November 2015) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
A metaphor is a figure of speech that, for rhetorical effect, directly refers to one thing by mentioning another. It may provide (or obscure) clarity or identify hidden similarities between two ideas. Metaphors are often compared to other types of figurative language, such as antithesis, hyperbole, metonymy and simile. One of the most commonly cited examples of a metaphor in English literature comes from the "All the world's a stage" monologue from As You Like It:
This quotation expresses a metaphor because the world is not literally a stage. By asserting that the world is a stage, Shakespeare uses points of comparison between the world and a stage to convey an understanding about the mechanics of the world and the behavior of the people within it.
- 1 Parts of a metaphor
- 2 Etymology
- 3 Comparison with other types of analogy
- 4 Subtypes
- 5 In rhetoric
- 6 Larger applications
- 7 In historical linguistics
- 8 Historical theories
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 Bibliography
- 12 External links
Parts of a metaphor
The Philosophy of Rhetoric (1937) by rhetorician I. A. Richards describes a metaphor as having two parts: the tenor and the vehicle. The tenor is the subject to which attributes are ascribed. The vehicle is the object whose attributes are borrowed. In the previous example, "the world" is compared to a stage, describing it with the attributes of "the stage"; "the world" is the tenor, and "a stage" is the vehicle; "men and women" is the secondary tenor, and "players" is the secondary vehicle.
Psychologist Julian Jaynes coined the terms ‘metaphrand’ and ‘metaphier’, and added two additional concepts, ‘paraphrand’ and ‘paraphier’.  ‘Metaphrand’ is the equivalent of the metaphor-theory terms ‘tenor’, ‘target’, and ‘ground’. ‘Metaphier’ is equivalent to the metaphor-theory terms ‘vehicle’, ‘figure’, and ‘source’. Paraphiers are any of the attributes, characteristics, or nuances associated with a metaphier that are potentially attachable to a metaphrand, whereas a paraphrand is any particular attribute or characteristic which has conceptually become attached to a metaphrand through understanding or comprehending a metaphor. For example, given the metaphor "Pat is a tornado," the metaphrand is "Pat," the metaphier is "tornado". The metaphier "tornado" carries a number of paraphiers such as storm, power, wind, counterclockwise motion, danger, threat, destruction, etc. The metaphoric meaning of “tornado”, however, does not require all the possible paraphiers; if Pat is said to be a "tornado" one person might understand the metaphor through the paraphrands of power and destruction and another person might interpret the paraphrand as, say, sudden danger; both interpreters would likely exclude the paraphiers of wind and counterclockwise motion.
The English metaphor derived from the 16th-century Old French word métaphore, which comes from the Latin metaphora, "carrying over", in turn from the Greek μεταφορά (metaphorá), "transfer", from μεταφέρω (metapherō), "to carry over", "to transfer" and that from μετά (meta), "after, with, across" + φέρω (pherō), "to bear", "to carry".
Comparison with other types of analogy
Metaphors are most frequently compared with similes. It is said, for instance, that a metaphor is 'a condensed analogy' or 'analogical fusion' or that they 'operate in a similar fashion' or are 'based on the same mental process' or yet that 'the basic processes of analogy are at work in metaphor'. It is also pointed out that 'a border between metaphor and analogy is fuzzy' and 'the difference between them might be described (metaphorically) as the distance between things being compared'. A metaphor asserts the objects in the comparison are identical on the point of comparison, while a simile merely asserts a similarity through use of words such as "like" or "as". For this reason a common-type metaphor is generally considered more forceful than a simile.
The metaphor category contains these specialized types:
- Allegory: An extended metaphor wherein a story illustrates an important attribute of the subject.
- Antithesis: A rhetorical contrast of ideas by means of parallel arrangements of words, clauses, or sentences.
- Catachresis: A mixed metaphor, sometimes used by design and sometimes by accident (a rhetorical fault).
- Hyperbole: Excessive exaggeration to illustrate a point.
- Metonymy: A figure of speech using the name of one thing in reference to a different thing to which the first is associated. In the phrase "lands belonging to the crown", the word "crown" is metonymy for ruler or monarch.
- Parable: An extended metaphor told as an anecdote to illustrate or teach a moral or spiritual lesson, such as in Aesop's fables or Jesus' teaching method as told in the Bible.
- Pun: Similar to a metaphor, a pun alludes to another term. However, the main difference is that a pun is a frivolous allusion between two different things whereas a metaphor is a purposeful allusion between two different things.
Metaphor, like other types of analogy, can be distinguished from metonymy as one of two fundamental modes of thought. Metaphor and analogy work by bringing together concepts from different conceptual domains, while metonymy uses one element from a given domain to refer to another closely related element. A metaphor creates new links between otherwise distinct conceptual domains, while a metonymy relies on the existing links within them.
A dead metaphor is a metaphor in which the sense of a transferred image has become absent. The phrases "to grasp a concept" and "to gather what you've understood" use physical action as a metaphor for understanding. The audience does not need to visualize the action; dead metaphors normally go unnoticed. Some distinguish between a dead metaphor and a cliché. Others use "dead metaphor" to denote both.
A mixed metaphor is a metaphor that leaps from one identification to a second inconsistent with the first, e.g.:
I smell a rat [...] but I'll nip him in the bud" — Irish politician Boyle Roche
This form is often used as a parody of metaphor itself:
If we can hit that bull's-eye then the rest of the dominoes will fall like a house of cards... Checkmate.
An extended metaphor, or conceit, sets up a principal subject with several subsidiary subjects or comparisons. In the above quote from As You Like It, the world is first described as a stage and then the subsidiary subjects men and women are further described in the same context.
Aristotle writes in his work the Rhetoric that metaphors make learning pleasant: "To learn easily is naturally pleasant to all people, and words signify something, so whatever words create knowledge in us are the pleasantest." When discussing Aristotle's Rhetoric, Jan Garret stated "metaphor most brings about learning; for when [Homer] calls old age "stubble", he creates understanding and knowledge through the genus, since both old age and stubble are [species of the genus of] things that have lost their bloom." Metaphors, according to Aristotle, have "qualities of the exotic and the fascinating; but at the same time we recognize that strangers do not have the same rights as our fellow citizens".
Other rhetoricians have asserted the relevance of metaphor when used for a persuasive intent. Sonja K. Foss characterizes metaphors as "nonliteral comparisons in which a word or phrase from one domain of experience is applied to another domain". She argues that since reality is mediated by the language we use to describe it, the metaphors we use shape the world and our interactions to it.
The term metaphor is used to describe more basic or general aspects of experience and cognition:
- A cognitive metaphor is the association of object to an experience outside the object's environment
- A conceptual metaphor is an underlying association that is systematic in both language and thought
- A root metaphor is the underlying worldview that shapes an individual's understanding of a situation
- A nonlinguistic metaphor is an association between two nonlinguistic realms of experience
- A visual metaphor uses an image to create the link between different ideas
Metaphors can be implied and extended throughout pieces of literature.
Some theorists have suggested that metaphors are not merely stylistic, but that they are cognitively important as well. In Metaphors We Live By, George Lakoff and Mark Johnson argue that metaphors are pervasive in everyday life, not just in language, but also in thought and action. A common definition of metaphor can be described as a comparison that shows how two things that are not alike in most ways are similar in another important way. They explain how a metaphor is simply understanding and experiencing one kind of thing in terms of another, called a "conduit metaphor". A speaker can put ideas or objects into containers, and then send them along a conduit to a listener who removes the object from the container to make meaning of it. Thus, communication is something that ideas go into, and the container is separate from the ideas themselves. Lakoff and Johnson give several examples of daily metaphors in use, including "argument is war" and "time is money". Metaphors are widely used in context to describe personal meaning. The authors suggest that communication can be viewed as a machine: "Communication is not what one does with the machine, but is the machine itself."
Metaphors can map experience between two nonlinguistic realms. Musicologist Leonard B. Meyer demonstrated how purely rhythmic and harmonic events can express human emotions. It is an open question whether synesthesia experiences are a sensory version of metaphor, the “source” domain being the presented stimulus, such as a musical tone, and the target domain, being the experience in another modality, such as color.
Art theorist Robert Vischer argued that when we look at a painting, we "feel ourselves into it" by imagining our body in the posture of a nonhuman or inanimate object in the painting. For example, the painting The Lonely Tree by Caspar David Friedrich shows a tree with contorted, barren limbs. Looking at the painting, we imagine our limbs in a similarly contorted and barren shape, evoking a feeling of strain and distress. Nonlinguistic metaphors may be the foundation of our experience of visual and musical art, as well as dance and other art forms.
In historical linguistics
In historical onomasiology or in historical linguistics, a metaphor is defined as a semantic change based on a similarity in form or function between the original concept and the target concept named by a word.
For example, mouse: small, gray rodent with a long tail → small, gray computer device with a long cord.
Some recent linguistic theories view all language in essence as metaphorical.
Friedrich Nietzsche makes metaphor the conceptual center of his early theory of society in On Truth and Lies in the Non-Moral Sense. Some sociologists have found his essay useful for thinking about metaphors used in society and for reflecting on their own use of metaphor. Sociologists of religion note the importance of metaphor in religious worldviews, and that it is impossible to think sociologically about religion without metaphor.
As style in speech and writing
As a characteristic of speech and writing, metaphors can serve the poetic imagination. This allows Sylvia Plath, in her poem "Cut", to compare the blood issuing from her cut thumb to the running of a million soldiers, "redcoats, every one"; and enabling Robert Frost, in "The Road Not Taken", to compare a life to a journey.
Metaphor can serve as a device for persuading an audience of the user's argument or thesis, the so-called rhetorical metaphor.
As a foundation of our conceptual system
Cognitive linguists emphasize that metaphors serve to facilitate the understanding of one conceptual domain—typically an abstraction such as "life", "theories" or "ideas"—through expressions that relate to another, more familiar conceptual domain—typically more concrete, such as "journey", "buildings" or "food". For example: we devour a book of raw facts, try to digest them, stew over them, let them simmer on the back-burner, regurgitate them in discussions, and cook up explanations, hoping they do not seem half-baked.
A convenient short-hand way of capturing this view of metaphor is the following: CONCEPTUAL DOMAIN (A) IS CONCEPTUAL DOMAIN (B), which is what is called a conceptual metaphor. A conceptual metaphor consists of two conceptual domains, in which one domain is understood in terms of another. A conceptual domain is any coherent organization of experience. For example, we have coherently organized knowledge about journeys that we rely on in understanding life.
Lakoff and Johnson greatly contributed to establishing the importance of conceptual metaphor as a framework for thinking in language, leading scholars to investigate the original ways in which writers used novel metaphors and question the fundamental frameworks of thinking in conceptual metaphors.
From a sociological, cultural, or philosophical perspective, one asks to what extent ideologies maintain and impose conceptual patterns of thought by introducing, supporting, and adapting fundamental patterns of thinking metaphorically. To what extent does the ideology fashion and refashion the idea of the nation as a container with borders? How are enemies and outsiders represented? As diseases? As attackers? How are the metaphoric paths of fate, destiny, history, and progress represented? As the opening of an eternal monumental moment (German fascism)? Or as the path to communism (in Russian or Czech for example)?
Some cognitive scholars have attempted to take on board the idea that different languages have evolved radically different concepts and conceptual metaphors, while others hold to the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. German philologist Wilhelm von Humboldt contributed significantly to this debate on the relationship between culture, language, and linguistic communities. Humboldt remains, however, relatively unknown in English-speaking nations. Andrew Goatly, in "Washing the Brain", takes on board the dual problem of conceptual metaphor as a framework implicit in the language as a system and the way individuals and ideologies negotiate conceptual metaphors. Neural biological research suggests some metaphors are innate, as demonstrated by reduced metaphorical understanding in psychopathy.
James W. Underhill, in Creating Worldviews: Ideology, Metaphor & Language (Edinburgh UP), considers the way individual speech adopts and reinforces certain metaphoric paradigms. This involves a critique of both communist and fascist discourse. Underhill's studies are situated in Czech and German, which allows him to demonstrate the ways individuals are thinking both within and resisting the modes by which ideologies seek to appropriate key concepts such as "the people", "the state", "history", and "struggle".
Though metaphors can be considered to be "in" language, Underhill's chapter on French, English and ethnolinguistics demonstrates that we cannot conceive of language or languages in anything other than metaphoric terms.
- Camel's nose
- Conceptual blending
- List of English-language metaphors
- Literal and figurative language
- Metaphor in philosophy
- Origin of language
- Origin of speech
- Reification (fallacy)
- Tertium comparationis
- War as metaphor
- World Hypotheses
- Compare: "Definition of METAPHOR". www.merriam-webster.com. Retrieved 29 March 2016.
[...] a figure of speech in which a word or phrase literally denoting one kind of object or idea is used in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them [... .]
- The Oxford Companion to The English Language, 2nd Edition (e-book). Oxford University Press. 2018. ISBN 978-0-19-107387-8.
- "As You Like It: Entire Play". Shakespeare.mit.edu. Retrieved 4 March 2012.
- Jaynes, Julian (15 August 2000). The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 9780547527543.
- Pierce, Dann L. (2003). "Chapter Five". Rhetorical Criticism and Theory in Practice. McGraw-Hill. ISBN 9780072500875.
- μεταφορά, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
- cdasc3D%2367010 μεταφέρω, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
- μετά, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
- φέρω, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
- The Oxford Companion to the English Language (1992) pp.653
- The Columbia Encyclopedia (6th edition)
- "Definition of ANTITHESIS".
- "Definition of HYPERBOLE".
- "Definition of METONYMY".
- Herscberger, Ruth (Summer 1943). "The Structure of Metaphor". The Kenyan Review. 5 (3): 433–443. JSTOR 4332426.
- Working with the metaphor of life and death
- "Zapp Brannigan (Character)". IMDb. Retrieved 21 September 2014.
- Aristotle, W. Rhys Roberts, Ingram Bywater, and Friedrich Solmsen. Rhetoric. New York: Modern Library, 1954. Print.
- Garret, Jan. "Aristotle on Metaphor." , Excerpts from Poetics and Rhetoric. N.p., 28 Mar. 2007. Web. 29 Sept. 2014.
- Moran, Richard. 1996. Artifice and persuasion: The work of metaphor in the rhetoric. In Essays on Aristotle's rhetoric, ed. Amelie Oksenberg Rorty, 385–398. Berkeley: University of California Press.
- Foss, Sonja K. (1988). Rhetorical Criticism: Exploration and Practice (4 ed.). Long Grove, Illinois: Waveland Press (published 2009). p. 249. ISBN 9781577665861. Retrieved 4 October 2018.
- Lakoff, G. & Johnson, M. Metaphors We Live By (IL: University of Chicago Press, 1980), Chapters 1–3. (pp. 3–13).
- Meyer, L. (1956) Emotion and Meaning in Music. Chicago: University of Chicago Press
- Blechner, M. (2018) The Mindbrain and Dreams: An Exploration of Dreaming, Thinking, and Artistic Creation. NY: Routledge
- Blechner, M. (1988) Differentiating empathy from therapeutic action. Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 24:301–310.
- Vischer, R. (1873) Über das optische Formgefühl: Ein Beitrag zur Aesthetik. Leipzig: Hermann Credner. For an English translation of selections, see Wind, E. (1963) Art and Anarchy. London: Faber and Faber.
- Johnson, M. & Larson, S. (2003) "Something in the way she moves" – Metaphors of musical motion. Metaphor and Symbol, 18:63–84
- Whittock, T. (1992) The role of metaphor in dance. British Journal of Aesthetics, 32:242–249.
- Cf. Joachim Grzega (2004), Bezeichnungswandel: Wie, Warum, Wozu? Ein Beitrag zur englischen und allgemeinen Onomasiologie, Heidelberg: Winter, and Blank, Andreas (1997), Prinzipien des lexikalischen Bedeutungswandels am Beispiel der romanischen Sprachen, Tübingen: Niemeyer.
- "Radio 4 – Reith Lectures 2003 – The Emerging Mind". BBC. Retrieved 4 March 2012.
- "T he Nietzsche Channel: On Truth and Lie in an Extra-Moral Sense". oregonstate.edu.
- McKinnon, A. M. (2012). "Metaphors in and for the Sociology of Religion: Towards a Theory after Nietzsche" (PDF). Journal of Contemporary Religion. pp. 203–216.
- "Cut". Sylvia Plath Forum. Retrieved 4 March 2012.
-  Archived 12 September 2010 at the Wayback Machine
- "1. The Road Not Taken. Frost, Robert. 1920. Mountain Interval". Bartleby.com. Retrieved 4 March 2012.
- Lakoff G.; Johnson M. (2003) . Metaphors We Live By. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-46801-3.
- Zoltán Kövecses. (2002) Metaphor: a practical introduction. Oxford University Press US. ISBN 978-0-19-514511-3.
- McKinnon, AM. (2013). 'Ideology and the Market Metaphor in Rational Choice Theory of Religion: A Rhetorical Critique of “Religious Economies”'. Critical Sociology, vol 39, no. 4, pp. 529-543.
- Meier, Brian P.; et al. (September 2007). "Failing to take the moral high ground: Psychopathy and the vertical representation of morality". Personality and Individual Differences. 43 (4): 757–767. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2007.02.001. Retrieved 1 November 2016.
- This article incorporates material from the Citizendium article "Metaphor", which is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License but not under the GFDL.
- Stefano Arduini (2007). (ed.) Metaphors, Roma, Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura.
- Aristotle. Poetics. Trans. I. Bywater. In The Complete Works of Aristotle: The Revised Oxford Translation. (1984). 2 Vols. Ed. Jonathan Barnes. Princeton, Princeton University Press.
- Max Black (1954). Metaphor, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 55, pp. 273–294.
- Max Black (1962). Models and metaphors: Studies in language and philosophy, Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
- Max Black (1979). More about Metaphor, in A. Ortony (ed) Metaphor & Thought.
- Clive Cazeaux (2007). Metaphor and Continental Philosophy: From Kant to Derrida. New York: Routledge.
- L. J. Cohen (1979). The Semantics of Metaphor, in A. Ortony (ed), Metaphor & Thought
- Donald Davidson. (1978). "What Metaphors Mean." Reprinted in Inquiries Into Truth and Interpretation. (1984), Oxford, Oxford University Press.
- Jacques Derrida (1982). "White Mythology: Metaphor in the Text of Philosophy." In Margins of Philosophy. Trans. Alan Bass. Chicago, University of Chicago Press.
- René Dirvens; Ralf Pörings, eds. (2002). Metaphor and Metonymy in Contrast. Berlin.: Mouton de Gruyter.
- Fass, Dan (1988). "Metonymy and metaphor: what's the difference?". Proceedings of the 12th conference on Computational linguistics. 1. pp. 177–81. doi:10.3115/991635.991671. ISBN 978-963-8431-56-1.
- Jakobson, Roman (1990). "Two Aspects of Language and Two Types of Aphasic Disturbances". In Linda Waugh; Monique Monville-Burston (eds.). On Language. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. pp. 115–133. ISBN 978-0-674-63536-4.
- Lakoff, G. & Johnson, M. Metaphors We Live By (IL: University of Chicago Press, 1980), Chapters 1–3. (pp. 3–13).
- Lakoff, George (1980). Metaphors We Live By. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-46801-3..
- Low, Graham (11 February 1999). "An Essay is a Person". In Cameron, Lynne; Low, Graham (eds.). Researching and Applying Metaphor. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 221–48. ISBN 978-0-521-64964-3.
- Peters, Wim (2003). "Metonymy as a cross-lingual phenomenon". Proceedings of the ACL 2003 workshop on Lexicon and figurative language. 14. pp. 1–9. doi:10.3115/1118975.1118976.
- McKinnon, AM. (2012). 'Metaphors in and for the Sociology of Religion: Towards a Theory after Nietzsche'. Journal of Contemporary Religion, vol 27, no. 2, pp. 203–216. 
- David Punter (2007). Metaphor, London, Routledge.
- Paul Ricoeur (1975). The Rule of Metaphor: Multi-Disciplinary Studies in the Creation of Meaning in Language, trans. Robert Czerny with Kathleen McLaughlin and John Costello, S. J., London: Routledge and Kegan Paul 1978. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press 1977)
- I. A. Richards. (1936). The Philosophy of Rhetoric. Oxford, Oxford University Press.
- John Searle (1979). "Metaphor," in A. Ortony (ed.) Metaphor and Thought, Cambridge University Press.
- Underhill, James W., Creating Worldviews: Metaphor, Ideology & Language, Edinburgh UP, 2011.
- Herscberger, Ruth (Summer 1943). "The Structure of Metaphor". The Kenyan Review. 5 (3): 433–443. JSTOR 4332426.
- Rudmin, Floyd W. (1991). "Having: A Brief History of Metaphor and Meaning". Syracuse Law Review. 42: 163. Retrieved 11 October 2013.
- Somov, Georgij Yu (2013). "The interrelation of metaphors and metonymies in sign systems of visual art: An example analysis of works by V. I. Surikov". Semiotica. 2013 (193): 31–66. doi:10.1515/sem-2013-0003.
|Look up metaphor in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Metaphors|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Metaphors.|
- History of metaphor on In Our Time at the BBC
- A short history of metaphor
- Audio illustrations of metaphor as figure of speech
- Top Ten Metaphors of 2008
- Shakespeare's Metaphors
- Definition and Examples
- Metaphor Examples (categorized)
- List of ancient Greek words starting with μετα-, on Perseus
- Metaphor and Phenomenology article in the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
- Metaphors algebra
- Pérez-Sobrino, Paula (2014). "Meaning construction in verbomusical environments: Conceptual disintegration and metonymy" (PDF). Journal of Pragmatics. 70: 130–151. doi:10.1016/j.pragma.2014.06.008.