A List of Common Metaphor Examples for Use By Writers

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Metaphors

The use of figures of speech like metaphors in writing is helpful for providing a short description or color to your writing without going into verbose explanations. A metaphor may provide clarity or identify hidden similarities between two ideas.

In other words, if you can make a reference that gets your point across in a poignant way, then try it. To quote a metaphor by F. Scott Fitzgerald, "All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath." 

A straight metaphor compares two things without using the words "like" or "as." When you use "like" or "as," that is a subtype of a metaphor known as a simile

Let's look at some straight metaphor examples that may help you employ this technique in your writing.

Uses in Everyday Life

American thriller writer Raymond Chandler
Evening Standard/Stringer/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

We don't have to look very far to find examples of metaphors. We hear and use them every day, from sayings like "It's raining cats and dogs" to "table leg" and "old flame." Everyday speech is full of metaphors. Most are common expressions or cliches. You probably do not realize that you make them up in colloquial speech daily. 

Speech in the American South is well known for extensive use of metaphors. In the South, it is not uncommon for someone to say, "Fit as a fiddle," after being asked, "How are you?"

An Elvis Presley lyric, "You ain't nothing but a hound dog," is another good example of a metaphor. More

Sources in Literature

If you're looking for examples of metaphors in contemporary literature, look at Raymond Chandler, the hard-boiled detective novelist. In his book "The Long Goodbye," the phrase "He was eager to help but his legs were made of rubber" shows how Chandler crafts metaphors that create an image in our minds that supports the novel's themes.

Author Eudora Welty uses similarly figurative language in her sentimental story and Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, "The Optimist's Daughter."

Perhaps one of the most commonly cited examples of a metaphor in English literature is Shakespeare's "All the world's a stage" monologue from "As You Like It":

"All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances..."

Mixed Metaphors

Like most literary devices, metaphors can bomb when used incorrectly. They end up either confusing the reader or drawing attention to the author's lack of skill. A mixed metaphor leaps from one reference to a second, unrelated or inconsistent thing.

For example, in the statement "Our keyboard will teach your mind's eye to play by ear," the speaker has mixed two metaphors, leading to nonsense. A "mind's eye" can't play anything, and certainly not "by ear." 


Metaphors So Bad They're Good?

Sometimes a bad metaphor can become a useful tool. This form is often used as a parody of metaphor itself.

A good example comes from the late, great Yogi Berra, known for his colorful turns of phrase, or "Berra-isms." He is known for the nonsensical metaphor, "A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore."