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From Middle French métaphore, from Latin metaphora, from Ancient Greek μεταφορά (metaphorá), from μεταφέρω (metaphérō, I transfer, apply), from μετά (metá, with, across, after) + φέρω (phérō, I bear, carry).


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˈmɛ.tə.fə/, /ˈmɛt.ə.fɔː/
  • (US) IPA(key): /ˈmɛt.ə.fɔɹ/
  • (US, rare) IPA(key): /ˈmɛ.tə.fɚ/
  • (file)
  • (file)
  • Hyphenation: me‧ta‧phor
  • Rhymes: -ɔː(ɹ)


metaphor (countable and uncountable, plural metaphors)

  1. (uncountable, rhetoric) The use of a word or phrase to refer to something other than its literal meaning, invoking an implicit similarity between the thing described and what is denoted by the word or phrase.
    Coordinate term: simile (when the similarity is made explicit by the words like or as)
    • 2013, Eileen Cornell Way, Knowledge Representation and Metaphor, page 157:
      The next group of computational approaches to metaphor assume that metaphor is basically a hidden analogy.
  2. (countable, rhetoric) A word or phrase used in such implied comparison.
    • [1835, L[arret] Langley, A Manual of the Figures of Rhetoric, [], Doncaster: Printed by C. White, Baxter-Gate, →OCLC, page 3:
      A Metaphor, in place of proper words,
      Resemblance puts; and dress to speech affords.
    • 1874, John Seely Hart, First Lessons in Composition, page 92:
      A Metaphor may be changed into a Simile, and also into plain language, containing neither metaphor nor simile. Thus:
      Metaphor. — Idleness is the rust of the soul.
      Simile. — As rust is to iron, so is idleness to the soul, taking away its strength and power of resistance.
      Plain. — Idleness takes away from the soul its strength and power of resistance.
    • 1979, Daniel Breazeale (translator), Friedrich Nietzsche, On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense [1873, Über Wahrheit und Lüge im außermoralischen Sinn], in Philosophy and Truth, page 84, quoted in 1998, Ian Markham, Truth and the Reality of God: An Essay in Natural Theology, page 103,
      What then is truth? A movable host of metaphors, metonymies, and anthropomorphisms: in short, a sum of human relations which have been poetically and rhetorically intensified, transferred, and embellished, and which, after long usage, seems to a people to be fixed, canonical, and binding. Truths are illusions which we have forgotten are illusions; they are metaphors that have become worn out and have been drained of sensuous force, coins which have lost their embossing and are now considered as metal and no longer as coins.
  3. (countable, graphical user interface) The use of an everyday object or concept to represent an underlying facet of the computer and thus aid users in performing tasks.
    desktop metaphor; wastebasket metaphor


Derived terms[edit]


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See also[edit]


metaphor (third-person singular simple present metaphors, present participle metaphoring, simple past and past participle metaphored)

  1. (intransitive) To use a metaphor.
  2. (transitive) To describe by means of a metaphor.