18 Types of Metaphors

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The first extremely obvious question is – What is this darned metaphor? Another fancy name? Well… yes and no. It is fancy, but also effective. Charged with energy. Stuffed with genius. By definition, a metaphor is a figure of speech where two entirely dissimilar words or phrases are brought together to suggest a similarity. Confused? What are examples for?

All the world’s a stage

Yes, it’s Shakespeare and he is comparing the world to a stage. You generally don’t see the world as a stage, you see it… as the world, the earth, the mother; but not a stage. That is why it’s a metaphor. Because it has brought together two entirely unrelated things and made sense with it.

That was simple. But there is no peace, here starts the rollercoaster. (bet you won’t enjoy it right now)

1. Extended or telescoping metaphor or conceit

When your metaphoric insight has developed, then you cannot restrain yourself to just one metaphor. Like –

All the world’s a stage and men and women merely players.

This extension – “Men and women are merely players” has made this an extended metaphor. The author stretched “the world” and “a stage” by introducing parts of “the world” (men and women) and “a stage” (players). Of course, it has to make sense. You can’t extend it by comparing men and women to an ipod. Sounds distasteful? Exactly.

2. Metonym

When you’ve grown tired of clichéd words and are searching desperately for a word closely related to it that has not been used to death, that word is a metonym. A new word to replace an old one. Of course, an example. The pen is mightier than the sword. This saying in itself has become clichéd, but originally the thought was otherwise. Here, the pen stands for the freedom of expression and the sword for the power of authority. Now, if you said, freedom is greater than power, nobody would have said Wow. That’s why Pen and Sword instead of freedom and power.

3. Mixed metaphor

Some of us fail to create a good metaphor; such a twisted, out of tune metaphor is called a mixed metaphor.

The waves of emotion have punctured my heart.

Can waves puncture? They do in a nonsensical world, but most of us are still sane, but widely tolerable of nonsense and that is why such nonsense is given a modest name of mixed metaphor.

OK, for info’s sake – there are two kinds of mixed metaphors: permissible mixed metaphors and impermissible mixed metaphors. Never use impermissible ones, so that leaves me to explain only permissible ones.

Permissible mixed metaphors make sense even though the parts are not directly related.

We’ve weathered plenty of storms with an iron will.

There is no connection between weathering the storms and an iron will, still it sounds right.

4. Absolute metaphor

A perfect metaphor to show craziness and confusion. In an Absolute metaphor, the metaphor actually, really, truthfully, doesn’t make sense.

She broke upon a sad piece.

In today’s world of indistinctness, it is reigning absolute. Confuse them with your confusion.

There are two types of Absolute metaphor: Paralogical and antimetaphor.

5. Implied metaphor

Implied metaphor is an indirect metaphor where an implication to the whole is made.

Shut your trap.

He ruffled his feathers.

No bird and no mouth, just feathers and trap. Yeah, that’s implied.

6. Dead metaphor

Dead metaphors have been so overused that they have lost their individuality.

Face of the mountains

Crown of glory

Dead metaphors are mostly used as phrases and not as metaphors. Their association has died. Now, they are just phrases, although their names still remain. Take off your hats. It’s mourning time!

7. Dormant metaphor

Didn’t our teachers say that eating words in not good. Here it is again. When the meaning of a metaphor becomes unclear because the sentence has been shortened, then it is called a dormant metaphor.

He was blazing. (for whaat, if you please)

She flew towards her uncle. (why?)

They blew her off. (WHY?)

OK, it makes sense, but in itself, they don’t create the whole picture. Why chew words. Dormant, yes, they are sleeping. Hibernating. But still alive.

8. Synecdoche metaphor

The name looks scary, but it’s rather simple. In synecdoche metaphor, a part of the association is used instead of the object. For example feathers instead of bird or claws instead of crab. These associations are symbolic of the whole.

Her feet flapped like terrified wings.

9. Root metaphor

Root metaphors are named thus because from them numerous other metaphors can take birth. Also, they are generalizations like –

Time is money.

Make hay while the sun shines.

Etc etc.

10. Active metaphor

Active metaphors are new born so you will have to introduce them to the world. They are not familiar to the reader. That’s why it is better if they are explained clearly.

Her blinking love.

They mashed each other’s lives.

Any new metaphor that hasn’t been written before is an active metaphor.

11. Submerged metaphor

In a submerged metaphor, the first part of the metaphor or the vehicle is implied. For example: his winged dreams or her legged ambition.

12. Dying metaphor

It should have been named ‘rising from the dead metaphor’ or ‘the mummy metaphor’ because when you take out dead metaphors from the grave and use them in your writing, then they can’t be called dying. I don’t know what George Orwell was thinking when he coined the name. J Dying metaphors are clichéd metaphors like

Needle in a haystack

Achilles heel

A different ball game

13. Conceptual metaphor

This is hard, so read slowly. A conceptual metaphor has many metaphoric meanings in them. Their underlying meaning creates a novel thought or a universal concept. Life as journey is an old conceptual metaphor. This metaphor has universal appeal. It is not talking about a particular situation or a person. It stands true to every man.

Also, if you see life as a journey, then you can also use many other metaphors like

My life has just halted

I have reached crossroads.

I came into this world with no luggage.

So, Life is a journey is a conceptual metaphor.

14. Pataphor

Pataphors are metaphors that are stretched to such an extreme that they do not make sense. They are usually used to attract attention and introduce newness.

He put breaks on his fear, accelerated his anger and rammed into the house.

15. Simple or Tight metaphor

In simple metaphor, you don’t need to do much. Just cool it. There is nothing to cool except just it. On a serious note, in a simple metaphor, the relationship between the vehicle (cool) and the tenor (it) is very intimate (tight).

Duck (bow) down.

He is mad (crazy).

You’re a dinosaur (huge).

Usually, simple metaphors are very short. Just two or three words at most.

16. Implicit metaphor

Here, either the vehicle or the tenor is not specified clearly, but implied.

Shut your trap.

Watch your tongue.

Here, ‘trap’ and ‘tongue’ are used instead of mouth and words.

17. Compound or Loose metaphor

A compound metaphor is made of more than one similarity. In it, the writer extends a metaphor by using more than one association.

He ran towards the murderer, a wild beast with a beating heart.

The air smelt of fear, the fear of abandonment.

18. Complex metaphor

In a complex metaphor, you have a simple metaphor and his accomplice (not in crime). Instead of an explanation, an example would do better.

Let me throw some light on his character.

Here, “throw” is used for “light” that in itself is non-existent.

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