Glossary: metaphor


A word or phrase that is used to describe one thing in terms of another, where the literal ("dictionary-definition") meaning is not expressed. For example, when Shakespeare writes Juliet is the Sun, he does not mean that she actually is the sun! He means that she has some of the same qualities as the sun. The opposite of metaphorical is literal.


Understanding and analysing metaphor


  • Understand the concept of metaphor and how they are formed
  • Analyse the use of metaphor in a real text

Lesson Plan

  • Using the information and examples below, explain that metaphor is an everyday part of human communication
  • Use the examples of metaphor to explain how they are formed: by something abstract being understood in terms of something concrete
  • At this point, students could discuss any other examples of metaphor they can think of
  • Next, mo

Metaphor: Activity

Analysing metaphor in political discourse

Attached to this page are some extracts of a 2016 speech delivered by David Cameron after the UK voted to leave the European Union. For each extract, you will be asked to do two things:

1) Work out what metaphor is being used. What is being understood in terms of what?

2) Comment on why you think that metaphor is used. What purpose does it serve? What kind of meaning does it carry, in the wider context of the political situation in which the speech took place?

You will see on the handout that one example has been done for you.

Metaphor: Introduction

What is a metaphor? Introduction for the classroom activity

Metaphor is often thought of as something that is confined to literary texts, but as we shall see, this really isn't the case.

Everyday language is full of metaphor, and it is actually quite difficult to use language without it!

Let's look at an example - the metaphor of LIFE IS A JOURNEY. (In linguistics, the standard way to show metaphor is by using capital letters). In this metaphor, the abstract concept of 'life' is understood as a concrete, physical 'journey'.

This generates sentences such as:


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