A list of metaphors

Metaphors about responsibility

I have to bear the responsibility for this.
The responsibility was weighing on my mind.
I don’t want to be a burden to you.

Metaphors that are idioms

Spill the beans.
Give someone a hand.

Metaphors about relationships

I was very attached to him.
She has split up with her boyfriend.
They greeted us warmly.
It was a very stormy relationship.

Metaphors about emotion

The news has hit him hard.
It had a huge impact on them.
He has a fiery temper.
The book was received warmly.
I felt a chill of fear.
She treated us with cool indifference.
The future looks very bright.
The news lifted her spirits.
There’s no point in having these dark thoughts.
They were eaten up with hatred.
Mistrust had poisoned their relationship.

Metaphors about thought and knowledge

A few doubts remained at the back of my mind.
The thought crossed her mind that he was lying.
I don’t want to put any ideas into your head.
I had already planted the idea in her mind.
It was a carefully constructed theory.
Let me know if you dig up anything about him.
I see what you mean.
They recognized the fact that they needed to improve.
We want to get a range of different views.
He kept us in the dark about his plans.

Metaphors about place and position

We are in a situation where there are no real winners.
They found themselves in a very difficult position.
I’ve been caught between a rock and a hard place.
This is a potential minefield for beginners.
You’ve lost me. What do you mean?
I really think you’re barking up the wrong tree.
I found out I’d been taken for a ride.
They met on a rainy day in January.
He lay awake all through the night.
This week’s gone so fast.
One day, in the distant future, I might go and live abroad.
The weeks crawled by until we could meet again.
She didn’t notice the time slipping by.

Metaphors about journeys and travelling

The baby arrived just after midnight.
They remembered the departed in their prayers.
His life took an unexpected direction.
What’s the best way of doing it?
I’ve tried being reasonable, and I don’t want to go down that road again.
I haven’t yet reached my goal.
I’d like to return to what David was saying earlier.
He always says things in a roundabout way.
The conversation drifted towards the subject of money.
This term, we will be exploring the psychology of sport.
It is an excellent guide to English vocabulary.
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Metaphors about up and down

This is an area of high unemployment.
They had raised their prices to unreasonable levels.
The temperature had been falling steadily all day.
There was a collapse in the price of oil.
It is the true story of a millionaire’s meteoric rise from poverty.
They were downtrodden and oppressed.
She had never wanted to climb the greasy pole of politics.
They look down on everyone who isn’t as rich as they are.
They regarded tradesmen as their inferiors.
I felt as high as a kite.
They seem very down about it all.

Extract from: Language Awareness: Metaphor by Dr Rosamund Moon.

Comments (12)
  • what does”i’m drowning in school work mean”

    Posted by saleah on 24th January, 2012
  • saleah: It means there is so much homework, it’s like a sea which the student is struggling to stay afloat in, or get on top of.
    There are related metaphors: I could say I’m “submerged in (or by) work”, or I might be “up to my eyes/ears/elbows/armpits in paperwork”.

    Posted by Stan on 24th January, 2012
  • It means there’s an overload of work which you can’t seem to get through *when your drowning you can’t seem to get through to the surface of the water*

    Posted by Belinda on 9th January, 2013
  • This website is very helpful, thank you

    Posted by Belinda on 9th January, 2013
  • What does “a bird iin hand is worth two in the bush ” mean?

    Posted by Plastino on 6th March, 2013
  • What does “people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones” mean?

    Posted by Plastino on 6th March, 2013
  • Posted by Macmillan Dictionary on 7th March, 2013
  • Posted by American Metaphors/Storytelling « bodytippingpoint on 15th June, 2013
  • What does spill the beans mean?

    Posted by Mbumba on 11th March, 2014
  • For a definition, see this entry in Macmillan Dictionary: http://www.macmillandictionary.com/dictionary/british/spill#spill-the-beans

    Posted by Macmillan Dictionary on 11th March, 2014
  • And it’s worth adding that the dictionary’s search software is pretty powerful, so you don’t need know the *exact* wording of an idiom: just put a couple of words in the Search box and the software will take you to the right entry. A nice example is the phrase “close (or shut or lock…) the stable door after the horse has bolted”: the wording is variable, but if you put any two of “horse”, “stable” or “bolted” in the Search box (in any order), you’ll get there.

    Posted by Michael Rundell on 11th March, 2014
  • Extrordinary examples…Thank you

    Posted by Ajay on 12th April, 2014
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