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“I’m in love. I’m all shook up.” Metaphors of love and relationships

Many of you would have watched James Geary‘s popular TED talk about metaphor from a few years back. In his presentation he calls on the ‘King of Metaphorians’ Elvis Presley to discuss literary metaphor, but his talk also touches on conceptual metaphor – a unique feature of Macmillan Dictionary.

To celebrate Valentine’s Day, this post brings you some examples of conceptual metaphors of love and relationships: what phrases do we use when we talk about love and being in a (romantic) relationship?

You’ll also find some useful links for reading at the end should you want to explore metaphor further.

Metaphors of love

  • When you love someone very deeply, it feels as if you are physically weak or falling over.
  • The effect that an attractive person has on you is like being hit or knocked over by them.

Just looking at him makes me go weak at the knees.
I fell for Molly in a big way.
Do you remember the first time you fell in love?
I’d never met anyone like Jack – he just swept me off my feet.
I was bowled over by his charm and good looks.
Anyone can see they’re head over heels in love.
That girl is an absolute knockout.
He’s drop-dead gorgeous.
He’s always had a bit of a weakness for brunettes.
She felt helpless with desire.

  • Sexual love is like fire or heat.

Their new singer’s really hot.
I bumped into an old flame yesterday.
It was a fiery, passionate relationship.
His touch inflamed her senses.
She gave him a smouldering look.
His eyes burned with desire.
The movie includes some steamy sex scenes.
Sara felt herself melting into his arms.

Metaphors of relationships

  • Relationships between people or groups are like physical connections.
  • Having a good relationship is like being joined to the other person or group, and ending a relationship is like breaking this connection.

We have been close friends since we were five.
We were inseparable as children.
The very first time that they met, they bonded immediately.
I was very attached to him.
The school encourages links between students and local businesses.
He was left some money by a distant relative.
Cracks appeared in the relationship.
There was a growing rift between president and vice-president.
The book describes the deep divisions within the government.
The party was torn apart.
She had just split/broken up with her boyfriend.
My parents separated when I was very young.

  • When you improve a bad relationship, it is as if you have fixed or repaired something that is broken.

We are both committed to mending our marriage.
The visit is part of an attempt to repair the relationship between the two governments.
I’m glad to see that you two have patched things up.
The meeting was designed mainly as a fence-mending exercise.
The first step is to build bridges with the other side.
She’s very good at smoothing over the differences between conflicting parties.
The agreement did no more than paper over the cracks.

Further reading

Love metaphors
A list of more love (and lust) metaphors with examples.

What we talk about when we talk about love
by Diane Nicholls for MED Magazine

Metaphorical English
In 2011 we dedicated a whole month here on the blog to discuss conceptual metaphor. This page brings together all aspects which were talked about plus much more!

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Kati Sule


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