A metaphor is a literary figure of speech that uses an image, story or tangible object to represent a less tangible object or some intangible quality or idea; e.g., "Her eyes were glistening jewels."

learn more… | top users | synonyms (1)

52
votes
11answers
3k views

Phrase for overusing just-learned skills?

Is there a saying or word for indicating the overuse of something you just newly learned? Say you were happy with a hammer and a nail and then somebody taught you the virtues of a screw and ...
30
votes
23answers
7k views

Are there metaphoric English expressions meaning “keeping composure at a fatal moment, never panicky”?

We have a Japanese old saying, “俎板の上の鯉-manaita no ueno koi, a carp laid on a chopping block” for describing (1) a critical situation you cannot avoid, and (2) a person who is self-poised at such a ...
18
votes
8answers
5k views

Ripe with Opportunity? Or Rife?

The Grammarist says I should use rife with rather than ripe with. So far so good and I agree. But is there an exception for ripe with opportunity? Googlefight overwhelmingly prefers ripe, and I like ...
17
votes
13answers
4k views

What metaphor or phrase can describe an object that is aesthetically pleasing yet totally useless?

Is there a conventional metaphor or phrase that just hits this meaning:good-looking yet useless?
17
votes
2answers
2k views

How did kool-aid come to be the drink of fanboys?

Why does Kool-Aid relate to being something's fanboy/fangirl?
15
votes
4answers
3k views

“Let's burn that bridge when we come to it” – is this sort of idiom mixing considered a pun, and if so, does it have a specific name?

I couldn't come up with a short title, but the upside is that there is not much needed to be said in the body of the question! For @dmr (and others), it mixes “let's cross that bridge when we come ...
15
votes
3answers
3k views

Why can humour be dry but not wet?

Humour that is presented in a matter of fact way, as it weren't even an attempt to be funny, can be described as dry. And any sort of writing or information can be dry if it's overly factual in ...
14
votes
5answers
1k views

“Pandora's Box” metaphors

The majority of definitions give the same meaning - "Pandora's box" is a synonym for "a source of extensive but unforeseen troubles or problems." Are there any other metaphors with the same meaning?
14
votes
3answers
10k views

Origin and exact meaning of “taken to the cleaners”

I know the meaning of this phrase by context, but the German analogs are no literal translations of this phrase and very dissimilar metaphors, meaning roughly: being tricked into something being ...
14
votes
1answer
6k views

Similes and Metaphors - are similes a subset of metaphors?

I've always been taught that metaphors and similes both draw a parallel between two disparate ideas/thoughts/objects, but that a simile is a more explicit comparison using the word "like" or "is", ...
13
votes
3answers
11k views

What does a “meteoric rise” imply?

Does the phrase "meteoric rise" connote that the rise is short-lived? Particularly bright? Generally lateral? It just seems like a meteor is not the best metaphor for a triumphant and lasting ...
13
votes
6answers
53k views

The difference between an analogy and a metaphor?

Many a time I've asked what the difference is between an analogy and a metaphor. I've asked it to my teacher, on internet sites, to my parents, so on and so forth. I got a different answer every time, ...
12
votes
10answers
2k views

Metaphors similar to “Trojan Horse”

I'm looking for metaphors (non-jocular) with the same meaning as "Trojan Horse" - "A person or thing intended to undermine or destroy from within."
12
votes
2answers
727 views

Roy Hodgson's “Church in the centre of the village” expression

Listening to the current England football manager, Roy Hodgson, speaking on the radio, he used a very curious expression while speaking about his team: "We have to try to get back to putting the ...
11
votes
3answers
2k views

What does “sock puppeting” mean?

I found a Meta Stack Overflow post in whose answer Servy says: it's sock puppeting and is a very serious violation "Sock puppeting" is a picture. But why a sock? Is it like playing with your own ...
10
votes
5answers
2k views

What is the best way to describe someone who is very social in a party?

If a person is very social in a party, striking up conversations with different people from one end of the hall to the other end, are there some good expressions to describe this person? In Chinese, ...
10
votes
10answers
1k views

Something of value that is worthless in the current context?

Is there a word/metaphor/idiom for something that has value, but is worthless (or even harmful) in the current situation? To use a couple of monetary examples: A check for $1,000,000 has potential ...
10
votes
2answers
927 views

“Thought is a thread, and the raconteur is a spinner of yarns"

“Thought is a thread, and the raconteur is a spinner of yarns" What does this metaphor mean and what is the origin? I know it is an ancient one, but couldn't find anything else! Is it obsolete ...
10
votes
6answers
552 views

Finding a suitable English translation of “An old donkey pulls all the weight all alone”

A Hungarian colleague of mine just impressed upon me the idiom An old donkey pulls all the weight all alone. The phrase itself isn't a common English idiom (not to my knowledge, anyway). I think ...
10
votes
2answers
12k views

Origin of “to have a cow”

The phrase "to have a cow" is defined as "to be very worried, upset, or angry about something" in Free Dictionary Online. Other sources also define it to mean to react very strongly and emotionally. ...
9
votes
6answers
24k views

What is the metaphoric meaning of silo?

Process-oriented organizations break down the barriers of structural departments and try to avoid functional silos. I was wondering what silo means here? Is it a metaphor?
9
votes
1answer
200 views

Why is food crazy?

Funnily enough, food is often used metaphorically to describe someone's eccentricity or level of sanity. We have nuts Slang. a foolish, silly, or eccentric person. an insane person; ...
8
votes
4answers
737 views

What does “Sautéed” mean in “Someone who has not sautéed in a subject”?

Maureen Dowd article titled, “Neocons Slither Back” in September 15 New York Times begins with the following sentence: “Paul Ryan has not sautéed in foreign policy in his years on Capitol Hill. ...
7
votes
3answers
2k views

Understand the meaning of “tall order”

I was wondering why a "tall order" means a formidable task or requirement? Is it a metaphor? If so, how shall I understand it?
6
votes
4answers
2k views

What's the metaphorical meaning of “Tone-deaf”?

I understand the literal meaning of "Tone-deaf". As Wiktionary puts it: Unable to clearly distinguish the difference in pitch between different notes. But what's the metaphorical meaning? As ...
6
votes
5answers
486 views

Short phrase for “things I did (wrote, drew, created, etc) when I was younger”?

What's a one or two word phrase that conveys the meaning "These are some things that I did when I was younger."? The context is a blog that features Writings, Photography, and Artwork. The short ...
6
votes
2answers
961 views

What does “piracy pirates” mean?

What does the following phrase mean? In Soviet Russia, piracy pirates YOU. What is implied by "piracy pirates YOU" and what by "IN Soviet Russia"? Update 1: My difficulty was because the term ...
6
votes
3answers
584 views

What is a Metaphor for “Being Thrown Into a Completely New Environment” [on hold]

I am trying to convey how I was thrown into a completely new environment in my essay. What would be a good metaphorical representation of that?
6
votes
9answers
799 views

What is the metaphoric antonym to “paycheck to paycheck living?”

Is there any metaphoric antonym to “pay check to paycheck living”? In Japanese we have the word, ‘Kirigirisu zoku’ – people who live like a grasshopper who squanders money and not prepare for winter ...
6
votes
3answers
2k views

What is the origin and meaning of “coyote ugly”?

I overheard two scoundrels discussing one of their dates as being "coyote ugly".
6
votes
2answers
20k views

Is there a fine line between symbolism and metaphors in literature?

Assume we have a literary masterpiece that is abundant in symbolism and metaphors. Within this masterpiece, the author uses a brook running through a glade of trees to represent a couple of things ...
5
votes
3answers
1k views

Use of American-Indian “How” in British English

These are excerpts from Le Carré's Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy: Jerry Westerby screwed up his face in perplexity. 'That's what the boy wanted to tell me, you see, George. That's what he was ...
5
votes
3answers
176 views

Is the “Beltway Stop" a popular metaphor meaning a concurrence of events or things?

I'm interested in the phrase, “Beltway Stop in the Oscar Race” which is the title of an article appearing in December 21 New York Times. It comments on the concurrence of movies focused on the ...
5
votes
5answers
182 views

Baseball metaphor, equivalent to 'lay your body on the line'

The English expression 'you need to be prepared to lay your body on the line' is a football metaphor, referring to the potentially painful act of lying down on the goal line to prevent a goal being ...
5
votes
1answer
202 views

Has a dead metaphor ceased to be a metaphor?

In its simplest sense, a metaphor is a figure of speech where, essentially, a simile is ellipted to what is apparently a false statement, but as the intention is to emphasise the similarity rather ...
5
votes
1answer
81 views

Metaphoric meaning of “racket”

How does the original meaning of racket lead to the following metaphoric meanings? an illegal or dishonest scheme for obtaining money a person’s line of business or way of life
4
votes
5answers
370 views

Analogy for arising difficulties

I'm looking for a metaphor or analogy for experiencing more and more difficulties (after getting more familiar with a certain teaching or art). I think I have seen a few in the past but I can't think ...
4
votes
3answers
3k views

What does “Eat our peas” mean - where does it come from?

In a recent speech about the national debt, Obama said it's time to "Eat our peas". What does it mean - where does it come from?
4
votes
1answer
202 views

We haven't been able to use the fan for a fortnight

In a John Clarke and Brian Dawe interview, the phrase,"we haven't been able to use the fan for nearly a fortnight." What metaphoric expression was this phrase actually referring to? I've googled for ...
4
votes
2answers
180 views

What does “sheafs” mean in “The rays cut straight sheafs”?

This sentence is from Atlas Shrugged, depicting rays of light running through coils of steam enveloping a building: The rays of a few strong lights cut straight sheafs through the coils. Could ...
4
votes
11answers
6k views

Phrase for something that is always out or reach/you almost have but never can get

I believe there is a two-word phrase for something that is always just out of reach for you and which you cannot ever seem to get. (It is not Tantalus or anything having to do with Tantalus, please). ...
4
votes
2answers
168 views

How different is “he is a voice of reason awakening the public” from “he has a voice of reason awakening the public”?

In association with the question on Sarah Palin’s endorsement of Senator Rand Paul in the Time Magazine article “2013 Time 100” that I posted earlier today, I have an additional question about the ...
4
votes
4answers
10k views

Another way to say “fulfill your dream”

What's another phrase or metaphor that means "to fulfill your dream" or "make your dreams a reality?"
4
votes
2answers
375 views

Does “with the descriptive noun of other noun” count as a simile?

In school, we're taught that similes are analogies using "like" or "as". This is clearly just a mnemonic for a comparison between two distinct objects. Metaphors on the other hand combine the two ...
4
votes
4answers
705 views

What is the part of the iceberg that is not the tip called?

I was explaining that something is the "tip of the iceberg". I then wanted to explain what the other bit of the iceberg consisted of. What's the bit of the iceberg that is not the tip? Or should I ...
4
votes
3answers
7k views

What is the origin of the phrase “another string to your bow”

Specifically - what kind of bow? I assume it refers to an archer's bow, but I guess it could relate to a bow used to play a stringed instrument (like a violin). Also, I've heard it used in the sense ...
4
votes
1answer
965 views

What is the origin & meaning of “It used to drive me spare”? [duplicate]

While watching the eponymous documentary on Stephen Hawking, his wife described her husband's behaviour when he was deep in thought. She said he could be surrounded by children and not even notice ...
4
votes
1answer
132 views

“Advice I wish I'd had ears to hear” — is this phrase in common use? Origins?

Productivity writer Merlin Mann often uses the phrase "ears to hear" on his podcast. An example from his writing: "a discursive mishmash of advice I wish I'd had the ears to hear in the year or ...
3
votes
8answers
843 views

A metaphor for “ricochet back”

Is there a metaphor or a single word for "When you throw a rubber ball into a wall and it bounces back and hits you." Something like boomerang, but unexpected and with negative connotation.
3
votes
3answers
4k views

Is “he runs like a cheetah” a kind of metaphor?

To make a metaphor about somebody's running speed, should we say "he is a cheetah" or "he runs like a cheetah"? Why?