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Metaphor (from Latin metaphoria; see the Greek origin below) is a figure of speech and or phrase that one word as being or equal to a second object in some way. This device is known for usage in literature, especially in poetry, where with few words, emotions and associations from one context are associated with objects and entities in a different context. It compares two subjects without using ‘like’ or ‘as’.
Compared to simile, the metaphor takes us one step further than the simile. Instead of asking us to picture one thing as being like another, the metaphor asks us to picture one thing as being the other.
The term derives from Greek μεταφορά (metaphora), or “transference”, from μεταφέρω (metaphero) “to carry over, to transfer” and that from μετά (meta), “between” + φέρω (phero), “to bear, to carry”.
The metaphor, according to I. A. Richards in The Philosophy of Rhetoric (1936), consists of two parts: the tenor and vehicle. The tenor is the subject to which attributes are ascribed. The vehicle is the subject from which the attributes are borrowed. Other writers employ the general terms ground and figure to denote what Richards identifies as the tenor and vehicle. Consider the All the world’s a stage monologue from As You Like It:
- All the world’s a stage,
- And all the men and women merely players;
- They have their exits and their entrances; — (William Shakespeare, As You Like It, 2/7)
In this example, “the world” is compared to a stage, the aim being to describe the world by taking well-known attributes from the stage. In this case, “the world” is the tenor and “a stage” is the vehicle. “Men and women” are a secondary tenor and “players” is the vehicle for this secondary tenor.
The corresponding terms to ‘tenor’ and ‘vehicle’ in cognitive linguistics are target and source. In this nomenclature, metaphors are named using the typographical convention “TARGET IS SOURCE”, with the domains and the word “is” in small capitals (or capitalized when small-caps are not available); in this notation, the metaphor discussed above would state that “LIFE IS THEATRE”. In a conceptual metaphor the elements of an extended metaphor constitute the metaphor’s mapping–in the Shakespeare passage above, for example, exits would map to death and entrances to birth.
 Terms and categorization
A metaphor is generally considered to be more forceful and active than an analogy (metaphor asserts two topics are the same whereas analogies acknowledge differences). Other rhetorical devices involving comparison, such as metonymy, synecdoche, simile, allegory and parable, share much in common with metaphor but are usually distinguished by the manner in which the comparison between subjects is delivered.
The category of metaphor can be further considered to contain the following specialized subsets:
- allegory: An extended metaphor in which a story is told to illustrate an important attribute of the subject
- catachresis: A mixed metaphor (sometimes used by design and sometimes a rhetorical fault)
- parable: An extended metaphor told as an anecdote to illustrate or teach a moral lesson
 Common types of metaphors
- A dead metaphor is one in which the sense of a transferred image is not present. Example: “to grasp a concept” or “to gather what you’ve understood” Both of these phrases use a physical action as a metaphor for understanding (itself a metaphor), do most visualize the physical action. Dead metaphors, by definition, normally go unnoticed. Some people make a distinction between a “dead metaphor” whose origin most speakers are entirely unaware about (such as “to break the ice”). Others, however, use dead metaphor for both of these concepts, and use it more generally as a way of describing metaphorical cliché.
- An extended metaphor, or conceit, sets up a principal subject with several subsidiary subjects or comparisons. The above quote from As You Like It is a very good example. The world is described as a stage and then men and women are subsidiary subjects that are further described in the same context.
- A mixed metaphor is one that leaps from one identification to a second identification that is inconsistent with the first one. Example: “He stepped up to the plate and grabbed the bull by the horns,” where two commonly used metaphoric grounds for highlighting the concept of “taking action” are confused to create a nonsensical image.
- In Hans Blumenbergs metaphorology, the term „absolute metaphor“ stands for a figurative concept or idea that can not be reduced to or replaced by purely conceptual thinking and language. According to Blumenberg absolute metaphors – e.g. “light” as a metaphor for truth or “seafaring” as a metaphor for human existence – have a distinctive meaning (different from the literal one) and thereby function as orientations in practical, live-world contexts and with regard to theoretical questions such as presenting the world as a whole. Insofar as they are located on a prepredicative level Blumenberg supposes them not only to express but to structure pragmatic and theoretical views of man and the world.
 Less common classifications
Other types of metaphor have been identified as well, though the nomenclatures are not as universally accepted:
- An absolute or paralogical metaphor (sometimes called an anti-metaphor) is one in which there is no discernible point of resemblance between the idea and the image. Example: “The couch is the autobahn of the living room.”
- An active metaphor is one which by contrast to a dead metaphor, is not part of daily language and is noticeable as a metaphor.
- A complex metaphor is one which mounts one identification on another. Example: “That throws some light on the question.” Throwing light is a metaphor and there is no actual light.
- A compound or loose metaphor is one that catches the mind with several points of similarity. Examples: “He has the wild stag’s foot.” This phrase suggests grace and speed as well as daring.
- A dying metaphor is a derogatory term coined by George Orwell in his essay Politics and the English Language. Orwell defines a dying metaphor as a metaphor that isn’t dead (dead metaphors are different, as they are treated like ordinary words), but has been worn out and is used because it saves people the trouble of inventing an original phrase for themselves. In short, a cliché. Example: Achilles’ heel. Orwell suggests that writers scan their work for such dying forms that they have ‘seen regularly before in print’ and replace them with alternative language patterns.
- An epic metaphor or Homeric simile is an extended metaphor containing details about the vehicle that are not, in fact, necessary for the metaphoric purpose. This can be extended to humorous lengths, for instance: “This is a crisis. A large crisis. In fact, if you’ve got a moment, it’s a twelve-story crisis with a magnificent entrance hall, carpeting throughout, 24-hour porterage and an enormous sign on the roof saying ‘This Is a Large Crisis.'” (Blackadder)
- An implicit metaphor is one in which the tenor is not specified but implied. Example: “Shut your trap!” Here, the mouth of the listener is the unspecified tenor.
- An implied or unstated metaphor is a metaphor not explicitly stated or obvious that compares two things by using adjectives that commonly describe one thing, but are used to describe another comparing the two.
An example: “Golden baked skin”, comparing bakery goods to skin or “green blades of nausea”, comparing green grass to the pallor of a nausea-stic person or “leafy golden sunset” comparing the sunset to a tree in the fall.
- A simple or tight metaphor is one in which there is but one point of resemblance between the tenor and the vehicle. Example: “Cool it”. In this example, the vehicle, “Cool”, is a temperature and nothing else, so the tenor, “it”, can only be grounded to the vehicle by one attribute.
- A submerged metaphor is one in which the vehicle is implied, or indicated by one aspect. Example: “my winged thought”. Here, the audience must supply the image of the bird.
- A synecdochic metaphor is a trope that is both a metaphor and a synecdoche in which a small part of something is chosen to represent the whole so as to highlight certain elements of the whole.
 Metaphors outside of rhetoric
The term metaphor is also used for the following terms that are not a part of rhetoric:
- A cognitive metaphor is the association of an object to an experience outside the object’s environment.
- A conceptual metaphor is an underlying association that is systematic in both language and thought.
- A root metaphor is the underlying worldview that shapes an individual’s understanding of a situation.
- A therapeutic metaphor is an experience that allows one to learn about more than just that experience.
- A visual metaphor provides a frame or window on experience. Metaphors can also be implied and extended throughout pieces of literature.
 Metaphors in literature and language
- My friend, the swift mule, fleet wild ass of the mountain, panther of the wilderness, after we joined together and went up into the mountain, fought the Bull of Heaven and killed it, and overwhelmed Humbaba, who lived in the Cedar Forest, now what is this sleep that has seized you? – (Trans. Kovacs, 1989)
In this example, the friend is compared to a mule, a wild donkey, and a panther to indicate that the speaker sees traits from these animals in his friend (A comparison between two or more unlike objects).
The Greek plays of Sophocles, Aeschylus, and Euripides, among others, were almost invariably allegorical, showing the tragedy of the protagonists, either to caution the audience metaphorically about temptation, or to lambast famous individuals of the day by inferring similarities with the caricatures in the play.
Novelist and essayist Giannina Braschi states, “Metaphors and Similes are the beginning of the democratic system of envy.”
Even when they are not intentional, they can be drawn between most writing or language and other topics. In this way it can be seen that any theme in literature is a metaphor, using the story to convey information about human perception of the theme in question.
 Metaphors in historical linguistics
In historical onomasiology or, more generally, in historical linguistics, metaphor is defined as semantic change based on similarity, i.e. a similarity in form or function between the original concept named by a word and the target concept named by this word. Example: mouse ‘small, gray rodent’ > ‘small, gray, mouse-shaped computer device’.
Some recent linguistic theories view language as by its nature all metaphorical; or that language in essence is metaphorical. 
 See also
- Cognitive metaphor
- Conceptual blending
- Conceptual metaphor
- List of political metaphors
- Metaphor in philosophy
- Nautical metaphors in English
- Reification (fallacy)
- Tertium comparationis
- Therapeutic metaphor
- Analysis of subjective logics
- ^ Metaphora, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, at Perseus
- ^ Metaphero, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, at Perseus
- ^ Meta, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, at Perseus
- ^ Phero, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, at Perseus
- ^ Cf. Joachim Grzega (2004), Bezeichnungswandel: Wie, Warum, Wozu? Ein Beitrag zur englischen und allgemeinen Onomasiologie, Heidelberg: Winter, and Blank, Andreas (1998), Prinzipien des lexikalischen Bedeutungswandels am Beispiel derfgjghfjg romanischen Sprachen, Tübingen: Niemeyer.
- ^ See, for example, Vilayanur S Ramachandran, Reith Lectures 2003 The Emerging Mind, lecture 4 “Purple Numbers and Sharp Cheese”, http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/reith2003/lecture4.shtml
 Other References
- Stefano Arduini (2007). (ed.) Metaphors, Roma, Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura.
- Aristotle. Poetics. Trans. I. Bywater. In The Complete Works of Aristotle: The Revised Oxford Translation. (1984). 2 Vols. Ed. Jonathan Barnes. Princeton, Princeton University Press.
- I. A. Richards. (1936). The Philosophy of Rhetoric. Oxford, Oxford University Press.
- Max Black (1954). Metaphor, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 55, pp. 273-294.
- Max Black (1962). Models and Metaphor, Ithaca, Cornell University Press.
- Max Black (1979). More about Metaphor, in A. Ortony (ed) Metaphor & Thought.
- Clive Cazeaux (2007). Metaphor and Continental Philosophy: From Kant to Derrida. New York: Routledge.
- L. J. Cohen (1979). The Semantics of Metaphor, in A. Ortony (ed) Metaphor & Thought
- Donald Davidson. (1978). “What Metaphors Mean.” Reprinted in Inquiries Into Truth and Interpretation. (1984), Oxford, Oxford University Press.
- Jacques Derrida (1982). “White Mythology: Metaphor in the Text of Philosophy.” In Margins of Philosophy. Trans. Alan Bass. Chicago, University of Chicago Press.
- Paul Ricoeur (1975). The Rule of Metaphor: Multi-Disciplinary Studies in the Creation of Meaning in Language, trans. Robert Czerny with Kathleen McLaughlin and John Costello, S. J., London: Routledge and Kegan Paul 1978. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press 1977)
- John Searle (1979). “Metaphor,” in A. Ortony (ed) Metaphor & Thought
 External links
- Audio illustrations of metaphor as figure of speech
- Center for the Cognitive Science of Metaphor Online
- Critical Inquiry (Autumn 1978) Special Issue: On Metaphors
- Introduction to Metaphor
- Metaphor Examples
- Top Ten Metaphors of 2007
- The Canine in Conversation: Dogs in Metaphor and Idiom, Illustrated