Metaphor is a multi-faceted notion widely used in different scientific fields such as linguistics, arts, cognitive science, communication studies, discourse analysis, education studies, economics, political science, media studies, as well as interdisciplinary studies at the intersections with philosophy and religion studies. 

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary (2019) has two definitions of “metaphor”. A metaphor is a figure of speech “in which a word or phrase literally denoting one kind of object or idea is used in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them (as in drowning in money)” (Merriam-Webster, 2019). Moreover, an “object, activity, or idea can be treated as a metaphor”.(Merriam-Webster, 2019); The conceptual metaphor illustrates a dichotomous nature of the notion implying that a metaphor “is not simply an ornamental aspect of language, but a fundamental scheme by which people conceptualize the world and their own activities” (Gibbs, 2008, p. 3).

Metaphor as a speech figure 

According to the Oxford Companion to the English Language (McArthur, Lam-McArthur, & Fontaine, 2018), the metaphor is “a figure of speech which concisely compares two things by saying that one is the other”. 

Aristotle was one of the first ancient philosophers and rhetoricians who elaborated on the nature and importance of metaphors, specifically, in poetics. In Poetics (1457b1-1458a1), he argued that metaphor is a form of analogy, where one thing is compared to another by stating that it is that other thing. According to Aristotle, metaphors serve to bring out the similarities between two different things, enhancing the understanding of one by relating it to something more familiar to the audience (Eco & Paci, 1983).

Types of metaphors:

  1. A standard metaphor compares two different notions using the structure A is B. Such metaphors are also called direct because they consist of two parts: the tenor (the initial idea) and the vehicle (the idea being compared to). For example, education (tenor) is a life-long journey (vehicle). 
  2. An implied metaphor compares two things that are not alike without actually mentioning one of those things. Such metaphors do not usually have tenors. For instance, the host of the party hopped (vehicle) from table to table, trying to greet all of his guests. This implied metaphor compares the party host with a rabbit without actually mentioning the rabbit.
  3. A visual metaphor juxtaposes an object with a visual image that contains an association. Such metaphors are widely used in advertising when, for example, a new car is pictured alongside a leopard or panther. 
  4. An extended metaphor is “a device which can operate at many levels of speech and writing” throughout the text, and a writer can “develop an analogy between the topic of immediate interest and another topic considered relevant and informative” (McArthur et al., 2018). 
  5. A dead metaphor “has lost their force but they may still continue in service as clichés and hackneyed expressions” (McArthur et al., 2018), like, for example, “a body of an essay”. ‘Body’ was initially an expression that alluded to the main part of a human organism. However, nowadays, people no longer associate the ‘body of an essay’ with the human shape; therefore this expression lost its direct visual link and metaphorical element (Marks, 2004).  

Conceptual metaphor

Zoltán Kövecses (2010, p. 4) defines a conceptual metaphor as “understanding of one conceptual domain in terms of another conceptual domain”. The conceptual domain from which we draw metaphorical expressions to understand another conceptual domain is called the source domain, while the conceptual domain that is understood this way is the target domain. Lakoff and Johnson in their work Metaphors We Live By (1980) studied several conceptual metaphors and cognitive processes that are being evoked while perceiving these metaphors. For example, the conceptual metaphor “love is a journey” can be manifested through derivative metaphorical linguistic expressions, such as “We’ll just have to go our separate ways. We can’t turn back now. I don’t think this relationship is going anywhere”( Kövecses, 2010, p. 6).  The words in italics exemplify English common and conventional expressions when one talks about the target domain. That is, people have a conceptual metaphor when they construe a more abstract domain (or concept) through a more physical domain (or concept) offline – either by means of long-term memory or as a result of a historical-cultural process (Kövecses (2010, p. 8). 

Conceptual metaphors are pervasive in language and thought, shaping the way we perceive and make sense of the world. They influence not only language but also our actions, reasoning, and cultural understanding. The study of conceptual metaphors has become an essential part of cognitive linguistics, exploring how metaphorical thinking is deeply ingrained in our cognitive processes.


Gibbs, R. (2008). Metaphor and Thought: The State of the Art. In R. Gibbs, Jr. (Ed.), The Cambridge Handbook of Metaphor and Thought (Cambridge Handbooks in Psychology, pp. 3-14). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lakoff, G., & Johnson, M. (1980). Metaphors We Live by. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Marks, M. P. (2004). The prison as metaphor: re-imagining international relations. New York: P. Lang.

McArthur, T. M., Lam-McArthur, J. L.-M., & Fontaine, L. F. (2018). Metaphor. In T. McArthur, J. Lam-McArthur, & L. Fontaine (Eds.), The Oxford Companion to the English Language. Oxford University Press.

Merriam-Webster. (2019). METAPHOR. Retrieved from website.

Eco, U., & Paci, C. (1983). The Scandal of Metaphor: Metaphorology and Semiotics. Poetics Today, 4(2), 217. 

Kövecses, Z. (2010). Metaphor: A Practical Introduction (pp. 3–17). New York: Oxford University Press.