What Is an Implied Metaphor?

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  • Written By: Laura Metz
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 01 July 2019
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A metaphor is a figure of speech that compares two different things. When this comparison is made indirectly, without using the specific term for the comparison, it is known as an implied metaphor. One example is the sentence “John galloped to the end of the sidewalk,” in which the word “galloped” suggests that John moved like a horse does without making the direct comparison.

Any comparison that uses a tangible or simple object as a representative of something more abstract is known as a metaphor. The statement, “His love was an ocean,” for example, uses the image of an ocean to say that his love is vast, wide, and deep. A similar metaphor might say, “He was drowning in love.” Linguists have classified other types of metaphor as well, including extended, dead, and mixed.

Most simple metaphors take the form of "being" statements, such as “Peter is a snake in the grass.” An implied metaphor, on the other hand, can make the comparison in many different ways. For example, “Slithering to her side, Peter hissed, ‘You can trust me.’” That sentence uses a verb and a participle to show that Peter is like a snake without ever saying it specifically.


One purpose of a metaphor is to give information briefly. Metaphors show what the author is communicating instead of telling with a list of adjectives and adverbs. Without them, an author might write “Mary liked the gift. She was happy and content as she looked at it.” The same information is given with an implied metaphor in the sentence, “Mary purred over the gift.”

Authors can achieve variety by writing with metaphors, as long as those metaphors have not been overused. Cliches, such as “keep your cards close to your chest” and “down the drain,” are phrases that have been used so much they have lost their power as comparisons. The proverb “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” for example, no longer reminds people of hunting. Good writers avoid cliches whenever possible.

Implied metaphors are often confused with synecdoche and metonymy. While the metaphors use different objects to indicate a similarity, synecdoche and metonymy use those objects to represent something else entirely. “The Crown arrived at Windsor Castle last night” is an example of metonymy because it uses “crown” as to replace names of royalty.


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Post 3

Sometimes I feel that implied metaphors are overdone. I don't like it when writers exaggerate and use an implied metaphor in every other sentence. And there are also times when simple and straightforward is best. A piece of work should not be full of metaphors.

Metaphors work best and are the most effective when they are used when truly necessary to get across a meaning or feeling. When they are used often, then it looks overdone. It looks like the writer is using metaphors just to be fancy. It's certainly not something that an experienced, good writer would do in my opinion.

Post 2

I used an implied metaphor today. I was reviewing a film and spoke about an actress' dance. I said that "she flapped around a bit." I likened her to a bird (or preferably a chicken) when dancing. She's not a good dancer at all!

Post 1

We just studied this topic in class and we used Shakespeare's Hamlet to find examples of implied metaphor. There were quite a few but one that comes to mind now is when Hamlet meets the ghost of the King and talks about "sweeping" to his revenge "with wings."

He is basically likening himself to an angel. I really like how Shakespeare used this implied metaphor. When I first read it, I didn't get it but it hit me the second time. It's a nice way to get the reader to use his or her imagination and to really think about the words used.

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