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Metaphor Definition: the comparison between two unlike things or ideas without the use of “like” or “as” to assert a similarity between the two that does not otherwise exist


The word metaphor is derived from the ancient Greek and Latin word, metaphora, which means to “carry across” or to “transfer over.” A metaphor’s purpose is to carry over a common trait between two things. Metaphors are used to create a deeper understanding of an idea, allowing it to be understood in a new way by the reader. Metaphors can expand upon a simplified concept, and present it in a way that the audience can easily understand and appreciate. “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost is one of the most famous examples of metaphor. In this poem, the narrator describes coming to two forking roads in the woods. The narrator has to make a choice of which path to take, even though both paths seem equal in their invitingness and wear. The narrator laments that one day when he tells this story, he will say he took the road less traveled, or the unexpected journey—which is a metaphor for the journey in his life and the story he will one day tell about that journey.

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Notable Metaphor Examples in Literature

“The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more.

“But soft! What light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.”

Be sure to check out our article, "Figurative Language"!

Learn more about various devices in literature in our Picture Encyclopedia of Literary Elements!
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