The UVic Writer's Guide


In a metaphor, a word is identified with something different from what the word literally denotes. A metaphor is distinguished from a simile in that it equates different things without using connecting terms such as like or as. Whereas a simile states, "My love is like a burning flame," a metaphor refers to "the burning flame of my love." An extended metaphor explores a variety of ways in which a metaphor is appropriate to its subject (see conceit ).

Technically, the subject to which the metaphor is applied is the tenor ("my love" in the example above), whereas the metaphorical term is the vehicle ("the burning flame"). In an implicit metaphor, the tenor (subject) is not specified but implied: for instance, one may say "I'm burning" with the intended implication that the consuming flame is love.

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Copyright, The Department of English, University of Victoria, 1995
This page updated September 23, 1995