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Why Prep?

Figures of Speech of the English Language!
Also Known As:  Idiomatic Expressions.

Did you know that English is 70% metaphor?
(according to Lakoff & Johnson, 1980)

Apostrophe, Hyperbole, Metaphor, Metonymy, Oxymoron, Simile

© 2001 to present
All textual content on this website is original material by Leon of Leon's Planet.  Permission to copy and use for educational purposes is granted.
Just give credit where credit is due, please.  And, please, by all means, link back to my site and/or share on social media!

Table of Contents
Just click and go,  (or scroll down; your choice).

Definitions of terms Metaphors
 for Primary Students
 for Secondary Students
 for University Students
Figures of Speech
 by Topic
Body Parts
 Figures of Speech
 Figures of Speech


...for Alliterations ( which are NOT figures of speech)
Click here


Figure of Speech = When the meaning of the words have a "deep" meaning, which is different from the "surface" meaning.

          Example:  Don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today.

          Meaning:  Put off doesn't literally mean 'put off'.  It has a "deep" meaning, which is postpone.

Apostrophe = speaking to an inanimate object, or to a person who is absent

          Example:  Oh, Rain, how long will you fall upon me?

          Explanation:  Rain is an inanimate object.  It cannot hear nor understand you.  You can talk to it, but it won't respond.

Hyperbole = exaggeration to effect an emotional response

          Example:  It'll take me a million years to fix this problem.

          Explanation:  It won't really take a million years, but we sometimes exaggerate the truth for affect.

Metaphor =  one thing is equated with another (not related, but have some common ground; that common ground is supposed to give understanding)

          For Examples:  go straight to metaphor section

Personification = an inanimate object or animal is given human qualities

          Example:  The night embraced me and the moon smiled down upon me.

Metonymy = one thing used to refer to another (related and used for reference, not understanding)

          For Example:  click here

Synecdoche = part represents the whole (a kind of metonymy)

          Example:  God bless the hands which prepared this food.

          Explanation:  The hands (part) refers to the person (whole) which owns the hands. 

Oxymoron = two contradictory words used together

          Example:  Childhood is so bittersweet.

          Example:  Time can pass so slowly or so quickly.

          Example:  I am an idiotic genius.

Simile = two things shown to be similar in some way

         Example:  As sly as a fox

         Example:  As wise as an owl

         Example:  Eat like a bird (eat very little)

         Please visit my Simile Page.



Metaphors For
Primary Pupils

(for Grades 3-6)

A metaphor is like this:
A is b.
or... Object "A" is object "B".


He is an ox.

(meaning:  He is big and strong, like an ox)

She is a fox.

(meaning:  She is beautiful, like a fox)

Those people are couch potatoes.

(meaning:  Those people sit on their couch and don't move, like a potato.)


Metaphors for
Secondary Students

(From Grade 7 to Grade 12)

A metaphor is like the mathematical formula:

a = b,

 where a = noun, and b = noun (different noun); and where a is equal to b...

..in some way that is commonly understood by speaker and listener / writer and reader. 


I am a lion.
(meaning: I am strong and powerful, like a lion.)

You are a lamb.
(meaning: You are quiet and nice, like a lamb.)

Love is a rose.
(meaning: Love looks nice, like a rose, but it can hurt, like the thorns of a rose.)

You are the wind beneath my wings.
(meaning: You make me feel "up" (happy), like the wind makes wings go up.)

Uh, Oh!
...sometimes the metaphor is hiding from view in the sentence,
but it is is indicated by other parts of speech.


Adjectival Metaphor: It's a fly ball. (hidden metaphor: ball = bird)

Verbal Metaphor: Time flies. (hidden metaphor: time = bird)

Adverbial Metaphor: The car went flying down the street. (hidden metaphor: car = bird)

A metaphor MUST be noun = noun, BUT it is sometimes disguised as another part of speech.

There are lots of METAPHORS in SONGS!


 "...but all that I can see... is just another lemon tree."
(From "Lemon Tree" by Fool's Garden)
(metaphor: lemon tree = sadness)
(metaphor meaning: see a lemon tree = to feel sadness)
LISTEN to the song on YouTube.

"...just enjoy the show."
(From "The Show" by Lenka)
(metaphor: the show = life)
(metaphor meaning: enjoy the show = enjoy life)
LISTEN to the song on YouTube.

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Metaphors for University Students

A metaphor is like a = b, where "a" is something and "b" is some non-related thing, but...

there must a common ground between "a" and "b".

For example, in English, a common metaphor is:

John is a teddy bear.

In that example:

The word "John" is called, "the tenor of the metaphor"

the word "teddy bear" is called "the vehicle of the metaphor"


The common ground is that  both are cuddly and loveable.


Many metaphors are "hidden", i.e., not so obvious.

For example:

I made up my mind to do something.

Therein above, the metaphor is "hidden" from view.

The actual metaphor is:  my mind is material/matter that can be composed.

Tenor = mind
Vehicle = material/matter that can be composed
Common Ground = both are changeable; both are able to be manipulated

The phrase: "make up", is a two-part verb.

The whole expression:  "make up one's mind", is considered a metaphor, but not in the traditional sense.

How do I mean?

Well, the word "mind", alone, does not function as a metaphor.  It is the collocating verb, "make up" which makes it function as a metaphor.  Thus, it could be called a "metaphorical expression", even though the actual metaphor is "hidden" from view.

Let me give you some more examples, 'cause I realize that perhaps one is not enough for all persons to "grasp" the concept.  Hey!  There's a metaphorical expression:  "Grasp a concept."  Wow!  Metaphors are so common, aren't they?!

Let's look at that one:  "Grasp a concept", because there are two ways of looking at it.  What we really mean, of course, is "Understand a concept", because we cannot actually "grasp" a concept, because a concept is intangible (untouchable).  So, there are TWO metaphors hidden from view.

First metaphor:  the mind is something that has appendages (such as hands) that can grasp
Tenor = mind
Vehicle = something that has grasping appendages
Common Ground = both can attain things

Second metaphor:  a concept is a tangible object
Tenor = concept
Vehicle = a tangible object
Common Ground = both can be attained

You might not believe this but Lakoff and Johnson, (1980), in their ground-breaking (wow! another metaphor) book, Metaphors We Live By, estimate that 70% of our spoken language (in English, of course) is metaphorical in nature.  If you would like to do more research on metaphors, I would highly recommend Metaphors We Live By.  It is a classic.


More for University Students:
Different Kinds of Metaphors

Lakoff and Johnson (1980) set us (linguists) in motion to study, identify, and categorize the different kinds of metaphors.  Others have endeavored to continue the work.  To me, Lakoff and Johnson are the fathers (a metaphor) of our understanding of metaphors and their use in the English language.  To some it might seem like a futile waste of time in that it may seem useless.  A metaphor is a metaphor, right?  Well, yes, and no.  Some metaphors differ greatly from other metaphors.  For instance, personification is quite different than other types of metaphors, so different, in fact, that we have had a separate label for it long before we even recognized it as a kind of metaphor.  Herein below, I shall endeavor to elucidate different kinds of metaphors:

(1) Conceptual Metaphor

There is what one might call a "conceptual metaphor", where A is equated with B, but they are not related, and where A is to be understood as having a "common ground" (common concept) with B.

Example:  I am a lion.
Common Ground:  strong, ferocious
Meaning:  I am strong and ferocious, like a lion.

Example:  "All the world is a stage."  (Shakespeare)
Common Ground:  place for acting
Meaning:  The world is a place for people to act our their lives, as if they were on a stage.

(2) Dead Metaphor

There is what is called a "dead metaphor", where the metaphor has become so institutionalized, that it is NOT recognized as a metaphor any longer.

Example:  cycle

Explanation:  We know that "cycle" means circle, as in "bicycle" (two circles), but the word "cycle" by itself connotes a series of events that repeat over and over again.  We don't think in terms of a cycle as being a circle until we try to depict it in diagram form.  In essence, we are NOT trying to understand the word "cycle" in terms of a circle; therefore, the metaphor is "dead".

(3) Hidden Conceptual Metaphors

Example:  Life is so bittersweet.

Explanation:  A metaphor MUST BE:  noun = noun.  "Sweet" is an adjective; therefore, the actual metaphor is hidden.  It is based upon a conceptual metaphor:  likeable thing = good taste (sweet) and unlikable thing = bad taste (bitter).

Meaning:  Life is full of unlikable things as well as likable things.

(4) Extended Metaphors

Example:  Life is a journey.  You can take the high road or the low road.  You should stop along the way to smell the roses.  If you live life in the fast lane, you're bound to cut your life/journey short.  Sometimes the road is rocky, sometimes it is smooth going.  Sometimes you encounter a dead end, and you have to try a different road.  The journey of life is so much more enjoyable if you have a traveling companion.

Explanation:  The conceptual metaphor is "life is a journey".  However, I have extended that metaphor into an analogy.

Thanks to Lakoff and Johnson (my source).

Back to top

Everything you wanted to know about...

A metonymy is similar to a metaphor, but different in function.

The function of a metaphor is understanding.

  The function of a metonymy is reference.


Metonymy Type 1:  Part refers to whole (Also Known As: Synecdoche)

There are two mouths to feed in my family.

[mouth = person]


God bless the hands that prepared this food.

[hand = person]


I count twenty heads at the party.

[head = person]


Metonymy Type 2:  Producer refers to product:

Our company just bought a new Xerox machine.

[Xerox is the name of a company that produces copy machines;  Xerox machine = copy machine]

A: What kind of motorcycle do you have?
B: I have a Honda.

[Honda is the name of a company that produces motorcycles; Honda = motorcycle]


Metonymy Type 3:  Object refers to user:

The crown ordered all soldiers to arms.

[crown = king]

The pen is mightier than the sword.

[pen = writer; sword = fighter]


Metonymy Type 4:  Controller refers to controlled person/thing:

Usama bin Laden (UBL) attacked the World Trade Center in New York.

[UBL = AlQaida forces]

Bill Gates is the king of operating systems worldwide

[Bill Gates = Microsoft]


Metonymy Type 5:  Institution refers to person(s) in charge:

The Pentagon announced it's new policy yesterday.

[Pentagon = chiefs of staff at the Pentagon]

The White House called a press conference.

[White House = chiefs of staff at the White House]


Metonymy Type 6:  Place refers to Institution (in the place):

Washington (D.C.) petitions Beijing.

[Washington = U.S. government;  Beijing = Chinese government]

Houston defeats L.A.

[Houston = Houston Rockets;  L.A. = L.A. Lakers]


Metonymy Type 7:  Place refers to an Event (that occurred or occurs there):

Remember the Alamo!

[Alamo = the battle at Alamo, Texas, USA]

Pearl Harbor was a sad event in America's History.

[Pearl Harbor = the battle at Pear Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941]


Two More types of Metonymy *** (added: Feb. 19, 2004):

Metonymy Type 8:  Person in group refers to the whole group (similar to type 1)

Yao Ming defeated Shaquille O'Neal.

[Yao Ming = Houston Rockets;  Shaquille O'Neal = L.A. Lakers]


Metonymy Type 9:  Date refers to the event of that date (similar to type 7, but different)

Hopefully, 9/11 will never happen again. 

[9/11 = the destruction of the World Trade Center Towers in New York on that day: 9/11/2001]


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Examples of Figures of Speech

(metaphors, similes, metonymies, etc.)

© 2001 to present by Leon of Leon's Planet (leonsplanet.com)

May be reproduced for educational purposes, but please give credit to me, and please provide a link to this page.

Just choose the topic that you like and go!

< just click and go >

Animal Figures of Speech        Cat & Dog Figures of Speech        Color Metaphors        Fruit Figures of Speech        Other Foods

Proverbial Metaphors        Tongue Figures of Speech        Vegetable Figures of Speech        War Figures of Speech

Written, complied by, and brought to you by Leon.  Enjoy!


Fruits Meaning Sample Sentences
the apple of one's eye one's favorite person
one's most beloved person
My son is the apple of my eye.
a bad apple a poorly-behaved child One bad apple spoils the whole bunch.
The Big Apple New York City I went the Big Apple for vacation.
big banana (not polite) boss Who's the big banana around here?
a lemon a bad car

a bad situation

I bought a lemon.  It broke down two weeks after I bought it.

When life hands you lemons, made lemonade.

a pickle a situation of being caught between two possible courses of action, and neither is particularly intriguing. I'm in a pickle.  If I go to sleep, I won't finish my work.  If I finish my work, I won't get enough sleep.
pumpkin cute nickname for a cute, little round-faced girl "Oh, hi, my little pumpkin!"
sour grapes To eat "sour grapes" means to have envy.   (From Aesop's Fables) My friend was just hired by the best school in Utah.  I'm eating sour grapes!
melon head It took six months to get that stuck in my melon.
nut crazy person He is such a nut!
peach (outdated) pretty girl She's a peach.
peachy fine I'm peachy keen.
crabapple grouchy person He's a crabapple.


Vegetables Meaning Sample Sentences
a vegetable a quadriplegic
or someone who is paralyzed
or someone who is brain-dead
If he does survive, he will be a vegetable for the rest of his life.
cauliflower ear an ear that has swollen to look like cauliflower I got cauliflower ear from wrestling.
a carrot (on a stick) a bribe or reward I believe that in teaching, the carrot works better than the stick.
carrot top someone with orange hair
(often called "red hair")
There is a famous comedian named, "Carrot Top."
a couch potato a person who sits on the couch and eats potato chips all day long (or for long periods of time) Don't be a couch potato.  Let's go biking.
an ear of corn one 'stick' of corn I ate two ears of corn for dinner.
a head of lettuce one lettuce plant I buy a head of lettuce every week.
a salad (or salad bowl) a mixture of different peoples, races, or cultures America is a salad bowl.
a French fry a little child "Hey, French fry, how did you sleep?"
hot potato1 a game where the participants pretend that a ball is a hot potato and must pass it very quickly Let's play hot potato.
hot potato2 a topic that no one wants to "touch" (i.e., speak about) That topic was a hot potato.
pop corn an educational questioning/answering technique, which involves allowing students to shout out answers in random session "Okay, students, You may answer this next question with the the pop corn response."
sprout young child "Hey, sprout!  How ya' doin'?"

Other Foods

Other Foods Meaning Sample Sentences
bread money I make bread, my wife makes the honey.
toast1 a speech before drinking "I propose a toast...."
toast2 someone who is in big trouble

someone who is seriously injured or dead

He just got sent to the principal's office.  He's toast!

She was in a car accident and she's toast.

salt flavor (flavor = flavour = savour) "Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour [flavor], wherewith shall it be salted?" (Matt 5:13)
salt and pepper white and black  
spilt milk something lost No use crying over spilt milk.
honey someone that you love "Hi, honey.  How's it going?"
doughnut driving in a circle in the dirt "Hey, wanna go do some doughnuts?"
dough money "I don't have any dough, bro!"


Animals Meaning Sample Sentences
fox beautiful woman "Wow!  She's a fox!"
chicken scared/frightened person "Don't be a chicken.  Just do it."
pig dirty person
(in other cultures, pig means a fat person.  See Leon's comparison of multi-cultural metaphors)
He's such a pig.  His room is a pig sty.
sloth;  slothful lazy person;  being lazy The desire of the slothful killeth him; for his hands refuse to labour.  (Proverbs 21:25)
rat;  to rat ((sb)) out tattler;  (v).  to tattle on ((sb)) "Why are you in jail?"

"Somebody ratted me out!"

snake / serpent cunning person  [Not a compliment] Lawyers are snakes.  (Not all, just some.)
whale very fat person  (This is an insult!!!!) Look at that beached whale.  [Rude]
cow reasonably fat person  (Also an insult)
[usually used for females, because "cow" is female]
Look at the heifers (cows).  [Rude].
ox big, strong man Ox was the bare-knuckle boxing champ.
moose big, athletic man Moose ate all the left-overs.
owl night person I'm a night owl.  I'm not a morning person.
wolf aggressive person (bad meaning) He's a wolf.  He has no mercy for the week.
tiger aggressive person (good meaning) Be a fighter.  Go get 'em, tiger!
bottom dweller scavenger, freeloader Thieves are the  bottom-dwellers of society.
sheepish embarrassed He acted sheepish about his new-found abilities.
mouse timid or shy person Are you a man or a mouse?
turtle physically slow person "Let's go, you turtles.  Hurry up!"
snail physically very slow person He's a snail as writing.
ham a show-off She's a ham.  She loves to show off.
hog; to hog greedy person; to be greedy "Hey!  Don't hog all the food!"
lionhearted generous King Richard the Lionhearted
clam up (phrasal verb) close one's mouth and refuse to talk I can't get anything out of him.  He's clammed up.
bookworm person who likes to read a lot That little bookworm always has her nose in a book.
cuckoo crazy Watch out for her.  She's cuckoo!
dodo dummy / idiot Don't be a dodo.  Save your money.
duck (v.i.) stick your head down like a duck fishing in a pond/lake. "In-coming!  Duck!"
shark hustler He's a card shark.  Don't play poker with him.
weasel; to weasel avoider; to avoid You can't weasel your way out of this one!
shrew nagger, complainer (esp, about a woman) The Taming of the Shrew
urchin trouble-maker (esp. used for children) "Go home, you little urchins!"
skunk disliked person (왕따); a social pariah  There goes the skunk of the school.
worm lowest, most-hated person (상놈,녀) You are a worm!  [Said in anger].
wiggle worm [a child] that fidgets a lot Dentists hate wiggle worms.
kid human child Yes.  Those are my kids.
dinosaur (derogatory) very old person
[sometimes] very old technology
Your phone is a dinosaur.
yellow-bellied lizard (a yellow-belly)
Don't be yellow!  Show yourself!
turkey dummy / idiot It's hard to soar with eagles when you are surrounded by turkies.
shrimp small person "Hey shrimp!  How's it going?"
butterfly As a butterfly flits from flower to flower, a human butterfly moves around the room socialize with many and various different people. She's a social butterfly.


Cats and Dogs

Cats and Dogs Meanings Sample Sentences
It's raining cats and dogs. (meta) It's raining really hard. Holy cow!  It's raining cats and dogs outside.
Fight like cats and dogs. (simile) Fight a lot. My children fight like cats and dogs.
Cat got your tongue? See tongue. "What's the matter?  Cat got your tongue?"
Let the cat out of the bag. (meta) To reveal a secret. Don't let the cat out of the bag prematurely.
Cat Burglar (meta) A burglar who can climb like a cat, usually climbing through a window to enter a building; especially a window on an upper floor. My house got hit by a cat burglar last night.
There's more than one way to skin a cat. There's more than one way to do something. ...
Dog gone it! "God damn it" with first letters swapped. "Let the sleeping dog lie, son. Dog, gone it! I'm dog tired. I'm tired of leading a dog's life, fightin' like cats and dogs against cats and dogs; young pups doggin' my trail trying to become top dog. I'm going to the dogs in dog-eat-dog world, son."

- Wylie Burp
(An American Tail: Fievel Goes West)

It's a dog-eat-dog world. There are plenty of people in the world who will take advantage of you, if given the chance.
to be dog-tired. I'm really tired.
work like a dog.  (simile) work really hard.
sick as a dog. (simile) really, very sick.
to go to the dogs to lose status, to become useless, to become out-dated, etc.
go home and kick the dog relieve one's stress or anger, by hurting an innocent party
Let sleeping dogs lie. Let bygones be bygones.
dog one's trail (verb phrase) follow (sb)
top dog best person (at doing sth)
underdog the weaker party in a competition
dog-eared pages pages with one corner folded down

hotdog 1.wiener/frank/sausage link on a bun
2.a show-off
He's a hotdog.
to be "in the doghouse" to be out of one's good graces; especially out of a woman's good graces; especially out of one's wife's good graces

JCPenny's Commercial
Soooooo Funny!!!

to go home and "kick the dog" to take your anger and frustration out on those entities living in your home (and one of them just might be the dog). Don't go home and kick the dog just because you got laid off.

Metaphorical Proverbs

Metaphorical Proverbs Meaning
Time is money. Time is a precious/valuable thing.
The customer is king. The salesperson should treat the customer like a king.
The squeaky wheel gets the grease. Noisy people get attention.
One rotten apple spoils the whole barrel. One bad person in a group can have a bad effect on the whole group.
Suck the marrow out of life. Enjoy life to the fullest.
Life sucks. Life is hard to endure.
Seize the day. Take the opportunities each day.
Don't bite off more than you can chew. Don't try to do more than you can do.

Go to Leon's Proverbs Page for tons of other proverbs!

(because sometimes proverbs contain metaphors)

War / Battle

War / Battle idiomatic expression
(figure of speech)
Meaning &...
Type of Figure of Speech
Famous Quotes:
Life is a constant battle. Living life is like a constant struggle to stay alive.

Metaphor:  Life is a war.

"Intellect takes us along in the battle of life to a certain limit, but at the crucial moment it fails us. Faith transcends reason. It is when the horizon is the darkest and human reason is beaten down to the ground that faith shines brightest and comes to our rescue."
- Mahatma Gandhi   
Starting is half the battle. Getting started on a project is half of the difficulty in getting it done.

Metaphor:  A project is a battle.

 “He who has begun, has half done.”—Horace.
Choose your battles.
Choose your battles wisely.
You can't deal with every problem that comes your way.  So, you have to be selective in which problems you deal with.

Metaphor:  A problem is a battle.

"It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell."
- Buddha  
To win a battle but lose the war You might achieve success in a certain situation, but in the long run, it turns out to be detrimental. *
To lose a battle but win the war You might fail in a certain situation, but in the long run, you succeed. "Sometimes by losing a battle you find a new way to win the war."
- D.Trump  



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Colorful Metaphors


1.  to see red = to be angry

2.  to be in the red = to be in financial danger

3.  red flag, as in "red flag going up" = danger

4.  red card = foul (can be used as a linguistic metaphor as well as a symbol)

5.  red carpet, as in "roll out the red carpet" = royal treatment; treat like royalty



1.  to be yellow = to be cowardly

ORIGIN:  It is the educated opinion of this author that the origin of this colorful metaphor has nothing to do with skin color.  It comes from the metaphor:  yellowbelly.  Originally, a yellowbelly is a kind of lizard with a yellow belly indigenous to the Western U.S.A..  The metaphorical meaning is a coward.  The common ground between (1) a cowardly person and (2) a yellowbelly lizard  is:

 they both run away to avoid a confrontation with someone or something bigger than they

2.  yellow card = warning



1.  to be green = to be immature; to be new at something

2.  greenie = a newbie, a novice; a neophyte

3.  green thumb = skill at growing plants

4.  greens = green vegetables [this is not a metaphor, but I thought I'd throw it in anyway]

5.  green light = safe to proceed



1.  to be blue = to be sad

2.  blue skies = happiness [rain = sadness, grief]

3.  to be blue in the face = to be exasperated [not a metaphor; just thought I'd throw it in]

4.  the blues = sad songs

5.  "singing the blues" = being sad, being melancholy



1.  purple heart = bravery


1.  lily white = innocent; pure

2.  white as the driven snow = pure white [this is a simile, not a metaphor]

3.  white glove = inspection (comes from the military, where inspectors use white gloves to inspect the cleanliness of rooms)

4.  "whities" = Caucasians (those with pale skin)  [this is a metonymy, not a metaphor]

5.  white head = a pimple with a white top [this is a metonymy (white), mixed with a metaphor (head)]



1.  black = tainted, impure, wicked

2.  black-hearted = wicked

3.  to be in the black = to be out of financial danger

4.  black magic = wicked magic [white magic = righteous magic]


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Body Parts Metaphors
((sth)) = something;  ((sb)) = somebody

Tongue Figures of Speech

Bones Figures of Speech

Do you know what these figures of speech mean?

Tongue twisters
To be tongue-tied
Tongue in cheek
a slip of the tongue
To speak in tongues.
Cat got your tongue?
To have a forked tongue
To have a silver tongue
Hold your tongue!

Do you know what these figures of speech mean?

No bones about it.
...the bare bones of ((sth))
To work one's fingers to the bone
To have a bone to pick with ((sb))
To be bony
To be skin and bones
To commit a boner
To be bone idle
To be a lazybones
To be close to the bone
To consult the bones
To be dry as a bone
To be chilled to the bone
To cut to the bone
To feel ((sth)) in one's bones
To have a skeleton in the closet
To throw ((sb)) a bone
To suck the marrow out of life


Tongue twisters (noun metaphor):  phrases that are hard to speak because they make your tongue do things it doesn't normally do.

Tongue-tied (adjective metaphor):  To be tongue-tied means to have trouble speaking; your tongue finds it hard to say the words correctly.

Tongue-in-cheek (adverb metaphor):  To say something "with tongue in cheek" means to say something you don't really mean; it has a double meaning or a metaphorical meaning and the meaning intended is not the literal meaning.

Slip of the tongue (noun metaphor):  Your tongue doesn't actually slip.  It means that you say something by mistake.

Speak in tongues (verb metaphor):  Tongue also means language; So, to speak in tongues means to speak in other languages other than the mother tongue.

Can got your tongue?  (metaphor):  It means:  Can't you speak?

Forked tongue (noun phrase metaphor):  To have a forked tongue means one says one thing, while intending another.  It means Liar.

Silver tongue (noun phrase metaphor):  To have a silver tongue means one is a great speaker.

Hold your tongue! (verb phrase metaphor):  It doesn't mean you literally hold your tongue in your hand.  It means to stop speaking.




Please, check out my Tongue Twisters Page!

It's a lot of fun!

Just click on the pic.


No bones about it.  (Or:  There's no bones about it.) = [noun metaphor] It means that there is no doubt about it.

...the bare bones of ((sth)).  = [noun metaphor] the basic facts about ((sth)).

To work one's fingers to the bone = [verbal phrase metaphor] to work truly hard doing physical labor.

To have a bone to pick with ((sb)) = [noun metaphor] to have an issue / problem with ((sb)) that one wishes to discuss with that person.

To be bony = [metonymy] to be skinny; so much so that one can see the outline of the bones through the skin.

To be skin and bones = same as above.

To commit a boner =  [noun metaphor] to make a mistake (an embarrassing mistake).  [Be careful!!!! "To have a boner" is vulgar an not appropriate in polite company.  I'm not going to explain it.]

To be bone idle = [adjective metaphor] to be sedentary, like bones.

To be a lazybones = [metonymy] to be a lazy person.

To be close to the bone = [metaphor] to be a truth that is offensive to ((sb)).

To consult the bones (To throw the bones) = [literal] to do a kind of divination that uses a set of bones, which after thrown down are then interpreted by the way that they lay.

To be dry as a bone = [simile] to be very dry.

To be chilled to the bone = [prob. literal] ((sb)) to be very cold; so cold that they can feel it in their bones.

To cut to the bone = [verbal phrase metaphor] to hurt one's feelings deeply.

To feel ((sth)) in one's bones = [verbal phrase metaphor] to have intuition about ((sth)).

To have a skeleton in the closet = [noun metaphor] to have secrets--secrets which are embarrassing to the individual.

To throw ((sb)) a bone = [verbal phrase metaphor] to give somebody a hint or a bit of help in a situation to help that person succeed.

To suck the marrow out of life = [verbal phrase metaphor] to live life to the fullest satisfaction and contentment.

X-mas Figures of Speech

Christmas Figures of Speech

1.  X-mas

Christmas is often abbreviated as "X-mas," but do you know why?

Because "Christ" in Greek is (Xpist).  This is more like an abbreviation, rather than a figure of speech, but I include it here, because it comes from a foreign language, and when you mix two languages, it is called 'code-switching'.  It could therefore be considered as a figure of speech.

2. Being on "the naughty list"

According to tradition, Santa Claus has two lists:  the nice list and the naughty list.  The nice list is for good little children, who deserve presents from Santa Claus.  Those on the naughty list are the bad children who do not get presents from Santa Claus.

So, this idiomatic expression is used as a figure of speech quite metaphorically.  For instance, let's say person A is talking with person B.  Their conversation might go like this:

A:  Oops!

B:  Oh, my!  How could you do that?  I'm putting you on the naughty list.  And Santa's not going to bring you presents this year.

Explanation:  You see, no one actually, literally puts another on a literal list.  It is just an expression.

3.  Santa's helpers

Children started to get wise to all the different people dressed up as Santa Claus, so it has been generally accepted that they aren't the real Santa.  The real Santa is too busy to go to every mall in America.  So, he sends out his "helpers" (impersonators).  So, all those people you see out there dressed up as Santa are his "helpers," who report back to the real Santa.  I'm not sure what kind of figure of speech this would be, but it's a fun one.

4.  Elf on the Shelf

A Christmas tradition where a family has a little toy elf on a shelf.  Each morning the children search the house to find where the elf is (as somehow it is moved in the night when the children are sleeping).  This tradition stems from the old tradition that Santa Claus sends out his elves to spy on little children, to see if they are being naughty or nice.

So, metaphorically, "elf on the shelf" is sometimes used to refer to the government spying on its own citizens.

5.  The 12 Days of Christmas

There is a popular Christmas song entitled, "The 12 Days of Christmas," which really doesn't make any sense, because it would be quite expensive for anyone to provide those gifts and most could not actually afford all those gifts.  According to Yahoo Finance, it would cost at least 39 thousand dollars in 2018.

Wikipedia's article on the topic explains some possible origins of the song.

Are there really 12 days of Christmas?  Nope!  There's only one Christmas day.

This article suggests that the song was "code" for the Catholics to teach catechism (which was illegal in England at the time the song was written).

If the latter article is true, then the song is not literal, but rather figurative, having hidden meaning.


If you liked that,
check out my other page
on metaphors.
Metaphors in other cultures You can help me.
You can contribute to
the list of metaphors.

It's a contrastive / comparative analysis of metaphors in many different languages and cultures.



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