What Is an Implied Metaphor?

"Keep your cards close to your chest" is an example of an implied metaphor.
Implied metaphors are used in writing and poetry.
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  • Written By: Laura Metz
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 20 September 2014
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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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