This video delves into the concept and power of metaphors in language. It explains how metaphors allow us to talk about one thing by describing something else, using sensory experiences and imagination. Metaphors are not strictly true or untrue but create vivid imagery and understanding, like “raining cats and dogs” or “an elephant in the room.” The video also distinguishes between metaphors and similes, illustrating how metaphors allow for direct feeling, while similes acknowledge they are making a comparison. Examples from poetry, such as works by Emily Dickinson and Langston Hughes, demonstrate how metaphors can vividly convey emotions, experiences, and abstract concepts. The overarching message is that metaphors not only enhance language but also expand our perception and understanding of the world.

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This article is a summary of a YouTube video “The art of the metaphor – Jane Hirshfield” by TED-Ed

Key insights

  • Metaphors Enhance Understanding: Metaphors use familiar sensory experiences to help comprehend abstract ideas, making the unfamiliar more relatable.
  • Imagery in Metaphors: Good metaphors create vivid imagery that goes beyond literal meanings, offering deeper insights into emotions and experiences.
  • Difference Between Metaphors and Similes: While both are figurative language tools, metaphors allow for a more direct experience, whereas similes explicitly state the comparison.
  • Metaphors in Poetry: Poets like Emily Dickinson and Langston Hughes use metaphors to convey complex emotions and experiences, demonstrating the power of metaphors in literature.
  • Metaphors as World-Building Tools: Metaphors can create new worlds of understanding, suggesting that the way we speak can shape how we think and perceive reality.

Timestamped Summary

  • 0:14-0:53: Introduction to metaphors and their role in language.
  • 0:56-1:17: Discussion on the precision and impact of metaphors.
  • 1:20-1:50: Exploration of how metaphors work and their paradoxical nature.
  • 1:55-2:26: Explanation of the difference between metaphors and similes.
  • 2:28-3:38: Examples of metaphors in poetry, including Shakespeare and Emily Dickinson.
  • 3:41-4:27: Langston Hughes’ use of extended metaphor in his poem “Mother to Son.”
  • 4:30-5:24: The broader impact of metaphors in language and thought.


Why are metaphors important in language?

Metaphors are important because they use sensory experiences and imagination to help us understand and relate to abstract ideas, making complex or unfamiliar concepts more accessible and relatable.

How do metaphors differ from similes?

Metaphors imply a comparison directly, allowing the reader to feel the connection intuitively. Similes, on the other hand, use words like “like” or “as” to make an explicit comparison.

Can you give an example of how metaphors are used effectively in poetry?

Emily Dickinson’s poem, where she describes the sky as a fabric sewn shut, is an effective use of metaphor. It conveys the feeling of a closed-off sky in a tangible, imaginative way.

How do metaphors influence our perception of the world?

Metaphors can shape our perception and understanding by framing experiences and ideas in familiar terms. They expand our ability to conceptualize and engage with the world around us.

What makes a metaphor effective?

An effective metaphor creates a vivid and relatable image that resonates emotionally or intellectually with the reader, often offering a new perspective on a familiar concept.


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