English Metaphors and Their Meanings

Metaphors are a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable. They are used extensively in everyday language and can significantly enhance the expressiveness and understanding of the spoken or written word. Understanding common English metaphors can help non-native speakers better grasp the nuances of the language. Here are some common English metaphors and their meanings:

Time is money
This metaphor suggests that time is a valuable resource, therefore, it’s important to use it wisely.
She always reminds me that time is money, so I try not to waste it.

Heart of gold
Describes a person who is genuinely kind and generous.
My grandmother would help anyone in need; she truly had a heart of gold.

Apple of my eye
This phrase is used to refer to something or someone that one cherishes above all others.
His youngest daughter was the apple of his eye.

Spill the beans
To divulge a secret or reveal confidential information accidentally or maliciously.
He spilled the beans about their surprise party.

Break the ice
To initiate social interactions and conversation in a gathering where people are not acquainted with each other.
I told a funny story to break the ice at the meeting.

Walking on eggshells
To be extremely cautious about one’s actions or words, especially around someone who is easily offended or angered.
She was so upset, I felt like I was walking on eggshells the whole evening.

Hit the nail on the head
To describe exactly what is causing a situation or problem.
When he said the project failed because of poor planning, he hit the nail on the head.

Under the weather
Feeling ill or sick.
I’m feeling a bit under the weather, so I think I’ll stay home today.

When pigs fly
A sarcastic way to say that something will never happen.
Yeah, right, he’ll clean his room when pigs fly.

Let the cat out of the bag
To accidentally reveal a secret.
He let the cat out of the bag about their secret wedding plans.

Cost an arm and a leg
Something that is very expensive.
That designer dress cost her an arm and a leg.

Bite the bullet
To get something over with because it is inevitable.
I hate going to the dentist, but I guess I’ll just have to bite the bullet.

Burning the midnight oil
Staying up late working on something, especially studying.
She was burning the midnight oil to finish her thesis on time.

On thin ice
Being in a risky situation that can easily lead to danger or trouble.
After the errors he made last week, he’s on thin ice with his boss.

Kick the bucket
A colloquial way to refer to someone’s death.
He’s getting very old; I’m afraid he might kick the bucket soon.

Open a can of worms
To create a complex, problematic situation when trying to solve a simple one.
Let’s not discuss his past mistakes; it’ll just open a can of worms.

Adding fuel to the fire
Worsening an already bad situation.
By yelling at him, you’re just adding fuel to the fire.

Understanding metaphors can be a key component in mastering the English language as they are frequently used in both spoken and written forms. They enrich the language, making it more vibrant and expressive. For non-native speakers, familiarity with common metaphors can also provide insight into cultural nuances that literal words might not convey.

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