Metaphor: A similitude briefly expressed without any indication of comparison. In the latter feature it differs from Simile, in the case of which a comparison is explicitly made in terms. Thus, 'the
earth reeled like a drunken man' is a simile; 'after life's fitful fever' is a metaphor.
Metaphors are of two kinds, viz. Radical, when a word or root of some general meaning is employed with reference to diverse objects on account of an idea of some
similarity between them, just as the adjective 'dull' is used with reference to light, edged tools, polished
surfaces, colours, sounds, pains, wits, and social functions; and Poetical, where a word of specialized use in a certain context is used in another context in which it is literally inappropriate, through some similarity in function or relation, as 'the slings and
arrows of outrageous fortune', where 'slings' and 'arrows', words of specialized meaning in the context of ballistics, are transferred to a context of fortune.
The effect of the first process, tending, as it does, to reduce the number of names by bringing many particular meanings under a few general
terms, is called Homonymy, or calling things by the same names; the effect of the second process, multiplying the number of special terms which may be used in foreign contexts, is termed Polyonymy, or calling things by many names. Metaphors in which the similitude is not consistently adhered to, but abandoned half-way in favour of another similitude are termed 'mixed' or 'broken', as 'to take arms against a sea of troubles'.
How to cite the article:
Vivian, Percival. A dictionary of literary terms. London: G. Routledge & sons. 1900. Shakespeare Online. 20 Aug. 2010. (date when you accessed the information) < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/literaryterms/metonymy.html >.