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We're free proud birds; it is time for the friends

To fly to the white of the rock in a haze,

To fly to the blue of the sea and the sky,

Where evenly dwell only tempests... and I!

A.S. Pushkin, the poem «Prisoner»


What is this abstract about? It is about freedom! But how many times does the word freedom occur in the present abstract? Not once! How did we understand that the point is about freedom? Metaphorically.

What is metaphor? Who came up with this term? What kinds of metaphors exist? How do they influence our speech?

What Metaphor Is

Though metaphors are as old as Adam, the term metaphor (Greek μεταφορά - word contagion) was introduced by Greek philosopher Aristotle. It represents a trope or a figure of speech, which uses certain object for describing another one, applying associations, analogies or similarities.

For example, we say глазное яблоко /an eyeball/. It is called similarity in form. Forehead of aft end we call нос /nose/, this is similarity in situation. We also find similarity in colour: у тебя сегодня шоколадный загар /you have chocolate-coloured suntan today/, ты бледный как поганка /you are whiter shade of pale/. We say: крыло самолета /airplane wing/ because birds have wings, and hear our dog завыл, как ветер /to howl like the wind/. Through the lens of metaphor Aristotle perceived art as the reflection of life.

Eventually, a lot of metaphoric expressions, more truly their figurative sense, expel the primary meaning of expressions. For example: розовые очки /rose-coloured spectacles/, жизнь на волоске /life hangs in the balance/, крылья мечты /wings of a dream/, закат жизни /downhill of life/ or рассвет молодости /dawn of youth/.

Hyperbole, metonymy and synecdoche are close to metaphor in their meanings. Whereas the former ones use exaggeration principle (легче верблюду пройти сквозь игольное ушко, чем богатому в царство небесное /it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for rich to get to the kingdom of heaven/), then the latter ones are more allegorical.

Types of Metaphors

Since Aristotle's times, metaphors were classified and divided into types:

Absolute metaphor

It integrates dissimilar notions or words. For example: начинка высказываний /filling of utterances/, комок нервов /bundle of nerves/, груда впечатлений /heap of impressions/.

Dead metaphor

Recognized in society without any figurative consequences: носик чайника /nose of a kettle/, ножка стула /leg of a chair/

Dying metaphor

Congenial with the former, but it has bigger stereotype coefficient

For example: червь сомнения /an equipoise of doubt/, камень преткновения /stumbling block/, печать соблазна /seal of temptation/.

Extended metaphor

In this case metaphor is used in small literary fragment as basis:

People were impressed by spiritual hunger: traditional church either suggests old provisions or leaves people starving.

Metaphor as a turn of speech activates our right hemisphere, something irrational and inconscient. The meaning of metaphor lies in analogy: 1 refers to 2 as 3 refers to 4.

Functions of Metaphors

1) Aesthetic

Metaphor was created to make any speech lively, interesting and memorable. Cicero wrote that metaphor seasons any speech, underlines orator's exalted and sonorous style.

2) Axiological

Aristotle considered different words to expose one and the same object differently. "If you want to expose positive sides of an object, he said, use metaphors of positive objects".

Classic examples: «В крови горит огонь желанья…» (А. Пушкин) /My blood is blazing with desire (A.S. Pushkin)/ , «Золотою лягушкой луна распласталась на тихой воде» (С. Есенин) /Golden frog moon sprawled on the calm water (S. Esenin)/.

If there's some sense to blacken an object, use bad things. «Того змея воспоминаний, Того раскаянье грызёт…» /Him does the snake of memories, him does repentance gnaw/, «Ты пьешь волшебный яд желаний» /You will drink the sweet poison of desire/ (А Пушкин /A.S. Pushkin/) . And there are some known to everybody: ледяное сердце /heart of ice/, каменное сердце /heart of stone/, железные нервы /nerves of steel/ etc.

3) Nominative

It happens that metaphor nominates objects. Ancient orators regarded that metaphor encourages arising of new notions, images or subjects. Recollect: розовые очки /rose-coloured spectacles/, солнце встает /sun rises/, горный хребет /mountain chain/, заря догорает /dawn fades/. In such a manner metaphors didn't just fill the emptiness in unnamed objects (or expeled their primary meaning), but also encouraged language development.

It's hard to imagine Russian literature without metaphors. They in particular help to look at the things differently. Metaphors enrich an object, widen our vision of it, and make our language more beautiful and full above all.

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