Welcome to Dr. Mardy's Dictionary of Metaphorical Quotations (DMDMQ), the world's largest online database of metaphorical quotations (now with nearly 50,000 quotations, organized into more than 2,500 categories). My goal is to make this the Internet’s most comprehensive and rigorously researched quotation collection. For information on why I undertook this project in the first place, see: A Personal Note.
To begin searching DMDMQ, pick a theme or topic you wish to explore from the Index of Topics. Please note that all topics are interlinked to the section of the site where the actual quotations occur, allowing you to go back and forth almost seamlessly.
THE ESSENCE OF THE SITE
Metaphorical thinking is at the heart of the human experience. When we encounter something new and unfamiliar—or try to make sense out of something that is not well understood—we often benefit from relating it to something we know well. And when great writers or thinkers have attempted to describe or explain something in a compelling or unforgettable way, their chief tool has been metaphorical phrasing. It is the key to elevating human language from the prosaic to the poetic. William Cullen Bryant expressed it well (and, of course, he phrased it metaphorically):
“Eloquence is the poetry of prose.”
Think of this site as a celebration of history’s best metaphorical observations on just about every topic you can imagine. In this compilation, the three “superstars” of figurative language will be represented: analogies and similes, as well as metaphors. These figures of speech are all attempts to illuminate one thing by relating it to something else. Here’s a brief structural overview:
Metaphor: A is B
Simile: A is like B (or, A is as a B)
Analogy: A is to B as C is to D
Take the classic Rudyard Kipling quotation: “Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.”
The essential metaphor here is a word is a drug. Literally, we know that a word is not a drug, so a statement like this is said to be figuratively true. And we say it is figuratively true because Kipling is using a figure of speech (in this case a metaphor) to make the assertion.
A word is like a drug expresses the same thought as a simile. In the world of figurative language, similes often take a back seat to the more glamorous metaphor. Aristotle preferred metaphors over similes, and language snobs have slavishly followed his example. Similes form the basis for innumerable popular expressions (shaking like a leaf, light as a feather), but they do not have to be bland and uninspired. Indeed, in the hands of gifted writers, similes can rival metaphors in beauty or power, as when John Updike wrote: “Critics are like pigs at the pastry cart.”
To express the Kipling thought as an analogy, one could say words are to the mind as drugs are to the body. An analogy is sometimes called an extended simile (because it often uses like or as), but that does not do justice to this ancient way of formulating a thought. Analogies are at the core of intellectual inquiry, and as a result have long been favored by philosophers and other thinkers. Henry David Thoreau wrote of them: “All perception of truth is the detection of an analogy.”
I’m in the early stages of this project, so not all topics are currently available, and many topics that are available are incomplete. I'm adding new topics and new quotations to existing topics every day, so every subsequent visit by you will likely be rewarded by new finds.
If you discover any errors or would simply like to provide feedback, please drop me a note. Metaphors be with you!