The Ultimate Public Speaking Metaphor List (109 Examples)

Feb 04, 2021

Hello and welcome,

I've been compiling metaphors for my speaker training program, pulling them from this source and that source. I wish I kept all the source links but this list has been compiled over what seems like a long time.

Now, if you have a metaphor you'd like to share then please leave it in the comment section below. Unfortunately, this blog template only has Facebook commenting enabled.

I don't think I have to explain why speakers should use metaphors, but here are 3 reasons:

  1. They are clever hooks that keep the audience's attention.
  2. Audiences like speakers to be clever.
  3. You can get a heavy point across in a light way.

The pros do it, you should do it too.

Let's get started...

Animal Metaphors

  • (Person/place/thing) was a zoo.
  • (Person/place/thing) teeth are white daggers.
  • He/she is a peacock.
  • (person/place/thing} is a dragon.
  • (Name) eyes were fireflies.
  • (Person/place/thing) are old dinosaurs.
  • (Person/place/thing) is a night owl.
  • (Person/place/thing) is a chicken.
  • The (Person/place/thing) was a howling wolf.
  • The ballerina was a swan, gliding across the stage.
  • They were monkeys on the jungle gym.
  • The thunder was a mighty lion.
  • Spiderweb to suggest weaving together

Nature Metaphors

  • The snow is a white blanket.
  • (Person/place/thing) is a shining star.
  • (Person/place/thing) long hair was a flowing golden river.
  • Tom's eyes were ice as he stared at her.
  • The children were flowers grown in concrete gardens.
  • Kisses are the flowers of affection.
  • The falling snowflakes are dancers.
  • The calm lake was a mirror.
  • You are my sunshine.
  • The moon is a white balloon.
  • Her tears were a river flowing down her cheeks.
  • The road ahead was a ribbon stretching across the desert.
  • Donations to the charity were a tsunami.
  • The park was a lake after the rain.
  • The sun is a golden ball.
  • The clouds are balls of cotton.
  • The lightning was fireworks in the sky.
  • That lawn is a green carpet.
  • The stars are sparkling diamonds.
  • Ben's temper was a volcano, ready to explode.
  • Those best friends are two peas in a pod.
  • There are sharks and minnows in this world.

Everyday Life Metaphors

  • It was just a Band-Aid for the problem.
  • The cast on his broken leg was a plaster shackle.
  • Laughter is the music of the soul.
  • (Person/place/thing) is a melting pot.
  • Her lovely voice was music to his ears.
  • The world is a stage.
  • My kid's room is a disaster area.
  • Life is a rollercoaster. You go up slow, and down fast.
  • Their home was a prison.
  • His heart is a cold iron.
  • At five o'clock, the interstate is always a parking lot.
  • Books are the keys to your imagination.
  • Her angry words were bullets to him.
  • Your brain is a computer.
  • The car was a furnace in the sun.
  • Thank you so much, you are an angel.
  • My baseball coach is an ogre.
  • He is a walking dictionary.
  • My big brother is a couch potato.
  • The teenager's stomach was a bottomless pit.
  • I am so excited. My pulse is a race car.
  • Toddlers are rug rats.
  • Turn off the faucet 
  • Better the devil you know than the Devil you don't
  • Walking into the future is walking on a foggy road. You can’t see clearly but you know you have to keep going to get to your destination.
  •  The past is a bookmark because it marks milestones in our life. 

Funny Metaphors:

  1. My phone is god.
  2. The little boat drifted gently across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn’t.
  3. Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.
  4. Life is a road trip for us to enjoy and not carry too much baggage.
  5. Only your true friends stab you in the front (meaning they tell you your face)
  6. Life isn’t a highway, it’s more like a subdivision.
  7. Happiness is having a large, loving, caring family... in another city.
  8. You know the saying, “what happens in Vegas… 
  9. Fitness, yeah I’m into fitness. I'll Fit this whole pizza in my mouth.
  10. No matter how big a hammer you find, you can’t pound common sense into stupid people.
  11. During their mating season Leopards mate between 12 and 36 times per day.
  12.  I can see the carrot at the end of the tunnel.
  13. The gardening tools to maintain and grow the mind garden, clearing out old weeds, and planting the right seeds.
  14. The engineer of the mind, that accesses the system, checks the wiring, and fixes any faults that block the efficiency and productivity of the system.
  15. I don’t like to toot my own horn, BUT...

Inspirational Metaphors:

2 lions and a park ranger: once there was a lion who said to another Lion, “My paw hurts, can you please give me some food.” And the next day the Lion said, “My back hurts, and my paw hurts. Can you please spare me some food?"


Two weeks later a park ranger found a dead lion in the bush. 

You can use this metaphor to explain the survival of the fittest.


Troubled twins: a mom once had two twins, Ricky and Ryan. She noticed they were polar opposites so she called the doctor and explained how one boy overly outgoing and the other was scared of his shadow. 

The doctor said, “Bring them in and I’ll take a look.” 

The doctor put Ricky in a room filled with the best toys you can imagine. There were drones, games, and Ricky was very happy. At first, then he started acting bored, he broke the toy truck and ripped the head off ken Doll. In a half an hour Ricky was in the corner pouting. The doctor walked in and asked what was wrong. “Oh these toys are broken, and nobody is here to play with me. I want to go home.”

The doctor put Ryan in another room, and in this room was a big pile of SHIT. A room filled with shit and they shut the door. Ryan was shocked at first but then proceeded to get a smile on his face. Before long he was throwing the shit at the door, rolling in it, and doing poop angels. The doctors burst in asked what was going on.

“Well,” Ryan said, “with this much poop there must be a Pony in here somewhere!”

Use this metaphor to explain the power of a positive attitude. 

The Gumball Machine: think about success being a gumball machine filled with red gumballs, and sprinkled with green ones. You put in a quarter and you have a 50/50 chance it’s going to the best day ever. Blam, you get a red gumball. You want green so you put in another quarter. Blam, another red gumball. 

Now, some people would already be thinking it’s not worth it. They’’ throw in another dollar but that’s it. Not you, because you know that the green gumballs are in there. Every time you get a red gumball you are happy because you are one step closer to a yes. Some people have to get all the no’s out of the way before they even get their first green gumball.

The moral of the story: red gumballs make green gumballs all the more pleasant.

Take that: hand out papers with negative comments on them to audience members, and have them crumple up the paper. Now, get them to throw the papers at you one by one as you (or volunteer) catch them. Notice how hard it is to catch the papers and hold on to more than one at a time. 

Now, give the papers back to the audience and have them ALL throw the comments at you (or volunteer) as you stand in a confident pose. Notice how much fun people have while explaining the power of overcoming objections.

The leaking pot: a lady has to walk to get water so she carries her jugs in each hand. One water jug is always happy and the other water jug is always sad. One day the lady asks the water jug what’s wrong?

The water jug said, “I have this hole in me that can’t be fixed. The water is all gone by the time we get home. I’m a useless water jug, you should just replace me.”

The lady smiled, “Oh dear, you must not have looked at the flowers on your side of the path. I planted those flowers so that you could water them every day and we have something beautiful to look at while we walk home.”

With that, the water jug took notice of the flowers along the path. They were the most amazing flowers the jug had ever seen. Suddenly she realized her purpose and became happier and happier.


Healing Metaphors: 

  1. The Black Pit. Depression often goes with being stuck in the poor circumstances that arise when hope evaporates. The important thing to do is to look into the future.
  2. The Profiteer. Greed often changes a person into something that is highly undesirable. When men go in the search of profit at the expense of others, they can find that the tragedy of others can hit back.
  3. Quicksand. Life can present precarious options. The way to be safe is to avoid the pitfalls that can be offered as pleasures such as bad relationships, drugs, or jobs without prospects. Be confident enough to make the right decisions. Take those chances that offer benefit and steer clear of those that offer jeopardy.
  4.  The Swing. Sometimes we need to encourage others to take responsibility for their own achievements through their own efforts. Sometimes helping too much turns to hurt the giver. Be self-assured. Do what you are able to do to help others but without damaging yourself.
  5. The Magic Carpet. The fear of flying is very often the result of negative associations with emotional turmoil rather than with a flight.
  6. The Bonfire. Memories may be attached to objects but never contained by them in such a way that they are destroyed if the object is lost. Reminiscences are held by our minds instead. We never throw those away unless we want, and need, to.
  7. Breath. The Latin word for breath is the same as the word for Spirit, as is the Hindi word `prana’ and the Chinese word `chi’. Perhaps we have known the connection between breathing and calmness and a peaceful soul a very long time but have failed to recognize the clues!
  8.  Sewer Rats. Compare the lungs and blood vessels with sewer systems and the dirty things that live there. Clean air and water help to prevent the bad things that thrive on filth like tobacco smoke and fat.
  9. Taming the Wild River. The comparison made is between a violent river flowing to an explosive end and a more peaceful flow that is controlled and less physically disruptive.
  10. The Two Fires. Everybody has quarrels from time to time. They are about reaching a warm understanding as two opinions are molded into an agreement. However, when quarrels turn to angry rows, the outcome can be so destructive that lives are ruined.
  11. The Problem With Heirlooms. When people bring their own problems into the lives of others, then the recipient needs to know how to stop being negatively affected. Just because a parent has had bad experiences, it never means that those things will be replicated. We must live our lives as the main player, not as a support act.
  12. A Whale of a Time. Every so often we need to dump our personal, emotional rubbish. We need to take a deep breath and get on with our lives in a clean and fresh way.
  13. The Medium is the Message. Sometimes too much information can be dangerous. At other times it is good to know where truth should sit.
  14. The Feral Cat. How things can go wild.
  15. Talking to the Little Guys. Our whole system is loyal. It will do whatever we ask it, whether it is beneficial or not. The little loyal guys in our heads are our best friends but can be our worst enemies.
  16. Stabilizers. Gaining independence and freedom requires calculated risks rather than foolish ones.
  17. Stag Man. The old stag is always beaten by a younger challenger, sooner or later.
  18.  Dry Ice. Using alcohol and drugs to camouflage and disguise situations never gets rid of memories, they only increase the damage.
  19.  Ticks on the Head. Removing the irritating emotional parasites that live on us.
  20.  The Queue at the Post Office. A little patience saves more than the time when getting irritated and storming out, then coming back later when there is no queue.
  21. The Soccer Team When we spend our time-saving problems from happening we get little credit. When we appear to be only interested in seeking glory through attack we can miss our goals. To be on the winning team we need to keep a balance between the two. Preventing problems and, at the same time, looking for opportunities to score is the best way to move forward.
  22. Eating and Drinking. When you eat quickly and without regard for what you are consuming, you will eat more. And when you eat without thinking, you can never value what you have on your plate.
  23. Cavemen on the Beach. It seems that when we go on holiday we change. It is as if we travel back in time by 50000 years to revert to the gentler creature that lives inside us when not under threat.
  24. The Metaphor of Life and Death. We have ideas about eternity and Heaven but none of us really knows what it is like. I guess we will either be ecstatic when our time comes or we will know nothing afterward if we are unlucky.

Pickup in the Rain

One night, at 11:30 PM, an older African American woman was standing on the side of an Alabama highway trying to endure a lashing rainstorm. Her car had broken down and she desperately needed a ride. Soaking wet, she decided to flag down the next car. A young white man stopped to help. This was generally unheard of in those conflict-filled 1960s. The man took her to safety, helped her get assistance, and put her into a taxi cab. She seemed to be in a big hurry! She wrote down his address, thanked him, and drove away. Seven days went by and a knock came on the man’s door. To his surprise, a giant console color TV was delivered to his home. A special note was attached. It read: “Thank you so much for assisting me on the highway the other night. The rain-drenched not only my clothes but my spirits. Then you came along. Because of you, I was able to make it to my dying husband’s bedside just before he passed away. God bless you for helping me and unselfishly serving others.” Sincerely, Mrs. Nat King Cole


Always Remember Those Who Serve

In the days when an ice cream sundae cost much less, a 10-year-old boy entered a hotel coffee shop and sat at a table. A waitress put a glass of water in front of him. “How much is an ice cream sundae?” “Fifty cents,” replied the waitress. The little boy pulled his hand out of his pocket and studied a number of coins in it. “How much is a dish of plain ice cream?” he inquired. Some people were now waiting for a table and the waitress was a bit impatient. “Thirty-five cents,” she said brusquely. The little boy again counted the coins. “I’ll have the plain ice cream,” he said. The waitress brought the ice cream, put the bill on the table, and walked away. The boy finished the ice cream, paid the cashier, and departed. When the waitress came back, she began wiping down the table and then swallowed hard at what she saw. There, placed neatly beside the empty dish, were two nickels and five pennies – her tip.


The Obstacle in Our Path

In ancient times, a King had a boulder placed on a roadway. Then he hid and watched to see if anyone would remove the huge rock. Some of the king’s wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by and simply walked around it. Many loudly blamed the King for not keeping the roads clear, but none did anything about getting the big stone out of the way. Then a peasant came along carrying a load of vegetables. On approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden and tried to move the stone to the side of the road. After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded. As the peasant picked up his load of vegetables, he noticed a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been. The purse contained many gold coins and a note from the king indicating that the gold was for the person who removed the boulder from the roadway. The peasant learned what many others never understand: Every obstacle presents an opportunity to improve one’s condition.


Giving Blood

Many years ago, when I worked as a volunteer at Stanford Hospital, I got to know a little girl named Liz who was suffering from a rare and serious disease. Her only chance of recovery appeared to be a blood transfusion from her 5-year old brother, who had miraculously survived the same disease and had developed the antibodies needed to combat the illness. The doctor explained the situation to her little brother and asked the boy if he would be willing to give his blood to his sister. I saw him hesitate for only a moment before taking a deep breath and saying,” Yes, I’ll do it if it will save Liz.” As the transfusion progressed, he lay in bed next to his sister and smiled, as we all did, seeing the color returning to her cheeks. Then his face grew pale and his smile faded. He looked up at the doctor and asked with a trembling voice, “Will I start to die right away?” Being young, the boy had misunderstood the doctor. He thought he was going to have to give his sister all of his blood.

My suggestion is to use these as a guideline. I tell these stories to students and I find they come up with even better ones.

Letting things go: you know what sucks about being a dog owner? Picking up shit/poop/ (whatever you call it). It stinks, you often can’t get it all out of the grass, and then you are carrying around this poo bag until you find what?

A garbage can, and what do you do then?

You throw it out. When you throw out that bag and it’s over. It’s gone, and if you didn’t get any on your fingers you feel good! 

Brainstorming ideas:

  1. Salamanders can regrow lost limbs, so can many other animals.
  2. A garden needs tending, weeds pulled, potatoes hilled, and tomatoes need to be kept warm. 
  3. Think of something that you wanted so bad all you did was think about it and it never happened. This often happens with love. Once you let your guard down and forget about it altogether. BOOM, it happens. 
  4. Comparing the healing of a broken heart to a flesh wound. You can’t imagine it’ll ever get better but over time it heals until you don’t even see a scar.

Tips: the easiest metaphors to write include animals, birds, sea mammals, flowers, trees, plants, boats, and much more. 

I once heard a metaphor comparing two people to a keyboard and a monitor. The stent said, “There are two types of basketball players. You have the keyboards and the monitors. Both are required, both are used equally. The difference is that the keyboard gets used, and nobody looks at it. Whereas the monitor gets used, but everybody looks at it. 

Metaphors to Compare

Classic comparisons: 

  1. There are two types of people: wolves and sheep. 
  2. There are two types of people: the grasshopper and the ant.
  3. There are two types of people: Ducks and Eagles. Ducks flock together and swim in their own poop. When people see ducks they want to feed them. Eagles on the other hand, are majestic and when people see an Eagle they admire it. 

New ideas:

  1. Two types of students: snails (slow learners) and dragonflies (fast learners).
  2. There are two types of leaders: Chiefs (have council members, work on behalf of the people), and Monarchs (make decisions without council or the best interest of the people). 

Other ideas I’ve heard but can’t remember the full details:

Comparing life to laundry, cooking, golf, a ship crew, and panning for gold. 

Metaphor Quotes

  1. Fire away, fire away / You shoot me down, but I won’t fall / I am titanium- David Guetta
  2. We are young / Heartache to heartache we stand / No promises / No demands / Love is a battlefield- Pat Benatar
  3. You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog / Quit snoopin’ ’round my door- Elvis Presley
  4. Her heart’s as soft as feathers / Still, she weathers stormy skies / And she’s a sparrow when she’s broken / But she’s an eagle when she flies- Dolly Parton.
  5. ‘Cause, baby, you‘re a firework / Come on, show ’em what you‘re worth / Make them go oh, oh, oh / As you shoot across the sky- Katy Perry
  6. And if you want love / We’ll make it / Swim in a deep-sea / Of blankets / Take all your big plans / And break ’em / This is bound to be a while / Your body is a wonderland- John Mayer
  7. Want to bring your ideas to life, to make them take up residence in the reader’s mind, lurking in the background, tugging, pulling, and cajoling their emotions until they think and feel exactly as you want?- Jon Morrow,
  8. The content landscape isn’t some mythical blue ocean lacking in competition. It’s a teeming jungle — with plenty to eat, and plenty that wants to eat you. Sonia Simone
  9. Smarter companies think of tone of voice guidelines as bumpers on a bowling lane: They gently guide your communication in the right direction and help content creators avoid a gutter ball.-Ann Handley, How to Find Your Company's Brand Voice
  10. All the best consumer brands get it. But for too many B2B brands, voice is the confectioner’s sugar of the marketing cake — something you sprinkle on at the end (if it’s in the recipe at all). Doug Kessler
  11. Carefully crafted, purposeful content is ace at just that: generating REAL traffic and leads. It’s no wonder people are climbing aboard the content train. Now that you’re buckled in, the next step is understanding what a professional content writer adds to your marketing strategy.-Julia McCoy, How to Hire for Superstar Content
  12. If my business was a garden, then my blog posts would be a colorful display of flowers. Lavender, bougainvillea, fuchsias. Mostly in my favorite color (purple of course!). You can walk around this garden and enjoy my flowers. It’s free. Henneke Duistermaat
  13. And this is what exasperates me about the ‘blogging and social media for money’ superhighway. So many times I follow the yellow brick road laid by an enterprising blogger who’s working the system. . .and when I get there and pull back the curtain…nothing. No wizard. No magic. And no message. Just a lot of mechanics and whirling buttons and a robotic, soulless special effects machine. Kelly Diels, Why Blogging is Like The Wizard of Oz…
  14. In large organizations, content is like a continual series of trains. Each must leave the crowded station on time to make room for the next one or the network quickly grinds to a halt. . . Unsurprisingly, the content may fail to perform. You can see why many pieces of content fail to meet scheduled departure times. Call it death by track changes.- Rusty Weston


Do you know what makes these great metaphors even better? Knowing how to use them! I do have speaker courses for both students and adults.