A metaphor is a figure of speech that, for rhetorical effect, directly refers to one thing by mentioning another.[1] It may provide (or obscure) clarity or identify hidden similarities between two different ideas. Metaphors are often compared with other types of figurative language, such as antithesis, hyperbole, metonymy and simile.[2] One of the most commonly cited examples of a metaphor in English literature comes from the "All the world's a stage" monologue from As You Like It:

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances ...
William Shakespeare, As You Like It, 2/7<ref>"As You Like It: Entire Play". Retrieved 4 March 2012.</ref>

A political cartoon by illustrator S.D. Ehrhart in an 1894 Puck magazine shows a farm woman labeled "Democratic Party" sheltering from a tornado of political change.

This quotation expresses a metaphor because the world is not literally a stage, and most humans are not literally actors and actresses playing roles. By asserting that the world is a stage, Shakespeare uses points of comparison between the world and a stage to convey an understanding about the mechanics of the world and the behavior of the people within it.

According to the linguist Anatoly Liberman, "the use of metaphors is relatively late in the modern European languages; it is, in principle, a post-Renaissance phenomenon".[3] In contrast, in the ancient Hebrew psalms (around 1000 B.C.), one finds already vivid and poetic examples of metaphor such as, "The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold” and “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” At the other extreme, some recent linguistic theories view all language in essence as metaphorical.[4]

The word metaphor itself is a metaphor, coming from a Greek term meaning to "transfer" or "carry across." Metaphors "carry" meaning from one word, image, idea, or situation to another, linking them and creating a metaphor.