On New Year’s Day, you will hear many people talk about a fresh start. You may hear people refer to the new year as a clean slate. Others may refer to the year ahead as a blank canvas, ready to be painted with new experiences.

These are all examples of using figurative language to describe the new year in a way that conveys a certain idea. In the case of New Year’s Day, the idea many people want to get across is that the old year is gone and the new year is here and filled with all sorts of new possibilities.

Figurative language adds color and life to our conversations. Instead of simply saying that the new year ahead is full of new possibilities, figurative language allows us to paint pictures with our words, creating vivid word images that help us express ourselves in ways that go beyond the mere words themselves.

Saying that the new year ahead is a blank canvas is a specific type of figurative language called a metaphor. Metaphors indirectly compare two unlike things by saying that one thing is the same as another.

Of course, the new year ahead is not an actual blank canvas. It’s a set of 365 days. A blank canvas, on the other hand, is a blank piece of material to paint on. By equating the two, though, the metaphor conveys the message that the new year and a blank canvas share certain properties, such as their ability to turn into something never seen before.

The word metaphor comes from a Greek word meaning “to transfer.” Metaphors transfer meaning from one word to another by implying a comparison between the images and ideas associated with the words.

For example, have you ever called someone a “night owl” or an “early bird?” If so, you’ve used metaphors before! A person is obviously not an owl or a bird, but they might have something in common with these creatures, such as the tendency to stay up late or get up early.

There’s also a special type of metaphor called a simile. Similes compare two things directly using the words “like” or “as.” For example, the phrase “He’s as cold as ice” directly compares someone to ice using the word “as.”

Metaphors tend to convey stronger images than similes, because metaphors indicate that something “is” something else rather than simply being “like” it. For example, “Joe is ice” tends to send a stronger message than “Joe is as cold as ice.”

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    • Hooray, we’re happy that you’re WONDERing with us again today, Emily! It’s so much fun to Wonder about different figures of speech with great friends like you! Language arts makes us smile. We will see you tomorrow for tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day®! :)

  1. I sure hope my students check out Wonderopolis today! They always get confused about metaphors. Great examples and love the connection with classroom learning!! Happy New Year!!

    • Happy New Year to you as well, Mrs. Caplin! Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment about metaphors today! We LOVE WONDERing with your students and all our Wonder Friends! HOORAY for 2013! :)

  2. Today’s wonder was kind of confusing at first, but then I started to understand more. The article and the video were really interesting. I read the part of the article where it was talking about figurative language and how it adds color and life to our conversations, and that made me think of the saying “Actions speak louder than words”. Thank you for today’s wonder, and happy new year! ;) :)

    • We’re so glad you did your best at understanding today’s Wonder, Berkleigh! You’re not alone– lots of Wonder Friends have trouble understanding metaphors at first! We think you did a great job thinking about actions speaking louder than words, too! What a SUPER connection! Thanks for WONDERing with us today, and Happy New Year to you, too! :)

  3. Hey guys today’s wonder made me think of what we are learning at school before the break we were talking about similes and metaphors. We were working on trying to use one everyday to “spice it up” says my teacher.

    I think tomorrow’s wonder of the day will be about something weird I’m not sure what but it has to be weird not to use the information.

    • Hi Wondergirl101! We’re happy to hear that you and your Wonder classmates have been learning about figures of speech, too! How cool! We like how metaphors add flavor to our everyday language– just like your teacher said!

      We’re excited to find out what tomorrow’s Wonder will be… perhaps you’re on the right track! :)

  4. I knew about similes before this wonder of the day. I have a simile for you and this is it: the zebra ran as fast as a race car away from the lion.

    • Hooray, that’s awesome, Danielle! We’re glad today’s Wonder was right up your alley! We hope your day is as WONDERful as you are, Wonder Friend! :)

    • Thanks so much, Jude! We are glad you learned something new with us today, it’s great to Wonder with you! :)

    • We’re sorry to hear that this wasn’t one of your favorite Wonder videos, Morgan, but we really appreciate your comment! Perhaps you can tell us about one of your favorite Wonders from Wonderopolis… art, dance, sports, history? We’d love to hear more! :)

  5. I’m confused. You used the words “like” and “as” a lot in your examples. Aren’t comparisons with “like” and “as” SIMILES, not metaphors? A metaphor would be “the bride was a sparkling diamond shining in the sun.”

    • Hey there, Susie, we’re glad you’re here to Wonder about figurative language with us. We learned that similes and metaphors are similar, but similes always use like or as when comparing two things. The comparison between the bride and a sparkling diamond is an AWESOME example of a metaphor, NICE WORK!

      Check out this excerpt from our Wonder for another example of metaphors and similes:
      “Metaphors tend to convey stronger images than similes, because metaphors indicate that something “is” something else rather than simply being “like” it. For example, “Joe is ice” tends to send a stronger message than ‘Joe is as cold as ice.’” :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • What is a metaphor?
  • How is a simile different from a metaphor?
  • Can you make up your own metaphors?

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MetaphorVimeo Video

Try It Out

Do you have a heart of stone? Is your life a clean slate? What metaphors can you think of that apply to you, especially at the start of a new year?

Read the phrases below and turn each into a metaphor that describes you:

  • I am…
  • My life is…
  • My friends are…
  • My family is…
  • This coming year is…

Can you come up with some unique metaphors all by yourself? If so, post them to Facebook to share with your Wonder Friends. We can’t wait to read what you come up with!

Still Wondering

In EDSITEment!’s Lions, Dragons, and Nian: Animals of the Chinese New Year lesson, children will understand the symbolism of the dragon in Chinese culture and its role in New Year celebrations.

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