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Conceptual Metaphors

University of California, Berkeley



Target Audience
  • Academic Researchers
  • People Interested in Metaphors
Getting Started
  • No log-in necessary
  • Free-of-charge
Sample Sentences
  • Yes
Ease of Use
  • Requires familiarity with the site and a good command of English

Important Subsites
This site offers three browsing methods. Eventually, each method will lead you to the same sample sentences, but each method allows you to begin searching at a different point (i.e. from the idea being expressed as a metaphor, from the metaphors used to describe idea, or from the specific metaphor. The three methods are as follows:
  • Index of Target Domains
    • This is probably the most useful search tool for an ESL student who is looking to express an idea but who cannot think of the words to express it. This section allows you to go from broad ideas like “love,” “death,” “competition,” etc. and find the metaphors associated with them.
  • Index of Source Domains
    • This index allows you to search the concrete metaphors as they are applied to ideas. For example, clicking on the term “Climate” will link you to a metaphor in which climate is used to describe a bigger idea (“External conditions are climate”), and clicking on this link will direct you to a page of sentences showing how this metaphor works in English (“It rained on my parade”)
  • Index by Metaphor Name
    • This search function allows you to browse through an alphabetized list of metaphors, such as “Anger is heat,” “External conditions are climate,” etc.

Description and evaluation/comments
  • This site was designed by cognitive scientists and students at Berkeley for the purpose of studying metaphor systems. A metaphor takes a word or phrase that literally conveys an object or idea and uses it to describe another (and often abstract) idea, suggesting an analogy between the two, unlike concepts.
  • Although this site can seem overwhelming at times because it can be a little difficult to navigate, and some of the language can be difficult to grasp for an ESL student, it is a very useful site for understanding how English works as a metaphorical language.
  • This would be particularly useful for a more advanced ESL student who already has a good grasp of “textbook English” and is ready to see how the language functions in a more literary manner. You can use this site specifically when you are trying to express an idea but do not know the English words with which to do so, or you can just browse through this site for fun to learn various metaphors.
  • If you are searching through the Index of Target Domains, you can browse through various topics, such as “competition,” “conceit,” “control,” “desire,” “magic,” etc. Clicking on these links will bring you to a page with a list of hyperlinked metaphors commonly associated with the domain, i.e. “love is magic.” This will then direct you to another page with a list of sample sentences demonstrating/proving how this metaphor functions commonly in the English language.

Hints/Tips
  • Since this site is designed for cognitive science students, the level of diction and the metaphors can be very advanced, even for a native speaker. If you are having trouble understanding some of the metaphors offered with each target domain, try using this site in companion with a regular dictionary (like the Cambridge or the Oxford) to look up any terms you might be confused about.