Easy Guide To Rhetorical Devices

A dead metaphor is defined as a figure of speech that is no longer as effective as it was because of its repetitive usage. According to a dead metaphor definition, this rhetorical device acquired a conventional meaning and lost its original imagery. That is why it lost its original force.

How a metaphor becomes dead

After answering the question ‘What is a dead metaphor?’, it is high time to find out how it becomes dead and if it is really dead.

This type of metaphor was created as any other figure of speech, by creating an association between things, objects, people, abstract ideas etc. and coming up with an effective expression that activates our thoughts. For example, ‘the foot of the bed’ was first created by an association of a part of the human body and the part of a bed. However, over its repetitive usage this metaphor lost its original effectiveness and became ‘dead’ by definition.

Many linguists argue that dead metaphor in literature, speech, periodicals etc. is actually alive. Cognitive linguists believe that the idea that this type of metaphor no longer influences thought is false. Even though dead metaphor examples are considered trite and cliché, they still make an impact on our brains and most importantly they still govern our thoughts.

Common examples

We can find examples of a dead metaphor in literature that were not dead at first. For example, ‘green with envy’ was created from Shakespeare’s expression ‘the green-eyed monster’. The latter was a metaphor, the former became a dead one through its repetitive and common usage. Let us have a look at more examples in a dead metaphor list:

  • in the same boat

  • selling like hot cakes

  • bitter end

  • writing on the wall

  • calm before the storm

  • long arm of the law

  • winds of change

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