20 Thought-Provoking Metaphors About Life

What is life to you? Check out these metaphors about life to get the perspective of others. 

The meaning of life is often a vague and challenging concept for people to understand. The changes and challenges that make up everyday human existence are complex, and life experiences can feel challenging to put into words. Many of the most famous life quotes are metaphors, comparing everyday life to something a bit less abstract.

Metaphors are figures of speech that compare concepts with a unique perspective. Great metaphors get people to stop and think, and common metaphors become part of the culture of the community. They can be funny, deep, inspiring and thought-provoking.

Do you want to use metaphors about life in your writing or speech? Here are some of the most famous metaphors of life for your consideration.

Metaphors About Life from Culture, Literature, and Famous Thinkers

Metaphors about life

One of the best ways to understand life metaphors is to study metaphor examples that compare life to everything from nature to common objects. As you consider daily life, see if one of these metaphors fits.

Funny Metaphors About Life

Sometimes, metaphors use humor to teach a lesson. Here are some funny metaphors about life and its lessons:

1. Money

Henry David Thoreau once said, “The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.” This quote shows that your own life has value, even monetary value, and you must count that value when evaluating how you will spend your life. For deeper reading, check out our guide to the best essays about money.

2. Box of Chocolates

“Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” You don’t have to have watched Forrest Gump to recognize one of the movie’s most iconic quotes. It implies that life is unexpected and can be sweet at the same time.

3. Onions

Metaphors about life
Life is kind of like an onion

Peeling the layers of an onion helps you discover newness with each layer. Life is kind of like an onion. You might shed some tears as you peel back the layers, but you’ll also find something new and fresh.

4. Theater Stage

In the play As You Like It, Jacques, a character William Shakespeare created, says “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” This quote metaphorically compares real life to the experiences of actors on a stage.

5. Song

Hans Christian Andersen once said, “Life is like a beautiful melody, only the lyrics are messed up.” As we go through life, it can feel as though we are simply trying to get the words right to a song that we can hear, but can’t quite grasp.

6. Roller Coaster 

Life is like a roller coaster. It is full of thrills, peaks (highs) and valleys (lows). One minute you’re soaring to the heights, and the next you’re crashing down to the ground, but in the end, you have a great time with the experience.

Deep Metaphors about Life

Some metaphors about life and the life lessons we all must learn are a bit deeper than these funny ones.

7. Bucket List

The term “bucket list” applies to the things that someone wants to experience before they “kick the bucket,” or die. The bucket also symbolizes life because you have the choice to fill it with the things that matter most to you.

8. Ocean

Sometimes, life is calm and inviting. Other times, it feels like a raging tempest. This back-and-forth makes the ocean a great metaphor for the realities and challenges of life.

Looking for more? Check out these essays about daily life.

9. Novel

You’re the author of your own story. If you’ve ever been told this, then you are listening to the metaphor that life is a novel. Every new experience is a new page or chapter in the story of your life.

10. Maze or Labyrinth

In Looking for Alaska, John Green states, “You spend your whole life stuck in the labyrinth, thinking about how you’ll escape it one day, by you never od it. You just use the future to escape the present.” In this quote, he compares life to the twist, turns and dead-ends of a maze.

Inspirational Metaphors About Life

Sometimes, metaphors about life are less thought-provoking and more inspirational, encouraging you to live life with gusto. Here are some of those.

11. Stained Glass Window

If you have ever looked closely at a stained glass window, all you saw was a bunch of bright colors, and it is not until you step back that you get the full picture of what the window conveys. Life is like that too. Sometimes we can’t see the big picture of our own life until we step back and get perspective.

12. A Mountain Climb

Life has challenges, and tackling those challenges can feel like climbing a mountain. You sometimes go through deep valleys, but you also get to have mountain-top experiences, and this combination makes the struggle rewarding.

13. A Classroom

Albert Einstein once said, “Any fool can know. The point is to understand.” In a way, he is comparing life to the classroom and the desire to understand what it all means.

14. War

Life can sometimes feel like a series of battles. While you win some, and you lose some, with hard work and dedication you can win the whole war. For deeper reading, check out our guide to the best war books

15. Stepping Stones

As you go through life, picture yourself on a path made of stepping stones. You won’t want to linger too long on any one part of the path, and eventually, you will get to something bigger, but the stones that line the way help you get there.

Thought-Provoking Metaphors About Life

Finally, many of the best metaphors about life get you to stop and think about how you are using yours and what choices you are making. Many of these come from literature because life changes are popular topics of poets and writers.

16. Divergent Paths

Robert Frost wrote, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” In this poem, he compares his life and its choices to a fork in the road, and how choosing the less-traveled path made his life richer.

17. Journey

In her poem “Because I Could Not Stop for Death,” Emily Dickinson compares life to a journey complete with a carriage ride. This metaphor is easy to understand because we all feel we are on a journey and the end of that journey is the same for all people, it’s how we spend the journey that matters.

18. Canvas

We are all artists and our life is the canvas. We get to decide how we cover it in paint.

19. Star

Life is like a star because each star has its place in the sky, just as each life has its place in the human experience. We can shine bright or we can dim depending on our life choices, but we are always there.

20. A Game of Chess

In chess, players must always think about their next move and where it will take them. Life is similar.

21. Fresh Air

Many writers liken a life-giving concept or trait to air, as it we need it to live e.g. “That holiday was a breath of fresh air.” For more, read our guide to love metaphors.  

A Final Word on Metaphors About Life

Metaphors about life make you stop and think. They can give you a greater perspective on how you spend your days, and they can help give greater meaning to even the mundane parts of life. As you study these metaphor examples, try to think of some of your own. Discover what life is like to you, and then weave that metaphor into your writing. 

Want more? Read our guide to metaphor examples from literature.

FAQs About Metaphors About Life

What are some examples of metaphors about life?

A metaphor about life compares life to something more tangible. Some famous ones include:
1. Life is like a box of chocolates
2. Two roads diverged in a wood and I, I took the one less traveled by.
3. The roller coaster of life

What does the metaphor “life is a journey” mean?

When writers compare life to a journey, the metaphor explores how we are all on the path towards the end of life, but have choices in how we use our days as we travel that journey.

  • Nicole Harms has been writing professionally since 2006. She specializes in education content and real estate writing but enjoys a wide gamut of topics. Her goal is to connect with the reader in an engaging, but informative way. Her work has been featured on USA Today, and she ghostwrites for many high-profile companies. As a former teacher, she is passionate about both research and grammar, giving her clients the quality they demand in today's online marketing world.