A dead metaphor is a figure of speech that describes when the figurative meaning of a metaphor shifts away from its original meaning. The metaphorical meaning becomes so familiar that the literal meaning is forgotten.
There are two reasons why a metaphor "dies:"
Dead metaphors can also be called a frozen metaphor or a historical metaphor. The English language is always changing, so figurative language is too. The evolution of a language is responsible for dead metaphors.
The following is a list of dead metaphors with their literal and figurative meanings:
|Dead Metaphor||Literal Meaning||Figurative Meaning|
|Go belly up||What happens to a fish when it dies||Bankrupt; ruined|
|Nip it in the bud||Snipping a flower before it has the chance to bloom||To stop something at an early stage|
|Flying off the handle||Ax blade flung off its handle||Someone losing his/her sense of self-control|
|Time is running out||The sand in the top of an hourglass was almost all in the bottom||There is not enough time to finish something|
|Head over heels||Being the wrong way up (upside down; topsy turvy)||Being extremely excited|
|Deadline||Inmates would be shot if they passed a certain line in the prison yard||Time limit|
|Stick in the mud||Reference to a horse-drawn carriage being stuck in the mud||Person who resists change|
|Roll up/down the window||Use the spinning lever below the window to open/close it||Close the window|
|Hang up the phone||Disconnect the phone by putting it back on the receiver||End a phone call|
After working your way through this lesson and video, you have learned:
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