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Metaphors and energy


Techniques > Use of languageMetaphor > Metaphors and energy

Potential | Kinetic | Light | Heat | Magnetism | Electrical | Atomic | See also


Energy is the ability to act, to change. Its opposite is inaction and stasis. this duality is used across different types of energy in various metaphors.


Potential energy is stored energy, ready to be released. A stone on a high shelf has more energy than one on a low shelf. A compressed spring has more energy than a released spring. This provides a metaphor for pent-up energy, ready for action.

She was a coiled spring, ready for the gun.

Above them all, he knew he could swoop at any moment.

He was at a low point in his career.


Kinetic energy is the the energy of motion. When a stone falls from a shelf or a compressed spring is released, then the potential energy is transformed into kinetic energy. The energy of movement is an easy metaphor for general human action.

She bounced into action.

A stone into a bowl of trouble, he dropped into the seething bar.

In the still, small moment, he found peace.


Light energy is electromagnetic radiation that is, within a narrow spectrum, visible to the naked eye. As energy, it makes things visible. It is often used as metaphor for desirable human attributes such as such as beauty, intelligence and understanding.

He dazzled her with his brilliance.

That was most illuminating!

I'm in the dark about that.


Heat energy comes from radiation, conduction and convection, and the vibration of atoms and molecules. Our experience of temperature is that too cold and too hot is uncomfortable. Temperature may also indicate excitement and emotional energy levels.

He was hot on their trail.

Sweating the small stuff.

He warmed to her cool approach.


Magnetic energy is known for the strange pull that is felt when a magnet approaches a ferric material, and hence gets used for when we feel emotional attraction towards others. There is also the antimagnetic repulsion of like poles.

She had a magnetic personality.

They were polar opposites.


Electrical energy involves the movement of electrons. Our muscles are driven by small impulses of electrical energy, and when high levels of electricity is applied, they go into painful spasm, giving us the principle of shock. In static electricity, the force comes from an imbalance of electrons between two points (and the spark is a rebalancing).

It was a clenching, shocking experience.

The atmosphere was electric and charged.


There are two types of atomic force: strong and weak. Strong atomic forces keep atoms together internally, whilst weak forces keep atoms and molecules within proximity of others. Chemical energy is atomic, and may be transformed into heat energy in an exothermic reaction.

The fusion of their bodies created an atomic mushroom of love.

There was a deep bond between them.

See also

Metaphors and sight

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