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Metaphors and touch


Techniques > Use of languageMetaphor > Metaphors and touch

Feeling | Form | Pressure | Temperature | Pain | See also


Our physical nerve endings send signals to our brains as we connect directly with the material world around us. This is a very visceral experience that gets us as close to the 'real' world as perhaps we can. Metaphors of touch are thus very tactile and strongly sensory.


Emotions and touch are closely connected as we experience emotion through bodily sensation. The metaphor of touch is thus closely connected with physical feeling.


Emotions and touch are closely connected as we experience emotion through bodily sensation and the metaphor of touch is closely connected with physical feeling.

That feels like a good idea.

I have fallen for her.

It was a hateful day.


As we can hold physical things, so also can we use this to hold ideas and concepts. Holding and grasping is an important way of bonding, and as we hold something tight, we connect it into our own identity.

She held the idea in the palm of her hand.

The belief was strongly held.

Hold onto that thought for a minute!


Other forms of touch, although lighter than a grasp also indicate some form of connection.

He has a very hands-on approach.

She touched many of the people with her moving speech.


In metaphors of form, we use shape, weight, texture, malleability, hardness and other attributes of physical items and use these as vehicles for describing other experiences.

He's light on his feet.

It's getting quite hairy out there.

I'm prepare to flex my offer.


When we touch, we experience pressure. Light pressure lets us sense that we have touched something. Pressure that is too great and too sudden becomes uncomfortable.

I'm going to put a squeeze on him.

The pressure was unbearable.

I'm pushed for time.


Temperature is an indicator of energy, and hence it is used to explain other situations of some energetic quality.

This new product could be hot, but the market has gone off the boil.

There were in hot pursuit, but the trail had gone cold.

It's a boiling new idea!

Temperature is often used to indicate emotions such as love and hate. As a variable, temperature is used to indicate the degree of arousal involved.

I'm hot, baby!
So cool down!

They gave him a warm reception.

She gave him an icy stare, which inflamed him.


Physical pain comes from an excess of pressure or temperature, and physical pain can thus be used to signal any other type of discomfort.

He's a walking heartache.

She's a real pain.

It was a dull ache of a day.

See also

Metaphors and things, Metaphors and space>

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