Ocean metaphors usually refer to the ocean either as a lovely place that delivers you calm and happiness or as an angry and powerful force that could cause you harm.
Some positive metaphors include:
- The sea is my home
- The tide licked my toes
- The sea is a surfer’s paradise
Some negatives include:
- The ocean listens to no one
- The ocean is a mighty beast
- The moody sea
There are also many ocean related metaphors that were made up by sailors and are now used in our everyday language. Examples include:
- Davy Jones’s Locker
- Sailing close to the wind
- Batten down the hatches
Read on for all our ocean and sea metaphors, idioms, personification, analogies and similes!
> This article is from our A-Z series on metaphors
Metaphors about the Ocean
1. The Ocean is a Mighty Beast
Simile: The Ocean is Like a Mighty Beast
The ocean can be very calm at times, but it can also be very dangerous. To call the ocean a dangerous beast is to say it is something much stronger than any one person. It reminds us to have respect for this ‘beast’ that could reach out its “hand” (waves) and pull you into the water.
2. The Sea is my Home
Simile: The Ocean is Like my Home
People who love swimming and living by the ocean might call the sea their home. This of course doesn’t mean they literally live in the sea like mermaids. But it’s a phrase we might use if we feel at home near the ocean.
3. The Ocean is a Dishwasher
Simile: The Ocean is Like a Dishwasher
On a dark and stormy day when the sea is swashing back and forth in many directions, it might almost look like a washing machine – the tide goes one way then the next. As the water smashes against the rocks, it sucks back into the ocean and causes turmoil in the water. Froth and bubble rise to the surface. And you look into the ocean and feel very grateful that you’re not down there being tossed and turned like your dirty laundry!
4. Life is Like an Ocean (Simile)
You might say that life is like an ocean. It’s full of high tides and low tides, which might be metaphors for life’s ups and downs in our lives. Sometimes we are full of happiness while other times we are full of sadness.
We can also think that life is full of constant change, just like the ocean. The ebb and flow of the ocean could be related to how our lives will change and move in different directions when we get a new job, new partner or move to a new town.
5. A Surfer’s Paradise
Paradise is considered to be the ultimate happy place to live – heaven. In fact, we could call this “A Surfer’s Heaven” as well, but Surfer’s Paradise is actually a place in Queensland, Australia that’s known for its amazing surfing waves.
To say that the sea is a surfer’s paradise is to say that there is no happier place for a surfer to be than by the beach with the oceans rolling in.
6. A Shark’s Buffet
I love this metaphor – a shark’s buffer or a shark’s restaurant gives us the idea that the ocean is a place where sharks are free to eat and kill the other creatures whenever they like. There’s food everywhere, and the shark can make his best pick. The shark’s buffet reminds us who’s king in the ocean: the greatest predator of them all in the ocean is the shark!
7. The Ditch
The space between Australia and New Zealand is colloquially referred to as ‘the ditch’. It’s a wide expanse of ocean, but the colloquialism is used to minimize the space between the two countries. This metaphor is therefore used by both countries as an affectionate way to state that there’s an ocean between the two countries but they nonetheless share a special close relationship.
Examples of Ocean Personification
> Read Also: Ocean Symbolism
8. The Moody or Angry Sea
While the sea can never really be angry (it doesn’t have emotions!), this personification metaphor reminds us of an ocean that is swirling, with big waves washing against the shore. Perhaps if you’re on a boat there is a huge swell that is rocking the boat back and forth, threatening to tip it. We might also associate the angry sea with dark skies and perhaps even thunderstorms.
> Read Also: A List of Anger Metaphors
9. The Ocean Kissed the Sky
This literary phrase can be used in short stories and novels to explain the ocean’s horizon. Of course, the ocean did not kiss the sky, but to say it did is a form of personification. We’re giving the ocean human qualities here.
You can imagine that this scene might be a sunset metaphor, where the ocean and sky touch one another on the horizon in a beautiful soft pattern of oranges, golds and pinks.
10. Swallowed into the Belly of the Ocean and Eaten Whole
To say the ocean has a ‘belly’ is to also personify it. This metaphor is often used when something is ‘swept’ into the belly of the ocean. When something or someone falls into the ocean, we might say that it’s fallen into the belly of the ocean where it is lost forever, ‘swallowed whole’ by the sea.
11. The Ocean Listens to No One
Here again is an example of personification. If we think of a person who listens to no one, they’re unruly and untamed. They will do whatever they want. You might even envisage an untrained dog running around refusing to listen to its owner.
When the ocean is the thing listens to no one, we’re saying that it will do whatever it wants. It’s out of our hands, and will roll its raging waves if it wants – and you can’t do anything about it.
> Read Also: A List of Beach Idioms
12. The Waves Relentlessly Attacked
The idea that waves ‘relentlessly attack’ might be used when one large wave after another comes pounding into the shore. This metaphor gives us the sense that the waves are at war and invading the shore. Attacking and battling are very common literary devices from a sub-set of metaphors related to war.
13. The Tide Retreated
I thought it fitting to follow the ‘attack’ metaphor with the ‘retreat’ metaphor. And I think it’s fair to say some people might not consider this to be a metaphor at all. Can the tide retreat? Or is a retreat something that’s more of a military action?
Regardless, I think this could be a good metaphor when used alongside other war metaphors – the tide attacking then retreating, defending its position, then attacking again…
14. The Tide Tickled my Toes
To end the ocean personification metaphors list, I wanted to turn to a softer analysis of the ocean. Sometimes when the ocean is calm we can sit on a chair at the edge of the ocean and let our toes dip into the water. It could feel like the tide is ‘tickling’ you every time it surges and rolls over your toes.
Nautical and Sailor Metaphors and Idioms
This list of metaphors and idioms come from sailors. Some of them you might use in your everyday life and you don’t even realize that they’re related to sailing on the big blue ocean!
15. Davy Jones’s Locker
Davy Jones’s locker is said to be the bottom of the sea. While the origins of the term are unknown, sailors have for centuries used the term when referring to dead sailors who were lost to the ocean. These sailors were “sent to Davy Jones’s Locker” where their bodies will rest on the sea floor to be eaten by the fishes.
16. I’m all at Sea
To be “all at sea” is to be lost either physically or cognitively. The idea that someone is all at sea is today generally referred to someone who is confused. But we might imagine that someone who’s all at sea (in the literal sense) is in their boat in the ocean and can’t see the shore on any horizon. They’re lost, with no idea about which direction to head.
17. Our Flagship Product
The flagship was traditionally the biggest and strongest ship in a naval fleet. Today, you’re not so likely to hear that phrase in a naval context. But you may hear this term when talking about the main product in a company’s product line. Apple’s flagship product is their newest iPhone, while Tesla’s flagship product will be their best sports car.
18. Sail Close to the Wind
To sail close to the wind is to take risks. Sailing close to the wind occurs when a boat is heading in the opposite direction of the wind. This is a difficult manoeuvre and could easily lead to failure.
In everyday language, this is now an idiom long disconnected from its origins. Today we usually use this phrase when someone does something illegal or that will likely get them clipped behind the ears. You might be sailing close to the wind when you are shoplifting or saying something rude to someone.
19. Batten down the Hatches
When we say to batten down the hatches, we are telling people to lock your doors and stay put. But the term comes from when sailors would have to close all the hatches during a storm at sea so water wouldn’t enter the hull of the ship. We sometimes even use this idiom these days simply to talk about being prepared for something that’s about to happen that you’re not looking forward to – “batten down the hatches, Dad’s coming home and he’s mad.”
20. By and Large
The phrase ‘by and large’ is believe it or not a nautical phrase. To us, it means “in all conditions” or “more or less”. And to sailors, it meant the same thing. But they used this term because “by” meant to sail against the wind and “large” meant to sail with the wind. So to sail by and large is to sail in all conditions.
21. The Masthead
To you and me, we would most commonly hear the term “masthead” in reference to the logo at the top of a letter or a website. A company’s masthead is usually its logo, while a newspaper’s masthead is the very top of the front page of the newspaper.
But these terms come from the concept of the masthead which was the top of the mast on a ship. When you see a ship on the horizon, it’s often the first thing you see of the ship – so the masthead is the thing that’s the first thing to be seen and is designed to symbolize who the ship belongs to, or a ‘brand’.
Ocean metaphors can help us as writers to create more effective and persuasive texts. They can also be useful for people learning English to learn about some phrases we use in our language that might be confusing to non-native speakers. This list is by no means exhaustive, but offers you some of my favorite idioms, similes, personification, analogies and metaphors about the sea.
I’m Chris and I run this website – a resource about symbolism, metaphors, idioms, and a whole lot more! Thanks for dropping by.
Other examples of common metaphors are “night owl”, “cold feet”, “beat a dead horse”, “early bird”, “couch potato”, “eyes were fireflies”, “apple of my eye”, “heart of stone”, “heart of a lion”, “roller coaster of emotions”, and “heart of gold.”What is a simile for the ocean? ›
Simile: A wave from the ocean rose up like an arm, reaching to the shore. Metaphor: The ocean lifted its arm to touch the shore. Implied comparison: A wave from the ocean rose up before it crashed down on the shore, and looked like an arm.What are 3 famous metaphors? ›
- “The Big Bang.” ...
- “All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players. ...
- “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” ...
- “I am the good shepherd, … and I lay down my life for the sheep.” ...
- “All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree.” ...
- “Chaos is a friend of mine.”
The “calm waters” metaphor of change suggests that change is an occasional disruption in the normal flow of events and can be planned and managed as it happens using Lewin's three-step change process (unfreezing, changing, and freezing).What are 50 examples of metaphors? ›
- I could eat a horse: I am very hungry.
- It all went pear shaped: to go wrong.
- It's no skin off my nose: it doesn't affect me negatively (but it might affect others).
- She is an open book: she has nothing to hide.
- He wears his heart on his sleeve: he shows his feelings readily.
According to the Zaltmans, there are seven deep metaphors: balance, journey, transformation/change, container, connection, resource, and control.What are the 8 metaphors? ›
In his book, Images of Organization, Gareth Morgan lays out eight metaphors for an organization: machines, organisms, brains, cultural systems, political systems, psychic prisons, instruments of domination, and flux and transformation.What is a great metaphor? ›
To give you a starting point, here are some examples of common metaphors: “Bill is an early bird.” “Life is a highway.” “Her eyes were diamonds.”Is ocean Blue a metaphor? ›
The blue ocean/red ocean analogy is a powerful and memorable metaphor, which is responsible for its popularity. This metaphor can be powerful enough to stimulate people to action. The concepts behind the Blue Ocean Strategy (such as the competing factors, the consumer cycle, non-customers, etc.) are not new, however.How is the ocean a metaphor for life? ›
The ocean truly is the great metaphor for life, its ebbs and its flows and the occasional rogue wave. Some days are filled with sun and others with sunburns. Some dips are soothing while others fill our lungs up with water. We can feel completely calm one moment and get completely knocked on our asses the next.
"All at sea" is a metaphor that means to be confused or discombobulated in a situation. The phrase is created through the implied comparison to someone who is actually in the middle of the ocean and unable to see land or to know where they are.What is a good simile? ›
For example: as proud as a peacock, as busy as a bee and so on. A simile is a direct comparison of two like or unlike things. A simile helps your reader or listener visualise, understand and have a better conception of the quality of the nouns being compared.What is a good metaphor for Life? ›
Some examples of metaphors for life include: "Life is a song; we each get to write our own lyrics." "Life is a puzzle; you can only see the picture when you put all the pieces together." "Life is a garden; with care and love you can cultivate beautiful flowers."What is a simile year 7? ›
What is a simile? A simile describes something by comparing it to something else, using like or as: The snake moved like a ripple on a pond. It was as slippery as an eel.What is a simile and metaphor Grade 5? ›
A simile is a figure of speech that directly compares two things. A metaphor is a figure of speech that is used to make a comparison between two things that aren't alike but do have something in common.Is Sea Change a metaphor? ›
Sea change or sea-change is an English idiomatic expression which denotes a substantial change in perspective, especially one which affects a group or society at large, on a particular issue.What is a metaphor for water? ›
Some excellent water metaphors for writers are:
The river is a weaving snake. The water searched for the sea. The water roared.
Answer and Explanation: The calm waters metaphor represents intermittent disruptions that can be easily regulated. The white-water rapids metaphor represents the continuous changes that require continued management.What is a metaphor 6th grade? ›
A metaphor is a comparison which is not literally true. It suggests what something is like by comparing it with something else with similar characteristics. For example: 'My brother' is a piglet is a metaphor.What is a famous simile? ›
If you look at the tried-and-true ones above, you'll notice they're pithy and quick: dead as a doornail. blind as a bat. dry as dust. good as gold.
- You were as brave as a lion.
- They fought like cats and dogs.
- He is as funny as a barrel of monkeys.
- This house is as clean as a whistle.
- He is as strong as an ox.
- Your explanation is as clear as mud.
- Watching the show was like watching grass grow.
A simple metaphor has a single link between the subject and the metaphoric vehicle. The vehicle thus has a single meaning which is transferred directly to the subject.
It's a doddle. Easy peasy. It's a cinch. There's nothing to it.What is a metaphor Class 8? ›
Metaphor - When you compare two unlike or different things or ideas, it is known as a metaphor. It is an informal or implied simile in which the words 'like' 'as' are avoided. For example, He is like a Giant - Simile and He is a Giant - Metaphor.What is metaphor and give 5 examples? ›
Examples of dead metaphors include: “raining cats and dogs,” “throw the baby out with the bathwater,” and “heart of gold.” With a good, living metaphor, you get that fun moment of thinking about what it would look like if Elvis were actually singing to a hound dog (for example).What are lazy metaphors? ›
- olgakr / ThinkStock.
- A sack of potatoes. A bowl of cream of wheat that's settled into a thick film. ...
- Easy Mac in a coffee mug. Any meal in a coffee mug. ...
- Wilted grass that's sat under a potted plant too long. ...
- A snail riding a sloth. ...
- cheekylorns / ThinkStock.
To keep something secret is like covering it, or putting it in a container, so that other people cannot see it, e.g.: She accused him of covering up the truth. He tried to mask/disguise/camouflage his true feelings.What is a metaphor Class 10? ›
A metaphor is a figure of speech that describes an object or action in a way that isn't literally true but helps explain an idea or make a comparison. Example: “Chaos is a friend of mine.”, “ A good conscience is a continual Christmas.”What is a metaphor Class 9? ›
What is a metaphor? A metaphor is a figure of speech that is used to make a comparison, but in a way different from a simile. Instead, it makes the description of an object look as if it was literally true. In other words, it can be said that a metaphor is an implied comparison.What is metaphor with Example Class 10? ›
A metaphor is a word or phrase used to show its similarity to another thing. It helps to explain an idea, but if you take a metaphor at its literal meaning it will sound absurd. An example of a metaphor is “Alex is a chicken”. Literally, this sounds so very absurd.
To show you are really happy with a metaphor, you could say something like 'I'm on cloud nine' or 'I'm over the moon! ' Even if, like most of us, you haven't been to the moon, you can still use that idiom.Is Titanic a metaphor? ›
Titanic is a metaphor. It's about the hubris of the ship owners; it's about society at that time. It was a very optimistic time: technology was advancing; everything looked like there would be a great future. The Titanic stood for that.What is a simile example? ›
Life is like a box of chocolates: you never know which one you're going to get. Let's use this example to understand what a simile is: A simile is a phrase that uses a comparison to describe. For example, “life” can be described as similar to “a box of chocolates.”What is a metaphor for heart? ›
Heart metaphors abound in everyday life and language. To “take heart” is to have courage. To “speak from the heart” conveys sincerity. We say we “learned by heart” what we have understood thoroughly or committed to memory. To “take something to heart” reflects worry or sadness.What is a metaphor for sky? ›
The sky metaphor is commonly used when working with Self as Context. The metaphor starts with comparing oneself to the sky. As a person, I experience cloudy thoughts and feelings. I also experience sunny thoughts and feelings. I experience thunder or turbulent thoughts and feelings.How would you describe the ocean? ›
The ocean is a huge body of saltwater that covers about 71 percent of Earth's surface. The planet has one global ocean, though oceanographers and the countries of the world have traditionally divided it into four distinct regions: the Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, and Arctic oceans.What is an idiom for ocean? ›
A drop in the ocean
A very small part of what you really need. A thousand dollars seems like a lot of money, but it's just a drop in the ocean. We need much more to start the business.
"I will find comfort in the rhythm of the sea.” “We are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface but connected on the deep.” “Dance with the waves, move with the sea, let the rhythm of the water set your soul free.” “The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.”What 3 words would you use to describe the ocean? ›
Massive: (adjective) exceptionally large. Endless: (adjective) having or seeming to have no end or limit. Choppy: (adjective) of a sea or river having many small waves. Perilous: (adjective) full of danger or risk.What does ocean smell like? ›
The scent has a chemical foundation that finds the roots of its formula right in the sea itself. There are three molecules that give the sea its specific smell: Dimethyl Sulfide: is responsible for the salty, pungent, sulphurous odor. We also find it to a degree in the scent of truffles, in some cheeses and some beers.
The murmuring of the waves was hypnotic. The waves were oozing onto the beach. The palpitating pulse of the sea was steady and peaceful. The plinking of the wave-music was enthralling.What words go with ocean? ›
- briny deep.
- “Wild and free, just like the sea.”
- “Life is simple: just add water.”
- “We dream in colors borrowed from the sea.”
- “Let the sea set you free.”
- “Me and the ocean: Love at first sight.”
- “High tides. Good vibes.”
- “You, me and the sea.”
It can be calm and still or rough and rigid, but in the end it's always beautiful.” - Anonymous”What is a ocean poem? ›
Ocean poems can not only be dedicated to capturing the heart of sea, but to metaphors for love and trauma, among many other things. More than that, the ocean has played a role in the history of many cultures, making it a setting that is both intimately personal, and vastly universal.