25 Metaphors for Time

time metaphors similes and idioms

Here are some basic metaphors for time:

  1. Time is a river, constantly flowing and never looking back.
  2. Time is a thief, silently stealing moments from our grasp.
  3. Time is a tapestry, woven with the threads of countless memories.

Metaphors equate two seemingly unrelated things directly, while similes compare them using “like” or “as.”

A metaphor is crafted by drawing a direct comparison between two seemingly unrelated things, suggesting that one is the other to illuminate a deeper understanding or connection.

chrisAbout the Author: has a PhD in Education. He has been a teacher in schools and universities and has taught English as a Second Language in Colombia. He is former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education.

Metaphors for Time

1. Time is a fleeting shadow

Meaning: This metaphor illustrates that time, like a shadow, is transient and constantly moving, often eluding our grasp and passing by before we’re fully aware of its progression.

In a sentence: “As she watched her children grow, she was poignantly reminded that time is a fleeting shadow, always moving forward, leaving behind only memories.”

2. Time is a relentless river

Meaning: By comparing time to a river, this metaphor emphasizes its continuous, unstoppable flow, much like a river that never ceases its course, carrying everything in its path towards the future.

In a sentence: “No matter how much he wished to hold onto his youth, he recognized that time is a relentless river, sweeping him along its current towards the inevitable horizon of age.”

3. Time is a silent thief

Meaning: This metaphor portrays time as a stealthy robber, discreetly taking away moments, days, and years from our lives without us often realizing just how much has been stolen until it’s too late.

In a sentence: “She would often reminisce about her past, realizing that time is a silent thief, quietly taking away the days of her youth without her noticing.”

See Also: Similes for Time

4. Time is a golden hourglass

Meaning: Likening time to a golden hourglass underscores its value and preciousness, reminding us that every grain of sand, representing each moment, is invaluable and once passed, cannot be reclaimed.

In a sentence: “He began to cherish every moment with his family, understanding that time is a golden hourglass, where every second counts and should be treasured.”

5. Time is a winding road

Meaning: This metaphor paints time as a path with twists, turns, and unexpected detours, emphasizing the unpredictable nature of life and the journey each of us takes through it.

In a sentence: “Reflecting on the ups and downs of his life, he mused that time is a winding road, filled with unexpected challenges and rewarding vistas.”

6. Time is a ticking clock

Meaning: By likening time to a ticking clock, this metaphor accentuates the constant, rhythmic progression of moments, each tick marking the passing of another precious second.

In a sentence: “As the deadline approached, she felt the pressure of time as a ticking clock, each second bringing her closer to the pivotal moment.”

See Also: Idioms for Time

7. Time is a vanishing mist

Meaning: This metaphor conveys the idea that time, like mist, is ephemeral and can dissipate without notice, leaving only memories in its wake.

In a sentence: “Watching his daughter head off to college, he was struck by the notion that time is a vanishing mist, the years of her childhood disappearing like morning fog under the sun.”

8. Time is a sturdy bridge

Meaning: By comparing time to a bridge, this metaphor emphasizes the connection between past, present, and future, a structure that supports our journey from one phase of life to the next.

In a sentence: “As she transitioned into a new chapter of her life, she found comfort in the idea that time is a sturdy bridge, linking her cherished memories to the promise of tomorrow.”

9. Time is a fleeting whisper

Meaning: This metaphor portrays time as a quiet, transient murmur, emphasizing its subtle and swift nature, often passing by unnoticed until it’s distant and faint.

In a sentence: “Lost in his work, he suddenly realized that time is a fleeting whisper, as the years of dedication had silently passed, leaving a legacy of achievements.”

10. Time is an ever-turning wheel

Meaning: By likening time to a continuously rotating wheel, this metaphor accentuates its cyclical nature, where events and moments come around, only to be replaced by the next turn.

In a sentence: “Observing the repeating patterns in history, she concluded that time is an ever-turning wheel, where past lessons often resurface in new contexts.”

11. Time is a shifting sandscape

Meaning: This metaphor suggests that time, like sands in the desert, is constantly changing, reshaping our realities and experiences in unpredictable and varying ways.

In a sentence: “Facing the evolving challenges of his career, he recognized that time is a shifting sandscape, where today’s certainties might be tomorrow’s mirages.”

12. Time is a silent witness

Meaning: Portraying time as a quiet observer emphasizes its impartial nature, bearing witness to all events, joys, and sorrows, without interference or judgment.

In a sentence: “As she looked back on her life’s decisions, both good and bad, she felt that time is a silent witness, recording every choice and consequence in the annals of memory.”

13. Time is a cascading waterfall

Meaning: This metaphor paints time as a powerful and continuous force, much like a waterfall that never ceases its descent, constantly moving and bringing about change in its wake.

In a sentence: “As she watched the seasons change, she was reminded that time is a cascading waterfall, endlessly flowing and reshaping the landscapes of our lives.”

14. Time is a vast ocean

Meaning: By likening time to an ocean, this metaphor emphasizes its boundless nature, filled with depths of experiences, currents of change, and waves of moments that crash upon the shores of memory.

In a sentence: “Navigating the challenges of growing older, he felt that time is a vast ocean, where each wave brought new experiences, and the horizon marked the mysteries of the future.”

15. Time is a melting glacier

Meaning: This metaphor portrays time as a slowly diminishing entity, much like glaciers that gradually melt away, symbolizing the impermanence of moments and the inevitability of change.

In a sentence: “Reflecting on the fleeting nature of youth, she realized that time is a melting glacier, with each moment slipping away, leaving traces in the rivers of memory.”

16. Time is an ancient tree

Meaning: By comparing time to an old tree, this metaphor underscores its enduring and grounded nature, branching out into countless moments, and rooted deep in history and memory.

In a sentence: “As he delved into his family’s history, he felt that time is an ancient tree, with each branch representing generations and every leaf a story of the past.”

17. Time is a fleeting comet

Meaning: This metaphor portrays time as a brilliant and swift-moving celestial body, illuminating the sky momentarily before vanishing into the vastness of space, emphasizing the transient and awe-inspiring nature of moments.

In a sentence: “Watching his children grow up in the blink of an eye, he mused that time is a fleeting comet, blazing brightly for a brief moment before disappearing into the cosmic abyss.”

18. Time is a labyrinth

Meaning: By likening time to a maze, this metaphor accentuates its complex and unpredictable nature, filled with twists, turns, and moments of discovery, where the journey is as significant as the destination.

In a sentence: “Navigating the uncertainties of life, she realized that time is a labyrinth, where each decision led to a new path and every corner turned revealed unexpected revelations.”

19. Time is a soaring bird

Meaning: This metaphor suggests that time, like a bird in flight, moves gracefully and freely, covering vast distances and offering a bird’s-eye view of the tapestry of life below.

In a sentence: “Reflecting on the swift passage of the years, he felt that time is a soaring bird, gliding effortlessly through the skies, casting fleeting shadows upon the landscapes of life.”

20. Time is a shifting kaleidoscope

Meaning: Portraying time as a kaleidoscope emphasizes its dynamic and ever-changing nature, where each turn presents a new pattern, a unique blend of moments and memories.

In a sentence: “As she embraced the ebb and flow of life’s experiences, she understood that time is a shifting kaleidoscope, with each rotation revealing a vibrant mosaic of moments.”

21. Time is a galloping steed

Meaning: This metaphor portrays time as a fast-paced and untamed horse, racing ahead with unbridled energy, emphasizing the swift and unstoppable nature of its passage.

In a sentence: “Watching the years pass with astonishing speed, he likened time to a galloping steed, carrying him through the landscapes of life with exhilarating momentum.”

22. Time is a crumbling fortress

Meaning: By likening time to a decaying stronghold, this metaphor underscores the impermanent and eroding nature of moments, suggesting that even the most formidable structures and memories can fade with its passage.

In a sentence: “Reflecting on ancient civilizations and their legacies, she mused that time is a crumbling fortress, gradually wearing down even the most enduring monuments of history.”

23. Time is a dancing flame

Meaning: This metaphor paints time as an ever-moving and shimmering fire, illuminating darkness momentarily with its warmth and light, symbolizing the transient yet impactful nature of moments.

In a sentence: “Amidst the celebrations and joys of life, she felt that time is a dancing flame, casting a radiant glow upon cherished memories, even if briefly.”

24. Time is a silent snowfall

Meaning: By comparing time to the quiet descent of snowflakes, this metaphor emphasizes its gentle and gradual nature, blanketing the world in a serene layer of moments and memories.

In a sentence: “As he witnessed the seasons of his life change, he realized that time is a silent snowfall, softly covering the past and preparing the ground for future growth.”

25. Time is a revolving door

Meaning: Portraying time as a continuously moving entrance suggests its cyclical nature, where moments come and go, allowing for both arrivals and departures in the journey of life.

In a sentence: “Navigating the transitions of life, she saw time as a revolving door, where every exit led to a new beginning and every entrance marked the end of a chapter.”

Comprehension Quiz for Students

  1. What is a metaphor?
    • A. A direct comparison between two unrelated things.
    • B. A comparison using “like” or “as”.
    • C. A repetition of sounds at the beginning of words.
    • D. A figure of speech that gives human qualities to non-human things.
  2. Which of the following best describes the function of a metaphor?
    • A. To create a rhythmic pattern in prose.
    • B. To emphasize direct similarities between two objects.
    • C. To illuminate a deeper understanding or connection between two concepts.
    • D. To exaggerate a point for comedic effect.
  3. Which of the following is NOT a metaphor?
    • A. Life is a journey.
    • B. She swims like a fish.
    • C. Hope is a beacon in the night.
    • D. Dreams are the seeds of reality.
  4. According to one of the metaphors presented, what does the comparison of time to a “cascading waterfall” emphasize?
    • A. Time is stagnant and unmoving.
    • B. Time is endlessly flowing and reshaping our lives.
    • C. Time can be easily controlled and redirected.
    • D. Time has a rigid and predictable structure.
  5. Which metaphor suggests that time is valuable and should be treasured?
    • A. Time is a ticking clock.
    • B. Time is a vast ocean.
    • C. Time is a burning candle.
    • D. Time is a golden hourglass.
  6. In the metaphor “Time is a shifting sandscape”, what does the “shifting sands” signify?
    • A. The stability and permanence of time.
    • B. The cyclical nature of time returning to the same point.
    • C. The changing and unpredictable nature of time.
    • D. The slow and gradual progression of time.
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