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Metaphor vs. Personification: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on January 9, 2024
Metaphor is a figure of speech comparing two unlike things without using "like" or "as." Personification is giving human characteristics to non-human entities.

Key Differences

A metaphor is a literary device that directly compares two unrelated subjects, suggesting a resemblance. Personification, on the other hand, assigns human traits to inanimate objects or abstract concepts.
Metaphors create symbolic meanings, while personification aims to evoke empathy or understanding by humanizing non-human elements. Metaphors are often abstract, whereas personification relies on concrete human qualities.
Metaphors are versatile, found in various forms of writing, to imply similarity between different things. Personification specifically animates the non-living, adding depth and emotion to otherwise mundane descriptions.
Both metaphor and personification enrich language, but a metaphor is more about conceptual comparison, whereas personification focuses on bringing life to the lifeless.
The use of metaphor can be subtle or direct, creating layered meanings. Personification, by contrast, is more straightforward, attributing human behavior to non-human entities.

Comparison Chart


Comparison between two unlike things
Assigning human qualities to non-human entities


Abstract conceptual similarity
Humanizing objects or concepts


To create symbolic meaning
To evoke empathy or understanding


"Time is a thief"
"The wind whispered through the trees"

Literary Effect

Creates deeper understanding or surprise
Makes descriptions lively and relatable

Metaphor and Personification Definitions


Metaphor is a symbolic representation of one thing by another.
His words were a double-edged sword.


Personification gives human qualities to non-human things.
The leaves danced in the wind.


A metaphor equates two different things as if they are the same.
The world is a stage.


Personification embodies abstract concepts with human traits.
Justice stood tall and firm.


Metaphor often personifies abstract concepts.
Hope is an anchor for the soul.


Personification makes inanimate objects behave like people.
The clock glared at me, ticking loudly.


Metaphor implies resemblance without using "like" or "as."
Her eyes were stars, shining in the dark.


Personification involves attributing human emotions to nature.
The sun smiled down on us.


A metaphor suggests hidden similarities.
Silence is a blank canvas.


Personification is the humanization of the non-human.
Fear crept up on me.


A figure of speech in which a word or phrase that ordinarily designates one thing is used to designate another, thus making an implicit comparison, as in "a sea of troubles" or "All the world's a stage" (Shakespeare).


The act of personifying.


One thing conceived as representing another; a symbol
"Hollywood has always been an irresistible, prefabricated metaphor for the crass, the materialistic, the shallow, and the craven" (Neal Gabler).


A person or thing typifying a certain quality or idea; an embodiment or exemplification
"He's invisible, a walking personification of the Negative" (Ralph Ellison).


The use of a word or phrase to refer to something other than its literal meaning, invoking an implicit similarity between the thing described and what is denoted by the word or phrase.


A figure of speech in which inanimate objects or abstractions are endowed with human qualities or are represented as possessing human form, as in Hunger sat shivering on the road or Flowers danced about the lawn. Also called prosopopeia.


A word or phrase used in such implied comparison.


Artistic representation of an abstract quality or idea as a person.


The use of an everyday object or concept to represent an underlying facet of the computer and thus aid users in performing tasks.
Desktop metaphor; wastebasket metaphor


A person, thing or name typifying a certain quality or idea; an embodiment or exemplification.
Adolf Hitler was the personification of anti-Semitism.


(intransitive) To use a metaphor.


A literary device in which an inanimate object or an idea is given human qualities.
The writer used personification to convey her ideas.


(transitive) To describe by means of a metaphor.


An artistic representation of an abstract quality as a human
The Grim Reaper is a personification of death.


The transference of the relation between one set of objects to another set for the purpose of brief explanation; a compressed simile; e. g., the ship plows the sea.


The act of personifying; impersonation; embodiment.


A figure of speech in which an expression is used to refer to something that it does not literally denote in order to suggest a similarity


A figure of speech in which an inanimate object or abstract idea is represented as animated, or endowed with personality; prosopop ia; as, the floods clap their hands.


A person who represents an abstract quality;
She is the personification of optimism


Representing an abstract quality or idea as a person or creature


The act of attributing human characteristics to abstract ideas etc.


What's the purpose of personification?

To make descriptions more vivid and relatable.

What is a metaphor?

A comparison between two unlike things, suggesting they are similar.

Can personification be used in non-fiction?

Yes, for illustrative purposes.

Can inanimate objects be the subject of personification?

Absolutely, that's a common use of personification.

Are metaphors always obvious?

No, some are subtle and require interpretation.

How do metaphors enhance language?

They add depth and complexity to expressions.

Is a metaphor a lie?

No, it's a figurative way of expressing a truth.

Why use personification in poetry?

To evoke emotions and paint vivid images.

What is personification?

Giving human characteristics to non-human things.

Can metaphors and personifications be used together?

Yes, they can be combined for creative expression.

Are metaphors culturally specific?

Some metaphors may have cultural nuances.

Do metaphors have to be logical?

Not necessarily, they often work on an intuitive level.

What makes personification effective in storytelling?

It adds character and relatability to non-human elements.

Can metaphors be mixed?

Yes, though it can lead to confusing imagery.

Can animals be personified?

Yes, animals are often given human characteristics.

Can metaphors be visual?

Yes, visual metaphors are common in art and advertising.

Are there different types of personification?

Yes, ranging from simple to complex human attributes.

How does personification affect the reader?

It engages the reader's imagination and empathy.

What's the difference between metaphor and simile?

Similes use "like" or "as" for comparison; metaphors do not.

Is it possible to overuse metaphors?

Yes, overuse can make writing confusing or pretentious.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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