My favorite metaphors, similes and analogies for change are:
- It’s a breath of fresh air.
- It’s as good as a holiday.
- It’s carried in the wind.
- It waits for no one.
- It’s a train leaving the station.
(All 12 are discussed in detail below).
Metaphors for change can help explain your feelings about the change that is occurring. Some are positive, others negative, and others neutral.
I’m particularly interested in the neutral ones (discussed below) that show a stoic observation that change happens whether you want it to or not.
Positive Change Metaphors, Analogies and Similes
Positive metaphors for change can be used to explain a long hoped for change. You might use these when you get a new boss who’s better than your old boss, or you move from an apartment to a nice big home. These analogies and metaphors tend to indicate a sense of relief.
1. A Breath of Fresh Air
The saying “a breath of fresh air” is an idiomatic saying that we can use whenever a positive change has occurred. While you might not be literally breathing in fresh air, the change feels a bit like that (if you said it’s ‘like’ a breath of fresh air, that would make it a simile).
You could picture a prisoner getting out of prison, stepping out onto a hill in the countryside and breathing-in the free, fresh air. Imagine how they must feel.
We are invoking that sense of happiness when saying “change is a breath of fresh air.”
2. Weight off my Shoulders
The concept that a change is a weight off someone’s shoulders similarly relates the relieving feeling of having something lifted off your shoulders. Imagine that you had a backpack full of sand and you were carrying it up a mountain. When you get to the top of the mountain and take the bag off your shoulders, it would be a great relief.
That same feeling is referred to when you say “that’s a weight off my shoulders.”
See Also: Mountain Metaphors
3. A Holiday
There’s a famous simile that says “change is as good as a holiday”. The way this is phrased makes it a simile. We’re not saying change is a holiday, but rather that it’s like a holiday. But we could just as easily say “that change of government is a holiday from bad policies.”
In general though, you’d only want to use this saying in its simile form because it sounds more natural to the ear that way.
This metaphor refers to the idea that a change can make you feel refreshed and relaxed, and your life gets a bit of a reset.
Neutral Metaphors for Change
I like these three neutral metaphors because they’re stoic. They tend not to pass judgement on the change. Instead, they get across this idea that change is going to happen and you have no control over it, so you may as well accept it and change your attitude.
4. A Strong Current
Sea currents are powerful forces that pull you – often frighteningly so – into the ocean.
The idea that change is a strong current in the sea makes us visualize being carried along by the change. It implies that change is going to happen and you’re going to have to accept that it is happening. There’s no point resisting it.
5. A Bump in the Road
This change metaphor looks at a changes as something that doesn’t necessarily take you off course, but might just be a small jolt. You are able to right yourself and keep on going. This one can be used when a change is not necessarily going to be permanent or it’s something you can absorb and get on with your life.
6. Change is Carried in the Wind
The famous song “the winds of change” talks about the idea that you can feel a change coming in the wind. It makes us think of the air before a storm. A hot day might have ended and a storm is about to sweep through. The first thing you often notice is a strong, cool wind gushing past you and the temperature dropping rapidly.
But we don’t always have to use this term when talking about the weather. We can use this term whenever we feel as if a change is upon us. Perhaps an election has been called and we can tell a new government is coming into power. A reporter might say: “I can feel the winds of change carrying the new government into power in this election.”
Negative Change Analogies, Metaphors and Similes
This set of metaphors and analogies see change as a bad thing.
7. A Bull in a China Shop
Imagine an angry bull in a shop full of delicate plates made of china. Before long, all that china will have been smashed to bits by the bull’s horns and legs.
We can use this idiom to refer to a change that has completely altered everything in a situation and left it in tatters. I’d probably use this one as a simile: “The change was like a bull in a china shop, altering all the norms of out society.”
8. The Change Upended my Life
When something is upended, it is turned upside down. Consider a table that’s been tipped upside down so everything that was on the table was strewn all over the floor. Of course, change itself can’t upend anything – it doesn’t have the arms to do so! But we can say it upended things in a figurative way, whenever a change wreaks havoc.
9. A Whirlwind
The idea that change is a whirlwind similarly gives us this sense that the change has caused a lot of damage. A whirlwind is something that will wash through a landscape and pick things up and throw them about. It usually leaves a lot of damage.
When a change is a whirlwind (or ‘like’ a whirlwind’) we’re saying that the change has disoriented everyone and caused the people’s lives to become a bit chaotic.
10. A Train Leaving the Station
Imagine a train is set to leave the train station at 6pm and you’re standing there whether to get on the train or not. You’re unsure, really. This idea of a train leaving the station gives us a sense that something is going to happen with or without your consent. So you can either “get on board” and embrace the change or “be left at the station” and be left behind by the changes.
Personification of Change
Metaphors that personify change give change human characteristics.
11. Change Imposes Itself
Someone who imposes themselves is a person who enters a room whether you want them to or not. While a non-sentient being can be “imposing” (imagine, for example, an imposing mountain that you are going to climb), but something that imposes itself implies that the change has some sort of agency. So the way in which this sentence is construed is an example of the personification of change.
12. Change Waits for No One
Change is not something that ‘waits’. People wait, but phenomena occur whether we want to or not! “Change waiting for no one” gives us the sense that it’s an impatient person, which it of course is not! But it does get the point across that we’re not in control of stopping or even pausing some of life’s changes.
13. Change Shook Me
When you have been shaken, you feel a but dizzy, jarred and confused even. You might need to take a seat and catch your breath. You may even be physically hurt!
To say that change ‘shook you’ is to give the sense that change has two hands which it has put on your shoulders and pushed you back and forth really fast in a shaking motion. Of course, change can’t do that, but nonetheless we often use the term “it shook me” to figuratively explain how something might make you feel shocked.
The above analogies, similes and metaphors for change are just a small number and by no means an exhaustive list. But hopefully they have given you a sense of the ways you can talk about change to help you to express yourself and how you feel about a change that may have occurred.
These metaphors may be useful for people trying to talk about a change that’s happened in their life, or even just a writer looking to find more creative ways to write so that they can create striking images in the mind of the reader.
Can you come up with other change metaphors yourself?
I’m a Scorpio, I love the outdoors, and I’ve written articles in some major online publications like Medium and The Weekly. My favorite metaphor? Anything that’s got to do with baseball. I’m fascinated by the fact our language has baseball weaved all through it. Read more about me here.