Cloud metaphors can be used to explain their features, such as:
- They’re pillows in the sky.
- They’re sheep in the sky.
- They’re a sponge.
They can also be used to explain phenomena entirely unrelated, like:
- Dark clouds on the horizon – something bad is coming.
- On cloud nine – feeling euphoric.
- Head in the clouds – daydreaming.
Below are 16 of my favorite cloud metaphors with explanations of each.
Cloud Metaphors and Idioms in our Language
1. The Sun Peeked through the Clouds
I outlined this saying in my metaphors for hope article. The concept here is that the sun peeking out from the clouds is the emergence of better days ahead. It’s the first sign that a storm has ended and happier days are coming. The sun often symbolizes positivity while the clouds symbolize negativity and dreariness.
2. Dark Clouds on the Horizon
This idiom is used to explain that something bad is coming. It might not be occurring any time soon – the horizon is a fair way off – but the clouds are on their way. You might need to prepare as soon as possible! Once the clouds come overhead, there will be a storm and you’ll need to ‘batten down the hatches’.
3. On Cloud Nine
To be on cloud nine is to be extremely happy. This idiom comes from an old taxonomy of clouds published in 1895. It listed 10 different types of clouds. Cloud 9 was the highest of all. So, this saying is to imply that you’re very high. Being up high and being happy are commonly associated, as outline in my article on happiness metaphors.
4. Head in the Clouds
To have your head in the clouds is to be disconnected from reality. If someone’s head is so far up in the sky that it’s in the clouds, you can’t listen to and pay attention to the people around you. So, you might say that someone who is dreaming up fanciful ideas, you might say: “that guy’s hot his head in the clouds”, meaning he’s detached from reality.
5. My Mind is Clouded
This metaphor uses the idea of a ‘foggy mind’ to refer to the idea that you’re struggling to think straight. It’s analogous to the idea of trying to see something but being unable to see it through the fog. You might say this if you are having a day where you are struggling to read or think through complex ideas, maybe because you drank too much the day before or if you’re super tired.
6. Every Cloud has a Silver Lining
This saying is to say that there is good to be seen even terrible situations. It’s usually used to comfort people who are distraught and can’t see positivity in a situation or a way out. Sometimes the positive aspect can’t be seen yet, but this saying implies you can find one if you look hard enough.
The saying originates from John Milton’s poem Comus: A Mask Presented from 1634:
Was I deceived, or did a sable cloud
Turn forth her silver lining on the night?
I did not err; there does a sable cloud
Turn forth her silver lining on the night,
And casts a gleam over this tufted grove.
7. The Clouds Parted
This saying can be used as a metaphor to explain a moment in which bad times came to an end – finally! It’s very similar to the metaphor outlined earlier that the ‘sun peeked out from behind the clouds’. The idea here is that blue skies have emerged, signifying happier days after a terrible time that has finally come to an end.
8. The Clouds Opened Up
We use this saying when it starts to rain. It gives us this impression that the clouds are floodgates holding water up. The gates open out and let water shower down on us. Of course, this isn’t quite how it works – the clouds are the water. But from down below, sometimes they do seem like a big barrier or even a saucer holding the water up in the sky ready to drip.
9. Sleeping on Clouds
When we say ‘sleeping on clouds’, we mean to say we had a lovely sleep. Imagine how comfortable it would be to sleep on something as soft as a cloud! This saying is usually used as a simile when you describe the comfort of a new bed – it’s “like” sleeping on clouds. But you might also frame it as a metaphor when you see someone in a deep sleep.
Metaphors to Describe Clouds
The following metaphors and similes describe the shape and features of clouds.
10. The Cloud is a Sheep in the Sky
If you look up at the clouds you might see they look a lot like a sheep (if you say they look like a sheep it would be a simile). But if you say they are a sheep, then you have created a metaphor. The fluffiness of a cloud might remind you of the fluffiness of a sheep.
You could extend this metaphor to discuss the sky as a paddock with a group of sheep running around freely.
11. The Cloud is a Marshmallow in the Sky
This is another big, white, fluffy object that could be supplemented for clouds to make a metaphor. You could imagine a sea of delicious marshmallows hovering in the sky, tempting you to leap up, catch them, and ram them into your mouth! This might be a description you might get off a young child. But children can be excellent at creative metaphors!
12. The Clouds Danced in the Sky
When the clouds roll through the sky at high speeds they can sometimes feel like they’re dancing with one another. One might roll over another, or two might merge to form one. Sometimes they shape-shift and create different patterns in the sky. It can feel like you’re watching a dance on the great stage of the sky.
13. The Cloud Blanketed the Sky
Sometimes a cloud can look like a blanket over the sky. And it often feels like it’s a blanket put there by God to keep ups protected from the blazing sun above. And when the clouds fall low over the landscape and form rolling fog, it can even look like it’s a blanket over the landscape tucking the world into bed.
14. The Clouds Rested in their Place
When the winds stop and the clouds stop in the sky, we could say they came to rest. Of course, they don’t really rest. Humans rest! So this could be considered a special type of metaphor called personification. I think this one works on two levels: first, because when something comes to a stop we say it ‘rests’. But we also regularly associate clouds with sleep – such as with the above metaphor about ‘sleeping on clouds’.
15. The Clouds are a Sponge
When explaining clouds to children we often use this metaphor. Clouds act a lot like sponges because they hold water (truly – they are water), and then they can also dump water like a sponge. You could say “A cloud collects water like a sponge” (a simile) and then “the clouds dump water like when you squeeze the sponge” (another simile).
16. Pillows in the Sky
Clouds look soft and fluffy from all the way down on earth. When we see big fluffy ones (like a cumulonimbus), we might look up at them and say: “those clouds are pillows in the sky!”
This pillow concept refers back, again, to the association we have between clouds and sleep.
Cloud metaphors can be used to both describe the weather conditions and invoke concepts like happiness, looming trouble, hope in bad times, and being detached from reality (among other things).
While this list of metaphors and similes outlines some of the most popular ones, there are many more that you could think up and create of your own. The great thing about metaphors is you’re only limited to your own creativity. So if you haven’t found the metaphor you need here, I hope this article has gotten your creative juices flowing to come up with your own.
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.