Darkness metaphors, similes, idioms and proverbs fit into a few different categories.
There are metaphors for darkness that describe how the night behaves, like darkness as a:
We can also see it as a special type of metaphor called ‘personification’ which gives it human-like qualities, like:
- Imposing itself
- Speaking to you
- Being your friend
Then there are the metaphors that use darkness as a metaphor for negativity, like:
- Dark thoughts
- A dark future
Below is a full list of darkness metaphors and descriptions and examples of each.
Metaphors describing Darkness
1. The Darkness is a Veil
Perhaps the most common darkness metaphor, this one relates darkness to the concept of having something pulled down over your eyes. The most obvious feature that connects darkness to veils is that they both obscure our vision.
In everyday language, we will usually phrase this metaphor as “the veil of darkness”, and use it when describing someone who is being hindered by the night. For example, you might say “the veil of darkness obscured his ability to see his target.”
2. Under the Cover of Darkness
The cover of darkness is very similar to the veil of darkness concept above. To consider darkness to be a ‘cover’ makes us think that perhaps darkness does not simply blind you, but also protects you. It “provides you with cover”.
This metaphor might be used in a situation where the darkness is good for the protagonist. For example, your protagonist might be escaping imprisonment under the cover of darkness.
3. The Night as a Blanket
Imagine sitting on a hill looking out over the sunset. An enormous blanket made by God begins to descend and lay itself out over the landscape. Of course, darkness is not literally a blanket, but because it could feel like you’re lying under a blanket, we can use this metaphorically to provide an image in the reader’s mind.
4. The Darkness Creeps
The ‘creeping darkness’ is a common way to describe dusk. You can sit and feel it slowly and steadily take over from the light. It makes us think of a lion or tiger that gets down low and moves in a really smooth motion toward you. You sometimes feel like it’s not moving and just standing still, but in reality it is moving inch by inch toward you. Before you know it, you’re engulfed in the dark.
5. The Darkness is Broken by the Light
This is a saying that you might use at sunrise when the sun casts its first few rays upon the landscape. Of course, darkness cannot ‘break’ per se, as it’s not a physical object. But there’s a sense of similarity here when the light rays almost punch through blackness to reveal the landscape to us.
6. Darkness Imposes Itself
A person who imposes themselves does not give you a choice. They will come and be there even if you don’t want them in your life. They insist that they be heard.
This metaphor is a type of metaphor called personification. It gives the dark sentient qualities: that it can somehow behave like a human. But we understand this metaphor because it makes sense in a figurative way. Darkness will come each day whether we like it or not. The sun always sets and the moon will rise, whether you want it or not.
7. Listening to the Darkness
Sometimes the night is the quietest time of all. Everyone is asleep and quiet, even the animals. So the idea that you’re listening to the darkness is similar to saying you’re listening to the night or the silence.
But can you literally listen to darkness? The dark, itself, does not make noise. Animals, people, and maybe even landslides make noise. But a state of light (or lack thereof) does not make noise, so this is a figure of speech rather than a literal statement.
8. The Darkness Spoke Back
To extend the metaphor of the dark making noises, we could say that the dark “spoke”. You might say this when you yell into the night, and the echo comes back to you. Or, you might say that it “spoke back with its silence”. As with the listening metaphor above, the idea that darkness can speak is figurative, but here it’s a clear instance of personification.
9. Darkness is my Friend
As a teenager I read the great book “Darkness be my Friend”. It’s a book about teenagers caught in a war. They need to use the darkness as ‘cover’ to hide from soldiers who are searching for them. In this metaphor, the darkness is a friend because it shields them from being seen.
10. It Lifts
This metaphor is the opposite of the ‘veil’ and ‘blanket’ ones above. You could even imagine that blanket that fell during the sunset lift again during the sunrise. As the sun rays pierce through the night, we can imagine the night rising until it disappears altogether.
12. It Settles
The opposite of the lifting of the night is the settling of the night. After dusk, we don’t expect light to return for many hours. So we can imagine the darkness settling in all the valleys and crevices and ‘resting’ there (that’s another metaphor) until dawn.
Metaphors using Darkness
13. The Battle between Light and Dark
In my articles on moon metaphors and sun metaphors, I discussed this endless battle between the sun and the moon. As the sun sets, the moon takes over. It has oversight over the land until sunrise the next day, when the sun takes over again.
This ‘battle’ can also be related to light and dark, where light comes for a few hours, then dark comes for a few hours after that.
But another interpretation of this metaphor is that darkness is evil and light is good.
This metaphorical use of dark and light has gone on throughout history, and is likely related to the idea that during night time bad things can happen without being seen by others.
14. The Future is Dark
To say the future is dark is to say that it’s bleak. There isn’t much to look forward to in the future. This might be a thing you’d say in a dystopian novel where the world is controlled by evil people. Here, there is continuation of the motif that darkness is bad and evil, as opposed to light which is good.
15. I’m Having Dark Thoughts
Dark thoughts are negative or sad thoughts. Darkness is employed here to replace the word ‘negative’, but has the same effect because we relate darkness to bad things.
A person having dark thoughts might be going through a hard time. They might be feeling sad or distressed, or even have depression. In fact, in our article on depression metaphors darkness appears a few times.
Similes, proberbs, idioms and metaphors for darkness can help writers to express negativity, sadness or evil things. They can assist you in demonstrating a character’s depression or even to construct an antagonist in a story as someone who is ‘black’, ‘bleak’, and indeed ‘dark’.
At other times, you might want to use darkness metaphors to describe how your protagonist is interacting with the night. They might be using it as a blanket or cover, or they may be obstructed by its veil.
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.