My favorite metaphors about dreams are:
- Sweet dreams
- My wildest dreams
- A dream is a seed in the mind
So other great dream idioms include:
- The American dream
- Living the dream
- A pipe dream
Below, I’ve outlined a range of examples of dream similes, idioms and metaphors in the English language. They’re by no means the only ones, but I think I’ve gathered some of the most common ones.
Dream Metaphors and Similes
1. Wildest Dreams
Something that is unfathomable might only exist “in your wildest dreams”. It doesn’t mean that you were imagining the forest or a jungle or somewhere wild. Rather, it means that something is extremely unlikely. It’s never going to happen!
This is an idiomatic phrase that is often used to say you really don’t want to do something or don’t like something, for example:
John: “Do you want to go on that rollercoaster ride?”
Jane: “Not in my wildest dreams! I’m afraid of heights!”
2. Sweet Dreams
We will often say “sweet dreams” to someone just before they go to bed. It’s a way of wishing someone a good night’s sleep. So, it is primarily an idiom. But it is also metaphorical because dreams can’t literally be sweet. But, sweetness is associated with positive things like beauty, innocence and delicious food.
3. Dreams are Moments of Freedom
People may not be literally free when they go into their dreams. They might still wake up and find themselves in prison or a sad stage of their life. But, for those brief moments when you’re asleep, you can feel free. You might be able to fly, have the strength of your youth back, or be somewhere else in the world entirely.
4. A Dream is as Good as a Holiday (Simile)
There is a more common saying that goes: “a change is as good as a holiday”, which is to say changing things in your life can be refreshing and regenerating. You could also apply this simile to dreaming also (‘as good as’ makes it a comparative simile, rather than a metaphor).
The idea of this simile is that a nice dream can make your worries and anxieties go away for a while so you wake up refreshed and ready to take on the world.
5. A Nightmare is a Prison
While often we talk about dreams as being a positive escape from reality, a nightmare can be seen as the exact opposite.
You can often feel trapped in a nightmare and unable to escape from it. This makes us think of the nightmare as a prison that could cause night sweats and rough sleep. You might wake up feeling exhausted and even traumatized by the experience.
6. A Dream is an Aspiration
We will often talk about “…my dreams…” when we’re not really talking about dreams. We’re talking about aspirations for our future, but ones that seem far off and difficult to achieve. You might say: “I dream of becoming an astronaut one day.”
This metaphor is invoked famously by Martin Luther King Jr. in his speech I have a Dream. Here, he’s really talking about his hopes and aspirations for the future, not a literal dream that he might once have had.
7. Tomorrow is but a Dream
This is a metaphor because we’re saying tomorrow (or the future) is a dream. And of course, we know it isn’t. But here we’re invoking the idea that a dream is an aspiration for our future.
We might extend this metaphor by saying: “Yesterday is a memory and tomorrow is a dream.” It gives us this sense that the only thing that’s certain is the present.
8. A Dream is a Seed in the Mind
Sometimes our dreams give us ideas. These could be big ideas: an invention, a business idea, or a vision of who you want to be in the future.
We could consider these ideas to be ‘seeds’ that will grow in your mind until one day the flourish and bloom into something amazing. You might turn that invention idea into a real thing that you sell for millions of dollars; or you might turn that dream of running a marathon into your own reality.
9. Dreaming is like Living on another Planet
This simile speaks of how crazily removed our dreams can be from real life. They might even feel like you’re on Mars or Jupiter. The rules of gravity might be different, or the behaviors and actions of the people around you might be behaving in ways that they don’t really behave in real life.
So, this simile is basically saying that dreams can be crazy and removed from reality. But it’s just more fun to say they’re “like living on another planet”.
10. My Dreams are my Oasis
If you aren’t enjoying your life you might consider your dreams as being a place where you can escape and be happy. While dreams aren’t an actual location (although you might dream you’re in a location), you could consider them to be a ‘refuge’ or even an ‘oasis’ where you can live the life you really wish you could live.
11. Dare to Dream
This idiom means that you have high aspirations for your future. It doesn’t mean to literally dream, but rather to aspire to something that might seem unrealistic or even impossible right now.
But, it’s seen as a positive thing to do. Only people who dare to have high aspirations will ever achieve those aspirations. And those people who “dare to dream” are the ones who will change the world.
12. Living in your Dreams
A person who is living their dream is someone whose life is exactly what they had always hoped it would be. It’s the life you might see in the happiest dreams you have in your life.
This is also something you might say about someone who has escaped the nine-to-five of their career and has gone to live on a boat or in Mexico. They’re living a life everyone else wants, but they have somehow found a way to achieve it.
13. You can Live a Thousand lives in your Dreams
Each night you might be taken away to a different imagined existence. And really vivid dreams almost feel real when you’re in them. It feels like you’re actually living that life, and perhaps your dreams are real life and everything else is fake.
The vividness and strength of these dreams makes them feel like you’ve fallen into an entirely new life and existence.
So, no, you can’t literally live a thousand lives. But it can feel like it, we we’re drawing an analogy here to create a vivid image in your mind.
14. Chase your Dreams
Once again, we can see that society has supplanted the word “aspirations” with “dreams”. But this metaphor also applies to the term “chase”. You can’t chase your aspirations. Where are they? In which direction will you run? You won’t. Because there’s nothing physical to chase.
So, what this metaphor is really saying, is that you should pursue or work toward the things you really want in life.
Here’s an example:
Sam: “I want to be a football player when I grow up.”
Joe: “How are you going to make sure this happens?”
Sam: “I’m going to train every day.”
Joe: “Good job. You’re chasing your dreams.”
15. The American Dream
The American Dream is an idiom that’s at the core of American mythology. It’s this ethos that anyone can achieve anything they want in the land of freedom. If you put in the effort, you will get the chance to become rich, famous, or simply happy.
It’s a rejection of strict social class structures that existed in the old world. In old Europe, it was hard to go from working class to upper class because you were blocked from the jobs and education required. You couldn’t become a nobleman or king because your status at birth determined your life.
Supposedly, in the United States, anyone can succeed with enough effort. Of course, this idiom is quite blind to the extensive barriers to success many people in the United States experience – usually including poverty and racism.
16. A Pipe Dream
While we usually encourage people to work toward their aspirations when we say things like “chase your dreams”, this idiom is less positive.
A pipe dream is an unrealistic aspiration. We’ll often use this phrase dismissively to downplay or reject someone’s aspirations.
The phrase is often heard in politics. For example:
Politician 1: “I think we should build a high speed railway around the country.”
Politician 2: “That’s impossible. It’s a ridiculous pipe dream! We’ll never have enough money for that.”
17. Dreams come True
This idiom is often used when talking about people getting married or achieving a goal they have worked hard for over a long period of time. For example, a bride might say in her wedding vows: “You are the love of my life. This is a dream come true.”
Similarly, this saying can be used when talking about winning a marathon, getting a job you have always wanted, or buying the “house of your dreams”.
18. Dream Team
The Dream Team is the 1992 United States Men’s basketball team. It’s considered the greatest basketball team of all time. It had huge figures in the team, like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.
But we also use this idiom whenever a group of people come together (be it in sports, business or a social group) who seem to work together extremely well. Your business team might have the perfect mix of people with the right skills, or your social group might all be such good friends that you consider yourself the best group of friends ever.
This list of similes, idioms and metaphors about dreams is by no means exclusive. But they do teach us about our society’s perceptions of dreams. In particular they show use that dreams:
- Are analogous to aspirations and hopes that we hold deep down inside of us.
- Can be a path to freedom.
- Can also be a ‘trap’ if it becomes a nightmare.
If none of the above idioms or metaphors suit you, there’s no harm in making one up! Metaphors and similes can be anything you come up with, so long as it seems to make sense to you and your readers. The only limit is your imagination!
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.