Freedom metaphors often invoke nature as the ultimate sign of being free (juxtaposed to the constraints of living in a society). Some examples are:
- Freedom is a bird
- Freedom is a hike in the woods
- Freedom is the wind in your hair
Others invoke the idea of freedom as something that’s long wished for, but unobtainable like:
- Freedom is a unicorn
- Freedom is the end of a rainbow
Below are 17 of my favorite freedom metaphors, with explanations of each.
Freedom Metaphors, Similes and Analogies
1. Freedom is a Bird
The most common metaphor of freedom is to call it a bird. And the most common bird related to freedom is the American bald eagle. This symbol is widespread in the United States because it is a fierce, free flying animal that is strong and powerful in protecting its own freedom.
But doves are also often invoked as the bird of freedom, and I don’t think there’s a limitation on what bird you choose for this metaphor.
An example of this is the symbolism of birds in movies – you’ll often see a protagonist sitting in prison watching a bird out his window, for example, wishing that they could be that bird flying away to the horizon.
2. Freedom is a Hike in the Woods
Hikers will often invoke the idea that they love to hike because it feels like true freedom. You’ll notice that a lot of freedom metaphors often invoke nature and being separate from civilization. It’s an escape from all the ‘constraints’ of the busy lives we lead, away from people and rules of society. One of the best ways to achieve this is to go for a hike and let all your stress and worries fall away.
3. Freedom Lives on Top of a Mountain
The idea that freedom ‘lives’ or exists somewhere seems odd – but it’s just a figurative way of saying how freedom makes you feel. It can make you feel euphoric, like you’ve just summited a mountain.
But just like a hike in the woods, sitting on top of a mountain feels a long way removed from the constraints of society. You’re up there with the birds flying around, the squirrels running over the rocks, and the trees swaying in the wind. No one’s going to call you on the phone (there’s no reception!) and you can feel like you’ve escaped the net of civilization.
4. Freedom is the End of a Rainbow
This metaphor is one of several that implies freedom is something that’s unobtainable. No one can reach the end of the rainbow as it’s an optical illusion. So, it’s an imaginary place (which is why we often say there’s a pot of gold at the end!).
People who think freedom is unobtainable might say that you’re never free because there are always taxes, family asking us to do things, and obligations to our society.
5. Freedom is a Muscle
The saying “freedom is a muscle” is usually followed by: “you have to exercise it or you’ll lose it!” This is often a political statement highlighting the importance of keeping an eye on your government and making sure they aren’t restricting your freedoms by imposing unfair rules or creating a police force that restricts your freedoms.
6. Freedom is Fresh Air
Imagine walking out of prison for the first time in years. You might walk out the gates, stop, and breathe in the fresh air. It might feel like it tastes better. It might taste like freedom!
A “breath of fresh air” is also an idiom implying that something has changed for the better. So you could also say that freedom is a breath of fresh air to say that you have achieved freedom after many years of oppression.
7. Freedom Stands Tall
Of course, freedom can’t stand. It’s not a human! So this idea that freedom ‘stands tall’ is a special type of metaphor we call ‘personification’.
This idea that freedom stands tall is to say that people who are free can hold their heads up with pride. They are not subservient to anyone and they are leading a life of their own choosing. It’s the opposite of people who might be hunched or ‘on their knees’ bowing down to a king.
A similar metaphor is to say “It’s better to die on your feet than live on your knees.”
8. Freedom is the Wind in your Face
Once again, we see freedom metaphors are often related to nature and being close to nature. It’s the opposite of society which is a constraining force! But this one also gives us this impression that perhaps someone has been locked indoors – maybe imprisoned so they didn’t get those simple experiences of nature such as having the feeling of a breeze brushing against your face.
9. Freedom is a Unicorn
This metaphor is very similar to the rainbow metaphor discussed earlier. The idea that freedom is a unicorn highlights that it’s something that’s rare, even non-existent. We strive toward it, but never really find it. Nonetheless, it’s such a beautiful thing that we all want to reach it and will spend our lives looking for it!
10. Freedom is a Blank Canvas
If you’re free, you have the ability to make whatever decisions you like. It’s a bit like a blank canvas. You’re not told what you are allowed to paint or have to follow rules. You can paint whatever you want. This might relate to life in free nations. People who live in free societies can do whatever they want with life – their free lives are a blank canvas.
11. Freedom is a Dog without a Leash
This one makes me smile. We’ve all seen dogs over the moon because they’ve managed to escape the leash. They might chase a bus or play with other dogs. That sheet happiness of being away from the constraints of a leash or a fenced-in area might make us think of pure happiness that comes from newfound freedom.
12. Freedom is Buying your First Car
When you first get your diver’s license and buy your first car you’re liberated in a way you’ve never been liberated before. You might jump in the car and go on a road trip without having to ask anyone for permission. Your world just got a whole lot wider. This is a time in someone’s life where they’re more free than they’ve ever been and is one step closer to full independence of adulthood.
13. Freedom is the United States of America
The USA and freedom have come to symbolize one another. The USA was built on the idea of freedom – that you are free from the tyranny of the King of England. This is emblazoned on many of the symbols of the United States. The flag itself could be seen as a symbol of freedom around the world. The bald eagle is also widely seen as the symbol of the USA, and is also seen as a sign that ties the USA to the notion of the ultimate freedom from dictators.
14. Freedom is a State of Mind
The literal meaning of freedom is to have no constraints imposed upon you. But some may philosophically re-configure it to call it a ‘state of mind’. I still consider this saying to be somewhat figurative, and have therefore decided to include it in this list. People who embrace a stoic philosophy or Buddhists might use this saying to refer to the idea that – even if you’re imprisoned – you are the only person who has control over your interpretation of your reality.
15. Let Freedom Ring
Freedom of course doesn’t make a noise. But the idea that freedom ‘rings’ can make us think of a free society celebrating its happiness and safety from tyranny. It makes me think of old American town prior standing on a hill proclaiming the freedom of the township while ringing their bell.
But I think this metaphor is also supposed to invoke the idea that something that rings has a reverberating echo all around a valley, spreading to all the corners of the town.
16. Freedom is the Open Window
Herbert Hoover, former US president, once said:
“Freedom is the open window through which pours the sunlight of the human spirit and human dignity.” – Herbert Hoover
This metaphor invokes the idea that freedom is about not being trapped – if there’s an open window, you can go in and out without restrictions. But it also invokes an idea that fresh air and sunlight entering the ‘window’ (into the house, soul or heart) can replenish and refresh you.
17. Freedom is the Horizon
There are many movie scenes that show young people in a car on a road trip heading off to the horizon. This is often the very last scene to signify that the characters have overcome the struggles in their story and are now heading off to their ‘happily ever after’. This motif of driving off to the horizon as a sign of ultimate freedom is also invoked in road trip books, like On the Road by Jack Kerouac.
The above freedom metaphors are not the only ones. I’m sure you can come up with your own metaphors for freedom that suit you and the stories you are writing. The great thing about metaphors is that the only limit is your own creativity!
In general, being free is often associated with being separated from society and all its constraints. That’s why nature is often invoked. You could also think about any feeling that you get after being locked away for a long time as a way to create your own freedom metaphor.
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.