You’ll often find people using metaphors, similes and idioms to express joy.
My favorite happiness metaphors are:
- Happiness is sunshine
- Happiness is electric
- Happiness is contagious
So whether you’re a writer here seeking inspiration or someone here learning English, I’ve got you covered with metaphors for happiness and their explanations.
There are many ways to express how happy you are. The happiness metaphors, idioms and similes are rhetorical devices in this article can be used in speech or writing to mix up your expressions and show your strong command of the English language.
Happiness Metaphors, Idioms and Similes
1. Happiness is Sunshine
When we say happiness is sunshine, we’re not saying sunshine is literally the exact same thing as happiness. Of course it isn’t! But sunshine can make people happy, so we can use it in place of the word.
An example is in the song “you are my sunshine”, which implies that the person that the song is about is making the singer happy.
As a writer you might want to use sunshine as a symbol of happiness. You can show the sun rising at the beginning of a new chapter to show things are about to get better for your character.
2. It is a Contagion
You will often hear people saying that joy is contagious. No one physically ‘catches’ happiness like you catch a virus. It doesn’t enter your body in any physical sense. But when someone is endlessly happy, you might be glad to see them because their joy rubs off on you.
You could say to a colleague at work: “your joy is contagious” to imply that every time you see them they make your day a little brighter. (Look right there: I used a happy metaphor: Brightness! That’s next…)
3. It is the Light
You can say someone ‘brightened up your day’, ‘lightened up your day’ or even that they’re ‘radiant with joy’. All of these terms refer to the idea that a happy person spreads light. The implication here is that darkness symbolizes sadness – and light is its opposite: symbolizing joy.
This is evident, for example, in many Christian sayings which imply God‘s light shines upon you, giving you the good things in your life.
While this metaphor is an extension of the ‘sunshine’ metaphor above, it could be its own standalone idea, because often we’ll talk about lightbulbs or other forms of light without directly referring to the sun itself.
4. It is Electric
Something that is electric is charged-up, buzzing and full of energy. That often is what we think of when we see someone who is happy. So, we can refer to a happy person as electric, or even spreading their electricity.
This metaphor can be tied into the one about contagiousness. Electricity can also be passed from one person to another. You can touch someone with your electric personality, charging them up and giving them energy. By your very presence, you’re sharing joy!
When a happy person walks into the room, we might say you could feel their electricity, or feel their energy, light up the room.
5. On Cloud Nine
We had to do research into this one. Being native English speakers, we’ve heard this time a lot growing up. But never did we know where it came from. Turns out, it refers to an index of 10 different types of clouds dating back to 1895. The ninth cloud – cumulonimbus – is the highest of all clouds. So, being of cloud nine means you’re as high up in the sky as you can be.
You’ll notice the next few happiness idioms all refer to this idea that happiness and height are associated concepts, so height metaphors can be used to emphasize joy.
6. Riding the Crest of a Wave (I’m Riding High)
Here’s another height idiom that shows us that in the English language people seem to associate height with joyfulness. Riding high could obviously link to the idea that being high is good, positive and joyful; and being low is depressed and sad. But there’s more to it here.
Riding crest of a wave can also be a moment of pure joy. You have achieved your goal – surfing that wave. You’re living in the moment, concentrating on the sport, and don’t have the time for any negative thoughts to go through your mind. It’s pure unadulterated joy.
7. In High Spirits
Here again height is evoked, but it’s the ‘spirits’ that are unique about this idiom. To be in high spirits is to be in a very good mood, to be happy. Your ‘spirits’ here are your moods. This refers to olden days beliefs that spirits were possessing your body and influencing your mood. We still consider someone who is excitable to be ‘spirited’, for example.
Thus, in a book if you read that someone is in high spirits, it’s to say that they’re in a particularly happy mood today.
8. Feeling Up
Once again height is invoked here. But this metaphor is a little less rhetorical. To feel up is to be perky and positive. Your feelings are ‘upbeat’ as opposed to downbeat, so there’s perhaps a musical connotation here as well. Upbeat music makes the heart beat faster and makes people want to dance. Downbeat is relaxed and ‘chilled out’.
9. Grinning from Ear to Ear
This idiom is very visual. It evokes an image in the mind of someone with a smile so wide that it touches the ear. Of course, this can’t literally happen – we have jaws and cheeks that get in the way. But to grin from ear to ear is to have a very big smile on your face. It’s synonymous – like a smile – with happiness.
This is an idiom you will often hear someone say – “he’s grinning from ear to ear”. It may also be in books to explain someone’s excitement after (or during) a particular event.
10. Jumping up and Down
Jumping for joy is an idiom that could be literal or rhetorical. You can imagine someone actually jumping up and down they’re so happy! But, usually, it’s used more as an idiom than a literal statement. If someone calls you and tells you they’re getting married, you might say “Oh, congratulations! I’m jumping for joy.” This means, simply, that you’re happy!
I most often hear this as an ironic statement. Someone might say they are jumping up and down even when they aren’t. The juxtaposition between what they’re saying and what’s happening shows that the person is lying for effect: they’re highlighting the fact that they’re not happy”
11. Over the Moon
To be over the moon is to be very very happy. It’s an extension of the above idea of jumping up and down – but jumping so high that you jumped over the moon. This is a very common saying in the English language, and could easily be used in a creative writing story as an expression of happiness – such as “He was over the moon when he found the pot of gold.”
12. Happiness is like a Muscle (simile)
The saying that “happiness is like a muscle” implies that it’s something that needs to be used a lot or it’ll shrink. You can say “It’s is like a muscle: it needs daily exercise”. Here, you’re saying that people need to remember to find things to be joyful about, or they’ll become depressed! You can use this saying to tell someone to cheer up, or to tell them to do something they fun or they’ll forget how to be happy!
13. Walking on Air
When you say you’re walking on air is to say you’re feeling “light”. This is a funny saying in our language, but overall it means that you don’t have any worries – you’re feeling happy! In fact you’re no weighed down by any worries at all. So, you feel like you could walk on air!
There is another version of the saying – that you’re walking on sunshine – which means the same thing. In fact, there’s a song by Katrina and the Waves with the title “I’m walking on sunshine” which is upbeat and is supposed to convey the feeling of happiness through music.
Metaphors help create a picture in the mind. They’re not literal but rather ‘figurative literary devices’. They’re used by writers to create compelling stories. But, they’re also sometimes a little confusing for new English speakers who don’t quite understand them!
Idioms are a type of metaphor that are so common that we consider them popular turns of phrase. You’ll notice people using them in everyday conversations.
And lastly similes are similar to metaphors, but use the term ‘like’ to say that something is ‘like’ something else.
We discuss many other idioms for emotions on this site. Consider checking out our article on seven fear metaphors and idioms.
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.