22 Hard Work Metaphors, Similes, and Idioms

hard work metaphors

Some great metaphors for hard work include: work is my life, work is my master, and hard work is the path to success.

Similies for hard work include working like a dog, cramming like a college student, and working like my life depends on it.

Idioms for hard work include working to the grindstone, burning the candle at both ends, and putting in blood, sweat, and tears.

Metaphors involve saying something is something else, similies involve saying something is like something else, and idioms are popular terms and phrases that people use in everyday life.

Metaphors for Hard Work

  1. My Work is My Life – You might say this if you feel like all you ever do is work hard without any play or rest. Some people will say this when they’re referring to how much they love their work
  2. Work is my Master – If work is your master, it means that you feel as if your job controls your life. Work might be your master if you find yourself working in evenings and weekends when you should be relaxing, or if you can’t take time off when you choose because of your job. You will usually say this when you are unhappy with your job.
  3. Hard Work is a Reward in Itself – Hard work isn’t a physical reward, or even a reward in any traditional sense, but when we say work is a reward, it means that the work feels good to do. You might also say this if your hard labor made you feel stronger or studying hard gave you intrinsic happiness beyond just being able to pass the exams.
  4. Hard Work is the Greatest Teacher – We often don’t learn from just listening to a teacher. Sometimes we have to work, toil, fail, and get experience in order to learn our lessons. If we are to say that work is a teacher, we mean that the work we do is educational. We will learn tricks about how to do things, learn how to use our minds or bodies more efficiently, and discover our own personal strengths and weaknesses.
  5. Hard Work is a Path to Success – Work is not a physical path. But we can use the path as a metaphor to explain hard work. Imagine that something you really want is at the end of a path and you need to put in the effort to walk the path to get it. This is similar to seeing that success can be achieved if only we work really hard to get it.
  6. Today’s Work was one more Step Toward my Goals – This metaphor envisages working hard as being like walking a path or climbing a mountain. Each day’s work is like taking one more step up that mountain. If you wake up and work hard each day, you will chip away at your goal ‘one step at a time’ until you achieve it.
  7. This Job is Torture – This very common metaphor doesn’t actually mean you’re literally being tortured. It means that you don’t enjoy the job to the extend that it feels like you’re being tortured by having to complete it. This is, usually, very hyperbolic (meaning you’re exaggerating).
  8. Hard Work Pays Dividends – Dividends are payments you receive for ownership of an asset (such as a company). But in this metaphor, we’re saying that working hard will metaphorically “pay” you in the future, just like buying shares in a company leads to a payout later on.

Related: Metaphors for Success

Similes for Hard Work

  1. Working Like a Dog – This simile for hard work relates how hard you’ve been working to how hard a dog works. Many work dogs will seemingly work all day long on the farm without taking a break. In fact, they’re bred specifically to work hard.
  2. Working Like a Clydesdale – Clydesdales are the horses who were traditionally used to carry heavy loads (like carriages) long distances non-stop. These are very large, strong, powerful horses with big hearts and even bigger muscles. To say you’ve been working like a Clydesdale is to imply you were working tirelessly.
  3. Cramming Like a Law Student – “Cramming” means studying very hard at the last minute for an exam. You can imaging a law student studying very late into the night before their big exam the next day. So if you say you were cramming like a law student, you’re saying you really did study very hard!
  4. A Hard Day’s Work is like Climbing a Mountain – We can relate working hard to climbing a mountain because, like working hard, climbing a mountain involves a lot of ongoing consistent effort.
  5. This Work is Like Pushing a Boulder up a Hill – A person who has to push a boulder up a hill is going to be very exhausted indeed. The boulder is going to want to roll down hill with the force of gravity, so you’re not only working to push a heavy rock, but you’re going to struggle getting any momentum at all. Every single success will be achieved through very hard labor.
  6. Working Like my Life Depends on It – Imagine if your life really did depend on getting a job done. You would put all of your effort into the task and push yourself to your very limits. So, we can use this simile when our life doesn’t really depend on something but we are still working extremely hard to achieve our goals.
  7. Completing this Job is like Eating a Rotten Fish – You could fit any meal you don’t like in here. Imagine eating your least favorite dish and feeling forced to complete it. Sometimes our work feels like that as well, especially when it’s a job you don’t enjoy on a Friday afternoon!

Related: Growth Metaphors

Idioms for Hard Work

  1. Burning the Candle at Both Ends – Before we had electricity, people would study by candlelight at night. If you burned the candle at both ends, it meant that you worked for a very long time (long enough for a candle to burn the whole way through!). Today, not many people study by candlelight anymore, but this idiom is still used to describe someone working late into the night.
    Some specific colors of candles also have specific meanings, such as a black candle, which is often used in witchcraft.
  2. Putting in Blood, Sweat and Tears – This famous saying means that you have worked at something so hard that you are physically and emotionally drained by the end of it.
  3. Work is Tying me Down – Imagine that you want to stop working and go out for dinner with friends. However, you still have a lot of work to complete by the end of the day, so you can’t get up from your desk yet. It’s like you’re tied to your desk!
  4. I’m Buried in my Work – Imagine you need to read a lot of papers before the end of the day. You’re sitting at the desk and you look around you and all you see is paper everywhere. You might even feel like you’re buried in piles of paperwork!
  5. I’m Married to my Job – A person who is ‘married to their job’ is said to work so hard that they spend more time with their work than their spouse.
  6. Hard Work Makes Light Work – This idiom means that the only way you’re going to get something done (for example, make a lightbulb turn on) is by working hard. When I hear this metaphor, I think of a person on a bike. When they ride the pedals, the light on the front of their bike turns on. Their hard work literally made the light turn on!
  7. Putting in One Hundred and Ten Percent – You will often see a coach yelling this at their team. “Put in 110 percent!” They’re clearly exaggerating, but what they mean is that you need to work really hard – harder than you ever have before and even harder than you think you can.

Related: Metaphors for Easy


The above idioms, similes, and metaphors for hard work are not the only ones that exist. They’re just a sample of a few of the ways you can use figurative language to explain how hard you have been working at something. You can even create your own, if you like. For a metaphor, say your efforts are something (make sure it’s something with similar characteristics), and for a simile say they are like something.