My favorite light metaphors are:
- He gave me the green light.
- She’s a ray of sunshine.
- You’re a feather! (for weight)
Some good light idioms are:
- Under the spotlight
- Light at the end of the tunnel
- A lightbulb moment
Read below for more examples of figurative language and explanations of each.
Light Metaphors and Idioms
1. You’re the Light of my Life
To say someone is the ‘light of your life’ doesn’t mean they’re walking around glowing. It means that the person makes you feel happy and is one of the greatest things in your life. You’ll notice with a lot of these metaphors that light is used as a symbol of extreme goodness or joy, as opposed to darkness which often symbolizes depression or despair.
2. She Lit Up
You say someone ‘lit up’ when a smile appears on their face. It’s to imply a sudden change, much like flicking-on a lightbulb. You’re moving from a dark, dull or sullen looking face. Then, suddenly, you have a happy, upbeat, and joyful look on your face. You can imagine a flicking of a lightbulb in a similar manner – going from dull to bright.
3. You Light up the Room
When a woman walks into a room and everyone looks at her or feels happier in her presence, you can say they ‘light up’ the room. With this image, I imagine someone incredibly beautiful (perhaps in a gorgeous dress) walking into the room and everyone turning to look.
The metaphor being evoked here is that someone is a light that lights things up. Of course, we know that again the idea of light as ‘joy’ is invoked here to imply that someone spread joy by their very presence.
4. Under the Spotlight
To put someone ‘under the spotlight’ doesn’t mean to literally shine a spotlight on them. Rather, it means to focus intently upon them. It usually happens in two situations.
First, you can be under the spotlight if you are performing. For example, a person who is about to play piano in front of 500 people, you might say to them “Are you ready to be under the spotlight?”
Second, you can be under the spotlight for negative reasons. For example, if the police investigate a company for fraud, then the nightly news anchor might say that the company is “being put under the spotlight” to see if there was any wrongdoing conducted.
5. I can see the Light
This means that you have come to a realization about what is the truth. It’s often said when referring to someone who recently changed their mind or belief system. For example, a priest who converts someone to their religion might say: “he has seen the light and now believes in God.”
The idiom “the light at the end of the tunnel” is related but has its own distinct meaning.
6. I Shed Light on It
To shed light on something is to reveal information that was previously hidden or secret. For example, a journalist might “shed light on” a crime by reporting new information in the newspaper. Your teacher might also ask you to explain an answer you gave them by saying “can you shed a little more light on this for me?”
The light is clearly metaphorical here – there might not be any light at all in the situation, but it helps to describe a situation where something is revealed, like when you flick the light switch on.
7. Have Gave me the Green Light
To be given the green light means to have been told you can go ahead and do something. For example, if you want to build a new house, you might have to ask the local government for permission. After sending them your plans, they will either deny (give the red light) or approve (give the green light). After you have gotten the green light you can then go ahead and build your house!
8. There’s Light at the end of the Tunnel
This means that you can see the end of something. Imagine you are walking around in a dark cave trying to find an exit. When you finally ‘see the light at the end of the tunnel’, you might be very relieved because it means you’ve finally found your escape.
This term is usually used at the end of a very long and difficult period of time. For example, someone going through treatment for a sickness who (after months) is starting to get better again might say “It’s been tough but the end is in sight. There’s light at the end of the tunnel.”
9. I see you in a New Light
To see someone in a new light means to change how to think about them. Imagine that you did not like somebody because you thought they were rude. But, then you spend a whole day with them and realize they’re actually very kind. You might at the end of the day say to them: “I’ve changed my mind about you today because I’ve seen you in a new light. You’re a really lovely person.”
10. You’re a Ray of Sunshine
A child is often referred to as “a little ray of sunshine” to refer to how lovely they are. The metaphor at work here is a reference to the emergence of sunshine on a cloudy day. The first little ray of sunshine would bring great joy. You might run toward it and bask in the light.
So, to cast the metaphor in a different situation, to call someone a ray of sunshine means they make you smile and happy.
11. I had a Light Bulb Moment
When you have a ‘light bulb moment’, it means you have suddenly reached a breakthrough in your thinking. You might have realized something useful or found a solution to your problems.
You can imagine that it feels like a switch was flicked in your mind and suddenly – there’s power! Your mind is working! Just like when you flick on a lightbulb.
This idiom is sometimes represented in cartoons where (when the character realizes something) they literally make a lightbulb appear above the cartoon character’s head.
12. Light them Up
This idiom is used when someone gives orders to shoot something or let off a bomb.
You can imagine a mafia boss standing outside a gas station with his troops standing around him. When it’s time to blow up the gas station, the boss might say “light them up”. Then, the troops lift their machine guns and fire them at the gas station, causing an enormous explosion.
The amount of light and fire that comes from an explosion might be the reason for this idiom.
13. The Shining Light on the Hill
Something that is considered the ‘light on the hill’ is an example to be looked toward. The light on the hill is an Australian iteration of the term, referring to the struggle of the working class to create a social-democratic nation.
It’s based on the Christian phrase the city on the hill which refers to Jesus’s sermon on the mountain. It was also used by Ronald Regan to refer to the example the United States sets for the world.
So, you would usually use this term to refer to any ideal or thing that you want to aspire towards – be it a city, an idea, or even a person.
14. Glowing with Pride
To glow with pride means to be exceptionally proud of something. Just like ‘lit up’ means to have a smile on your face and look joyful, the ‘glowing’ in this term refers to having a similar look of joy on your face.
You would often use this term when referring to your children. If your child does something you are amazed by, you might tell them you’re glowing with pride for them.
Light Weight Metaphors, Idioms, and Similes
15. My Heart is Light
When you say you are ‘light-hearted’, it does not mean that your heart weighs any less than anyone else’s heart. It means you aren’t feeling any stress or pain.
You will often find that metaphors related to weight refer to the idea that something that is light is good and something that is heavy is bad or making you feel stressed.
So, to say you feel light-hearted simply means that you are happy and carefree.
16. He went Light on Me
For someone to ‘go light on you’ means that they have not punished you as harshly as they could have. Your parents might go light on you if they catch you misbehaving but only give you a warning, for example.
Again, you can see that lightness is seen as ‘good’ and heaviness is ‘bad’. The opposite of this idiom would be to ‘put the hammer down’ or ‘come down hard’.
17. Light as a Feather (Simile)
This simple simile compares one thing to a feather, which is one of the lightest objects you might be able to think about. You could be referring to either your emotions (feeling lightness being a feeling of carefree happiness) or something’s literal weight (this box is light as a feather – it must have pillows in it!).
18. I’m Light as Air (Simile)
This simile is very similar to the previous one. It’s hard to find something that weighs less than air. You cannot even register the weight of air on a scale. And that’s not because it’s weightless, but rather that the weight of air is already factored into our ‘neutral’ everyday existence on earth. The weight of air is always there, so we can’t really feel it.
19. To Sleep Lightly
Sleeping lightly means to only have a nap where you might still be slightly awake in your subconsciousness. You would likely wake up several times through the night, a small noise might wake you up, and the next morning you might even feel like you’re still quite exhausted and tired.
The opposite is a heavy sleep where no one can wake you up and you’re snoring all night long.
The above light metaphors, similes and idioms provide a brief introduction to some of the possible ways you could use interpretive language to describe light – both in terms of weight, and the kind of light that comes from the sun!
If none of these idioms, metaphors or similes suit you, feel free to make your own! Similes are the easiest. Think of something that doesn’t weigh much (a pen, a sock, a pillow) and compare it to the thing you’re trying to say is lightweight. Or, think of something incredibly bright (the sun, a lightbulb, a fire) and compare it to the thing you want to say is radiant!
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.