Loneliness metaphors often invoke times in which you’re detached from society. Examples include:
- Echo Chamber
- Deserted Island
At other times, they point to the fact it is hard to get rid of, like:
- Being Stuck in a Maze
- A Dark Cloud Following You
- A Shadow
I’ve outlined 15 metaphors, analogies and similes for loneliness below with explanations of each.
A List of Loneliness Metaphors
The following are 13 of my favorite similes, metaphors and analogies for loneliness.
1. A Prison
People who are lonely don’t want to be alone. They feel like they want to escape that sense of isolation and sorrow that you can experience when you’re all alone.
This can give you a sense that you’re ‘trapped’.
To demonstrate that sense of being trapped, you can say that “loneliness is a prison”. Just like when you’re in prison, you can’t get out of your predicament no matter how hard you try.
You could even extend this to say that it’s “a prison for the mind”. Even if you can get up and go for a walk or watch television (unlike in prison), you still don’t feel free of that weight of feeling all alone.
2. A Discarded Toy
Anyone who has watched Toy Story will understand this. A toy that’s been discarded after a child has grown up sits in a box unused for years on end. Imagine if that toy had feelings – it would feel so neglected!
And that’s where this metaphor comes from. It imagines the toy might feel incredibly lonely sitting in a dark cupboard waiting to be played with.
To use this in a story, you might turn it into a simile and say “she felt like a discarded toy, sitting around waiting for someone to play with her all day every day”.
This scene sums it up perfectly:
3. A Deserted Island
Loneliness and isolation are closely associated concepts. When you’re isolated, you’re likely to start feeling lonely because you have no one to talk to and no support network to keep you safe.
And there’s nothing more isolating than being on a deserted island.
So to use this in a metaphorical sense, you can say “My loneliness is a deserted island. I sit there all day, wishing I could find a way out. But my social anxiety kept me stuck, incapable of finding a way off the island in my mind.”
4. An Echo Chamber
When you’re lonely the voices in your head are often magnified. You might feel as if you’ve got no one or nothing to talk to. You might feel like you say something and the only thing listening are the walls in your bedroom.
For me, this metaphor of the echo chamber isn’t related to social media echo chambers. Rather, it gives me the image of someone who yells out in a big hollow metal silo, only for the sounds to reverberate around. They’re alone and lonely, and no matter how hard they yell and scream the only thing that talks back is their own voice.
5. Being Lost in a Maze
This metaphor stems from the idea that when you’re lonely you don’t know how to escape from that emotion. If you did – then you wouldn’t be lonely anymore! So lonely people might say that they’re lost in a maze and don’t know their way out. They’re seeking ways to become less lonely (maybe they’re trying to make friends at the library or going on blind dates) but they just keep finding themselves back in the same spot all alone.
6. Two Ships Passing in the Night
This metaphor is usually used to refer to people who regularly find themselves in the same place and same time, but don’t connect.
You could use it as a way to explain two people who are lonely and seeking love. They might cross paths regularly at the supermarket and post office but never realize that they’re soul mates and meant to be together.
These people may be lonely and ‘in the dark’ about how they might be able to connect and shed that loneliness, even though the solution is ‘right under their nose’.
7. Gnawing at my Sanity
Loneliness cannot gnaw. It’s not a human or a dog – it’s simply an emotion. But when we say it’s ‘gnawing’, we can visualize it as something that is always there irritating us. It may be ‘eating away’ at your sanity, meaning you’re going more and more insane as the days by and your loneliness grows.
You could also consider it to be gnawing at your happiness or confidence, or really any other emotion that is often diminished as a result of ongoing loneliness.
8. Loneliness turns Seconds into Hours
When you’re alone you often feel like time passes more slowly. Of course, it doesn’t, but in your subjective experience it does. This may be because you may not have anyone to entertain you or because you look at the clock more often hoping the hours pass until you see someone again.
9. Loneliness Speaks in Long Silences
When you’re lonely, you may find there is a lot more silence in your life. So we could say that loneliness ‘speaks in silences’ to refer to this. It gives you this idea that you’re somewhere isolated and are just sitting there with no noises around you. In particular, you’re there with no one to talk to you.
It may also hark back to that idea that you’re hyper-aware of time passing slowly when you’re alone, because these are looooooong silences.
10. Loneliness Mocks Me
This is an example of a personification metaphor (so is number 9, actually!). This metaphor talks about loneliness as something that has the ability to mock. Of course, it doesn’t.
But we might think it’s mocking you when you try really hard to get rid of your loneliness but it continues to come back to you, no matter what. It might feel like it’s laughing at you and tormenting you. It’s a bully, hanging around and refusing to let you forget that it’s there in your life trying to make your life as bad as possible.
11. A Dark Cloud
This is a metaphor that’s also used for depression. It implies there’s a cloud ‘hovering over your head’ that won’t leave you alone. It’s there above your head even if you’re indoors. The reason that it’s called a ‘dark cloud’ is because dark clouds often symbolize storms and bad times coming on the horizon. Similarly, a cloudy day is often associated with depression and sadness.
12. A Shadow
A shadow is something that never leaves you alone, no matter where you go. So when you say your loneliness is a shadow, you’re saying it’s following you around. This metaphor is very similar to the dark cloud metaphor above. It implies that the loneliness won’t leave you alone no matter where you go.
Like a dark cloud, a shadow is also a common metaphor for depression. Loneliness and depression, I assume, are two concepts that are closely related and come together so it makes sense that they share several metaphors.
13. Loneliness Pushed me out the Door
This metaphor could be used to refer to the idea that someone who is lonely feels compelled to go out and meet people, maybe at a bar or sporting event. I imagine this person might be someone who’s not particularly interested in going to social events (maybe due to anxiety) but they go anyway because they just can’t stand being alone any longer.
Loneliness cannot push – but in this metaphor we can imagine it as a person who grabs you by the hand, pushes you out the door, and yells behind you: “and don’t come back until you’ve made a friend!”.
14. Loneliness is When you Leave the Room
This saying is rhetorical, but I’m not sure it entirely fits in the ‘metaphors’ category. Nonetheless, it’s worth sharing as an idea of how to talk about loneliness in a figurative way.
This might be a line from a song about someone you love. It gives off this sense that you always want to be with someone. You want them by your side at all times. And when they’re not by your side you feel like you miss them immediately.
Another time you might use this saying is when referring to a dog who is particularly attached to her owner. She might jump up and down at the door waiting for her owner to come back home.
15. It’s a Backpack full of Cement
Loneliness can feel like a burden you carry around. You could say it’s a “weight on your shoulders” to explain how it feels like it’s burdening you. It’s always in your mind. It’s always weighing on your confidence and making you feel a little sad.
But to say it’s a weight on your shoulders might not be creative enough. If you want to add some flair to your writing, how about calling it a backpack full of cement? You could also swap out other weights, like lead or sand.
Loneliness metaphors often invoke times in which you’re detached from society. Examples include “echo chamber” and “deserted island”. They can also invoke the idea that it follows you around, like “a shadow” and “a dark cloud”.
The above 15 metaphors, similes and analogies for loneliness are not the only ones you can come up with! In fact, often the best metaphors are ones you can come up with yourself. So if none of the above ones fit your needs, try to come up with your own.
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.