Metaphors for anger usually involve heat and explosions.
We usually correlate heat with anger and cool with being relaxed.
And when someone gets so angry that they get physically or verbally aggressive, we consider it to be an explosion of anger that was built up inside the person.
These two concepts underpin nearly every (but not all) anger metaphor. Examples include:
- Anger as an Erupting Volcano
- Being Hot under the Collar
- Your Blood Boiling
Below are a full set of 19 metaphors for anger.
Metaphors Idioms and Analogies for Anger
This group of metaphors start with “Anger Is…”
Many of the metaphors in this list will relate to heat. We see relaxation and calm as being “cool” while being angry and enraged as being “hot”. Over and again, our anger metaphors talk about anger as being something that is firey, red hot, and ready to explode.
2. The Enemy
To many people who have anger management issues, anger is their enemy. It’s something they must always keep at bay. Sometimes we will get angry even though we know we shouldn’t. We can’t help ourselves. So we have an internal battle against those feelings of rage that might be inside us.
3. A Snake
We could metaphorically use any animal that’s a sneaky predator for an anger metaphor. It could be a lion, tiger, or a snake. It sneaks up on us and – before long – the tiger has struck. It overtakes us and possesses us. And we become the tiger, yelling and screaming and lashing out.
4. A Raging Fire
I like this one because it’s related to that idea that anger is hot, but it goes beyond that. If you think about fire, you can picture it jumping and licking at the air. Fire seems to have a life of itself. It can creep around, chase you, and if you get close, burn you. These behaviors are aggressive and involuntary, which makes it feel a lot like a visual metaphor for anger.
5. An Erupting Volcano
When someone gets so angry that they lash out, we can imagine that all the rage inside them just burst out of them. Visually, we could explain this as a volcano. There has been rage building up below the surface until it just can’t be kept in any longer. It comes out in a flurry and rage.
Other Metaphors for Anger
6. I’m Spitting Nails
The saying “to spit nails” doesn’t actually mean that you’re spitting nails out of your mouth. But it’s used to refer to someone who is yelling and screaming. They’re usually being rude and abusive in their language.
So you can imagine the angry person spitting out nails that hit the person they’re speaking to and causing harm. The language is what’s causing emotional harm, but we can metaphorically call it the physical harm of being hit by a nail to create an image in your mind.
7. A Bull in a China Shop
When someone is in a rage, they’re often not very subtle or polite. They’re liable to say things they’ll regret and cause more problems than they need to. You visually analogize this to a bull let loose in a shop full of fine china. The bull will knock all of the china off the shelves and it will shatter over the floor, causing a lot of damage.
So we use this saying to talk about someone who is not being very subtle and causing a lot of damage by their raging behavior.
8. Shooting Daggers with your Eyes
I love this metaphor because it is so specific about a facial feature. I can visualize someone glaring at me from across a room. They’re holding their eye contact and making sure they let me know through their eyes that they’re in a rage.
The ‘shooting daggers’ makes you think that this person is visualizing themselves throwing daggers at you from across the room, and the daggers will land right between your eyes – exactly where they’re looking.
9. I Blew my Fuse
Also used as ‘blew my stack’, this expression refers to the sudden breaking or bursting of something that leads to unexpected and seemingly irate results. When a piece of machinery blows a fuse, it usually malfunctions. Blowing a stack may be related to smoke coming out of the top of a stack on a power generator.
You would say this to refer to someone who could not control their anger any longer.
10. My Blood is Boiling
Blood boiling goes back to this idea of anger being connected to heat. For your blood to be boiling, you must have gotten very hot inside of your body. You’ll often use this term when you feel rage building up inside you.
11. I’m Hot under the Collar
Being hot under the collar again returns to the idea of heat. You might imagine someone wearing a tight collared shirt and a tie. This person starts getting angry and feels they need to rip off their shirt because suddenly the collar feels tight and they feel their body getting red with rage – which is our next term!
12. I’m Red with Rage
To be red with rage might be used metaphorically or literally, depending on the situation. Indeed, some people do in fact go red when they get angry. But other times you will use this term to refer to the idea that redness and heat go hand in hand, and so too do heat and rage.
13. He’s got a Short Fuse
When someone has a short fuse, it means they are liable to go into a rage very quickly. Imagine an old stick of dynamite where you light the fuse and then run away. The fuse will slowly burn down until the spark reaches the dynamite – and then it blows up!
So, to say someone has a short fuse is to refer to that fuse on the end of the dynamite. The fuse being short means they’ll get angry very quickly and you won’t have much warning to run away.
14. I Blew Up
To say that you blew up is to say you got outwardly angry. It’s very similar to many of the other metaphors here, like blowing your stack, lashing out or being a bull in a china shop.
15. Steam is Coming out his Ears
Steam occurs when water has been boiled to a certain temperature. So, when we say someone has steam coming out their ears, we are saying that they’ve been agitated to the extent that they’re boiling hot. The steam coming out their ears is evidence that this person has ‘lost their cool’ and is now ready to yell and scream.
16. I’m at my Boiling Point
The metaphor of being ‘at your boiling point’ connects directly to the steam metaphor. When water has reached boiling point, it becomes steam. We tend to say that when someone is at their boiling point, that’s when they start outwardly expressing their anger. If you’re at your boiling point, you feel the urge to express your anger outwardly.
17. I’m at my Wit’s End
To be at your wit’s end means to have run out of coping mechanisms for a situation. You can no longer use your wit, because you’ve exhausted all your option for thinking through a situation.
You’ll often hear a person using this term when they’re exceptionally frustrated with a situation and are going to take action to resolve it.
18. He’s Lashing Out
A person who is lashing out is someone who attacks others, often indiscriminately or for reasons that are unjustifiable. A person who says mean things that are “below the belt” might be considered lashing out. A child who is having a tantrum might similarly be considered to be lashing out.
19. I’m Stirred Up
To stir someone up is to intentionally aggravate them. We can visualize something being stirred and all the sediment and components being aggravated. Latent emotions might bubble to the surface.
And usually these are emotions like anger, rage and frustration. You don’t stir someone up with happiness. Being stirred up is to have your anger aroused by someone else’s actions.
Anger metaphors can help you express how you’re feeling. They can be used when working with kids, for example, when asking them to express themselves verbally rather than physically.
But they can also be used for writers, when writing about a character in your story who is angry. Instead of simply saying “he got angry”, you can add flair to your writing by metaphorically exploring the emotions of your character.
Generally, these metaphors revolve around heat and explosions, but not always. You can use your own creative expression to come up with metaphors that suit your needs!
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.