Some of my favorite mountain metaphors include:
- Mountains are Giants
- Mountains are Old Friends
- Mountains are Walls on the Horizon
Some great mountain idioms are:
- I’m over the hill
- To make a mountain out of a molehill
- I’d move mountains to be with you
Below I outline 17 of the best ways to explain mountains using figurative language – idioms, analogies, metaphors and similes.
Mountain Metaphors and Similes
1. Mountains are Giants
It’s not hard to look out the window and marvel at the size of a mountain. So we will call it a ‘giant’ as a euphemism for its great size. While a mountain is of course not a giant, its size and majesty makes this metaphor work.
You could also call them “sleeping giants” to refer to their stillness. You could almost imagine if you squint that a mountain looks like a giant lying down and covered in moss and trees.
Read Also: Mountain Symbolism
3. Walls and Fences
When looking toward a mountainous horizon, we could feel like we’re “walled in” by mountains. So we could call them the walls around our city if we live in a city by the mountains. This metaphor could also extend to the concept of protectionism against attacks, where the mountains are the natural walls of the city that lend it protection.
4. Mountains are like Old Friends
When people enter the mountains, they often feel refreshed and inspired. In amongst the forest and the trees (see also: Tree Metaphors), you almost feel like you’re returning to a more natural environment. One that your ancestors might have once lived within.
The relaxing and comforting feeling that you can get when entering the mountains is a reason you might say it’s like an old friend. It makes you feel the same way as if you were to go and spend an evening with someone who helps you refresh and lightens your load.
Read Also: Friendship Metaphors
5. Life is Like a Mountain
Mountains are long journeys with sections where you’re walking up and sections where you’re walking down. You get great views but also end up in valleys and dead-ends. To get to the peak you take one step at a time, and then when you’re at the top you feel a sense of accomplishment for the hard work you’ve done.
You can compare the act of climbing a mountain to many things – life itself, or going to college, or starting a business. Anything that’s hard, has ups and downs, and requires you to take it one step at a time.
Mountain Idioms and Analogies
6. The Mountains are Calling (And I Must Go)
This famous idioms was coined by John Muir. Here, the mountains are doing something that only humans can really do – they’re “calling” you. We call this a special type of figurative language where you give human traits to non-human objects personification.
In this idiom, the idea is that the mountains are a place someone really wants to go to – almost to the extent that you can hear them calling you towards them. A person who loves to hike or be in the mountains might use this saying.
7. I’m Over the Hill
To be over the hill is to be more than half-way through something. You have reached the peak and you’re heading downhill.
This saying is most commonly used when talking about age. If someone has passed their middle age and is feeling a little sore and old, they’d say they’re over the hill to refer to the fact that they’re closer to the end of their life than the beginning.
8. Made a Mountain out of a Mole Hill
To make a mountain out of a mole hill is to make more of a fuss over something than it’s really worth.
A mole hill is a tiny bump in the ground, while a mountain is an enormous change in topography. So you can say to someone they’re making a mountain out of a molehill if they’re fussing over something as if it’s massive when really it’s only a minor thing.
9. Mountains of Paperwork
People will often say they have mountains of work (or paperwork) if they feel as if they’ve got so much work to do that if you wrote it all down on paper you’d have a mountain of paper by your side.
For this idiom, you could picture someone buried under a pile of paper that looks like a mountain beside their desk.
10. I’d Move Mountains to be with You
The saying to ‘move mountains’ means to do the impossible (or something so hard it may as well be impossible). Usually, it’s associated with love – that you’d move mountains just to be with the person you love.
This idiom dates all the way back to the bible, where it’s cited in Corinthians 13:2, but is regularly used today in song lyrics and books.
See Also: Love Metaphors
11. An Uphill Grind
Climbing up a mountain is difficult. It’s so difficult that we can call it a grind. Every step along the way feels like it hurts and you don’t get any free help. You have to do it all under the power of your own two legs.
So we call many other things that are difficult in life an ‘uphill grind’, such as a long day’s work in the office or completing a project that has become boring but necessary to complete.
12. It’s all Downhill from Here
To say something is ‘downhill from here’ can have two meanings. It either means everything is easy from this point onwards, or that everything is going to get worse from this point onwards. They seem like opposites so you need to discern the true meaning from context.
First, it could mean everything will be easy from now on. You’ve climbed to the peak and you’re on your way back down. You can use gravity to help you out. Metaphorically, you’d usually use this phrase when talking about how you’ve done the hard part of any job or task and the rest is easy.
Second, it could mean everything is going to get worse. If you look at a graph, usually up is positive and down means you’re getting into the negative. For example, a stock price that’s going down is getting worse for you. In this context, to say it’s all downhill from here would mean that things are not looking good in the future and you expect them to get worse.
Metaphors, Similes and Idioms for Mountain Climbing
13. One Step at a Time
We will often say “take it one step at a time” to someone who is trying to complete a difficult task.
For example, if you are cooking a complicated recipe, one step at a time would mean to just complete each line of the recipe one after the other and soon enough you’ll have done more than you thought you were capable of!
Literally, we might use this saying when climbing a mountain to say that to get to the top of the mountain you need to put one step in front of the other.
14. The Journey of a Thousand Miles begins with a Single Step
This old proverb means that to start doing something, you just have to do the first thing that’s involved in the task. If you’re climbing a mountain, your first thing you need to do to get to the top is take that first step.
We’ll often use this proverb to encourage someone to get started at anything, not just climbing a mountain. For example, you could say it to someone on their first day of college – day 1 is your first step and before you know it you’ll be done!
15. Like Standing on top of the World
When you’re at the summit of a mountain and looking down, you might say that it’s like standing on top of the world. Of course, the world is round so there’s no true top or bottom. But there’s a sensation that you’ve conquered the world and you’re on top looking down at everything around you.
But more figuratively, to be ‘on top of the world’ also means to be ecstatic. You’re really excited and feeling good about yourself in the same way that you might feel if you’ve climbed a mountain.
16. It is not the Mountain we Conquer but Ourselves (Edmund Hillary)
This saying, attributed to Edmund Hillary (The first Westerner to successfully summit Mount Everest), means that the psychological challenge involved in mountain climbing is bigger than the physical challenge.
Now, this saying is used to refer to many different situations where the psychological challenge is very difficult. For example, if someone is going for a long swim and emotionally exhausted, you could also use this phrase.
17. The Climb
‘The Climb’ is a song by Miley Cyrus that refers to the difficulties of life. But, the saying itself is often used to refer to something that is long and difficult. It’s very similar to an ‘uphill grind’ or ‘uphill battle’ (see: war metaphors).
According to the website Lyric Interpretations, the song refers to the idea that you shouldn’t only think about the destination but enjoy the difficulties and successes achieved during the journey itself.
Mountain metaphors, similes and idioms can be used to enrich your writing or express yourself more effectively. You also can use figurative language like metaphors to more colorfully explain experiences in the mountains.
If you don’t feel any of the above metaphors, idioms or similes are useful for your situation, you can always come up with your own mountain metaphors or similes by simply thinking up what mountains appear to be like for you.
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.