Silence metaphors, similes and idioms can highlight both positive and negative silences.
For example you can ‘soak it in’ if it’s enjoyable, but if it’s not enjoyable it might be:
- Deafening, or
- Mocking you
Below are all 10 of my favorite silence metaphors, similes, analogies and idioms that can be used in poems, narratives and novels to paint an image in the mind of your reader.
See Also: Silence Symbolism
A List of Silence Metaphors, Similes and Idioms
1. Soak in the Silence
This metaphor relates silence to sitting in a bath. When you’re sitting in your bath you’re ‘soaking in’ water, feeling it as is laps over your body. Soaking in the water allows you the time to truly enjoy the experience.
Similarly, to ‘soak in’ the silence is to sit there and just quietly enjoy it. You might sit there and focus on your appreciation of the peacefulness, or feel your muscles relaxing as the quiet ‘washes over you’.
Another interpretation is that this metaphor is about a sponge. Sponges soak up water until they reach saturation point. Similarly, a person who is ‘soaking in silence’ might be trying to get enough of their peace and quiet until they reach a satiation point, after which they can get up and re-engage with the world.
2. The Silence is Deafening
This metaphor highlights that sometimes you can be hyper-aware of silence and the message it is sending. This might be the case, for example, in a basketball game when the home team loses. The crowds might go completely silent, and this silence projects a really strong message of their frustration or disappointment. Here, the silence tells a very clear message. To say it’s ‘deafening’ is a clever play-on-words that highlights that even no noise at all can be as powerful to your senses as an extremely loud – even deafening – noise.
3. The Silence Mocks Me
This metaphor expresses that the silence is a reminder of your loneliness (see more loneliness metaphors here).
To say that you were mocked by silence is to use personification. This is a special type of metaphor that gives human traits to non-human things. Of course, only humans can mock you … but to say that you’re being mocked by the silence is to express the sense that it’s inescapable. You might be feeling lonely and really want someone to talk to, but all you’ve got is your quiet room to keep you company. You feel like the silence is just a constant reminder of how lonely you are!
4. The Silence Echoes
An echoing silence is one that seems to be all over the place. It’s a play-on-words because only noises can echo. But when we think about an echo rebounding all over the place we get the sense that there are noises all around us – they’ve gone as far as they can then bounced back to fill all the spaces around.
So, if silence echoes, you might imagine that there are no noises anywhere – as far as you can see and around all the corners and everywhere you look, seems to be perfectly quiet.
5. Broken Silence
A literal interpretation of “breaking” is when a physical object literally snaps in half. You might also think about breaking as a machine that stops working properly.
But to say broken silence is to say that it’s come to an end. It’s been ‘broken’ by noises of some kind. For example, you might be sitting in a rural area where there’s no noise pollution around enjoying the peace. But then a train passes on train tracks a few hundred meters away and honks its horn. You could say that the arrival of the train ‘broke’ the silence.
6. Silence Cuts Through
Cutting through is similar to ‘breaking’ silence. You can either cut through silence meaning that you have broken it (such as in the train example above), or silence can cut through which means that there was a lot of noise, and then suddenly there’s nothing. This sudden lack of noise is the silence cutting through the noise.
7. Gnawing Silence
Something that gnaws doesn’t let you forget that it’s there. Imagine a dog gnawing at your ankle. It’s growling and pulling at you, impeding you from concentrating on anything else. Similarly, a ‘gnawing’ silence will be constantly on your mind. It’s probably very annoying and getting on your nerves.
This might occur when you’re alone on a Saturday night when your friends are all out partying. Or it might be the silence you feel when your partner dies and you’re sitting at home knowing that if they were still alive you’d be enjoying a lovely chat right now.
8. Drowning In / Drowning Out Silence
To be drowning in silence is very similar in meaning to the gnawing metaphor above. It’s a negative connotation which implies that the silence is something you don’t want around, and in fact is emotionally effecting you. You’ve had too much of it and want to escape it. It’s that feeling when it’s so quiet that you want to put music on or turn the television on in the background to ‘drown out the silence’ with background noise (which is another way to use this conceptual metaphor!)
9. Pierced Silence
When you piece through silence, it’s the same as cutting through it or breaking it. But ‘piercing’ is sharper, so you’ll often use it when a sharp or even abrasive noise comes out of nowhere. For example, it might happen when someone runs their fingers down a chalkboard, someone suddenly turns on a horn, or radio static comes on at a really loud noise.
10. Deadly Silent
Here’s another one where you can add an adjective to the front to create a metaphor.
Of course, dead people can’t make any noise at all. So Deadly silence is the quietest of all. There aren’t even faint background noises like the sounds of birds in the distance. This will rarely occur, and is likely to take place in the ‘dead of the night’ (a metaphor which has a similar origin) when everyone and everything is fast asleep.
The above silence metaphors, similes and common idioms are by no means the only ones you could come up with. In fact, there is likely an endless amount of potential figurative language literary devices to use. Each analogy will work in its own context but may not make sense in a different context. But so long as you come up with an analogy that is logical, and you can identify the similarities between quietness and the thing you’re using as the analogy, it should work!
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.