Some of my favorite sky metaphors are:
- The velvet cloak
- Angry skies
- Burning skies
- The earth’s roof
- An ocean of stars
Some great sky idioms are:
- Blue sky research
- The sky is falling in
- Touching the sky.
That’s not all! I’ve got 13 examples below.
These sorts of metaphors, idioms and similes can help you explain concepts more effectively. Writers can use them to create figurative language that draws a picture in the reader’s mind.
Sky Metaphors and Similes
1. The Velvet Cloak
I love the creativity in this metaphor.
Sometimes the sky appears like a silky smooth cloak that has been thrown over our world. It’s as if we’re in a snow globe and a deep purple cloak was thrown over the top of us.
You’ll notice that there are many sky metaphors that imply that it’s a ‘cloak’, ‘blanket’ or ‘cover’ up above us – almost as if (if you flew high enough) you’d hit some sort of a ceiling.
But the ‘velvet’ in this metaphor is what really appeals to me. It gives me this feeling that the author conceives of the sky as something mysterious, dark, smooth and endless.
2. Angry Skies
An angry sky will have deep grey clouds (see also: cloud metaphors) as well as possibly thunderstorms. There might also be a lot of movement up there, with the clouds swirling and coming lower (‘closing in’).
We consider them to be ‘angry’ not because the clouds have emotions. Rather, the crackling of the thunder, flashing lightning, and rain give us the exact opposite impression to calmness. It’s almost as if the clouds (or gods!) are in a rage about something. You could imagine superstitious people thinking that storms might be a message from an angry god (see also: storm symbolism).
3. Burning Sky
So this metaphorical description can be used in a novel when talking about a passionate moment in the sunset. Maybe it’s two lovers sitting on the beach watching the sunset which is “burning”.
Another time you might use this metaphor is when there’s a wildfire raging through the landscape. In these situations it can literally look like the horizon is on fire. It’s not, of course, but that glow from the fires can ‘light up’ the sky.
4. An Ocean of Stars
Oceans are vast wide-open expanses. They seem to never end. So, too, does the sky. So we could use these similarities to create a creative description of the night’s sky. To add even more visual power, you might imagine that this ocean is not made up of water but millions of tiny stars, like luminescence in the water.
Similarly, you might look up at an airplane or hot air balloon and imagine that they’re floating in the air, as if it’s a great big ocean.
5. The Sky is a Blanket
This metaphor is the follow-up to the one about the sky being a velvet cloak. They both draw an analogy about some sort of large cloth covering us in the sky.
But I think the ‘sky as blanket’ metaphor is a bit more versatile than the cloak metaphor.
Blankets offer warmth, for example. So we could talk about the clouds being a blanket that keeps you warm at night (even ‘tucks the world into bed’).
We could also give it colors – like “The summer sky was a baby blue blanket” or “the black blanket of stars”.
6. The Earth’s “Roof” or “Lid”
Many people in history have looked up at the sky and imagined it to be some sort of roof or lid sitting over the top of us. If only we went high enough, we’d hit up against us.
Of course, we know this isn’t true – people have been to space, after all!
But it’s a nice metaphor to explain what the sky seems like. It seems like a painted lid that we’re sitting under and looking up at as if we’re ants inside a dome.
You could similarly say something is “hanging from the sky”, as if it is some sort of roof and hot air balloons or even stars are hanging from it.
This idiom is probably a little controversial. Skyrocket is actually a real word – it’s, simply, a rocket that explodes high in the air. You could call fireworks skyrockets, for example, and be absolutely using literal speech there.
But skyrocket can also be a figurative idiom.
For example, when you say that “stock prices skyrocketed” or “crime is skyrocketing”, there’s nothing actually going u pinto the air here! We’re using it to refer to something “going up” – like the rate of crime or the price of socks.
8. Blue Sky Research
Blue sky research is the sort of research that happens in many universities. It’s research that doesn’t have any obvious practical benefits or isn’t made out of necessity. Instead, it’s research that “shoots for the stars”.
Blue sky research does have huge unintended benefits, though. They can lead to new discoveries and understandings about the world – things like the internet and microwaves came about through this sort of research!
Examples of discoveries from blue sky research include:
- The big bang theory
- The Higgs Boson particle
- Plate tectonics
You could also say “blue sky thinking” to similarly explain thinking about things outside of the box with no immediate practical benefit.
9. Excuse me while I Kiss the Sky
The Jimmy Hendrix song Purple Haze has the famous lyrics: “excuse me while I kiss the sky”.
Clearly, no one can ‘kiss the sky’. You can’t even touch it, really, because it’s a far away concept. It’s always in the distance – a bit like a rainbow.
But Jimmy Hendrix was talking about how he was so successful, excited or doing so well at something that he was “skyrocketing”. Soaring up there in the air, he imagines that he can “kiss the sky” because he’s so high.
10. The Sky is Falling In
The first time I heard this saying was in the poem “Chicken Little”. It’s about a chicken who thinks the sky is literally falling.
But as a kid at school, our teacher asked us to talk about what this idiom really means. What’s the underlying story here?
I learned that “he thinks the sky is falling in” is an idiom you use about someone who is being overly dramatic about something. They’re acting as if the world is going to end (when it clearly isn’t!)
11. Sky High
This idiom is used when someone is extremely excited or doing extremely well at something. For example, a big tennis star who is world number 1 and winning all the Grand Slams is “riding sky high”.
You can also say this about the stock exchange: “the stock market is sky high right now!”
You might notice that being “high” is usually a good concept in these metaphors. The sky is something that’s a symbol of aspiration and achievement, and this feeds into many idiomatic terms in this list.
12. Reach for the Skies
The toy Woody from Toy Story famously says: “reach for the skies!” when you pull the string on his back. It’s an old western saying that suits his persona of a western Sheriff well.
The idiom is a cool, suave way of telling someone to put their hands in the air. A police officer might say it when they have a gun pointing at a criminal. Or, a criminal might say it when they’re holding up a bank.
It’s possible that people might also use this term in a different context: when you’re really trying to do something that’s aspirational. We would usually say “reach for the stars” or “aim for the moon”. But reaching for the skies may have the same meaning in the right context.
13. Touching the Sky
When buildings are tall enough, we call them “skyscrapers”, as if they’re somehow so tall they’re scraping up against the roof of the world. They’re touching the sky.
I’ve noted earlier that it’s not really possible to ever touch the sky. It’s a mirage more than anything, a bit like a rainbow.
But “touching the sky” can be used idiomatically to talk about something that’s really tall or high up like a skyscraper or a skydiver.
It might also be used in the same way as “sky high” to refer to someone (or something – like the real estate market) who is doing a really good job.
Read Also: A List of Nature Idioms
Sky metaphors and similes can help us create powerful images in the mind. This sort of figurative language can help a writer become better at explaining ideas and inspiring the readers to “fall in” to the storyline.
Similarly, the idioms in this list can help us use the sky as a way to think about being aspirational, excited or doing really well. In these instances, we’re using the symbolism of the sky to create vivid images in the mind.
And if none of these idioms or metaphors are right for you, that’s fine! There’s nothing stopping you from making a brand new one up for yourself.
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.