Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Metaphors We Live By” as Want to Read:
Metaphors We Live By
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Metaphors We Live By

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  4,669 ratings  ·  381 reviews
The now-classic Metaphors We Live By changed our understanding of metaphor and its role in language and the mind. Metaphor, the authors explain, is a fundamental mechanism of mind, one that allows us to use what we know about our physical and social experience to provide understanding of countless other subjects. Because such metaphors structure our most basic understandin
...more
Paperback, 276 pages
Published 2003 by University of Chicago Press (first published 1980)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Metaphors We Live By, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Gary Jaron Concepts are packaged in metaphoric language. Concepts are summarized statements of ideas and inspirations that require structured language to articul…moreConcepts are packaged in metaphoric language. Concepts are summarized statements of ideas and inspirations that require structured language to articulate, explain and elucidate what is the potential packaged in the concept. This is what the authors were trying to explain. Our primary concepts are body based metaphors.(less)
Leo Hum.... absolutely none, I think.
Campbell was writing about literary analysis using Jungian psychology as the main theoretical background.
Metaphors We…more
Hum.... absolutely none, I think.
Campbell was writing about literary analysis using Jungian psychology as the main theoretical background.
Metaphors We Live By is a book on psycholinguistics that has a wide-array of sources, but mostly forms a synthesis between post-Chomsky linguistics and structuralist philosophy.
These elements are very disparate, and I think that there is little connection between them between a vague mutual interest in language.(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.10  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,669 ratings  ·  381 reviews


More filters
 | 
Sort order
Start your review of Metaphors We Live By
BlackOxford
Understanding One’s Native Tongue

It turns out there were really good existential reasons for paying attention in primary school English. All that business about grammar and figures of speech is actually essential for getting on in the world quite apart from speaking proper. This classic from the 1970’s shows why in an entertaining and convincing way.

Language is a odd thing. It looks like something neutral, a tool for doing things, some good, some not so good depending on its user. But language i
...more
Trevor
I first read parts of this book nearly 20 years ago. I meant to get my hands on the whole thing back then too and read it from cover to cover, but for one reason or another I never seemed to get around to it. This is a pity, as it is the sort of book I really ought to have read in full back then and perhaps again a couple of times since. This really is an interesting book.

The main idea is that rather than metaphors being curious literary devices, that they in fact are central to how we understan
...more
Manny
Jan 28, 2009 rated it liked it
This book is very frequently quoted by linguists - I just looked it up on Google Scholar, and found a staggering 13517 citations. Nearly everyone has at least glanced through it, and the ideas have permeated the field.

There was a nice Lakoff-related moment during one of the invited talks at a conference I attended during the summer. The speaker, who was giving an excellent presentation on loan-words related to food, hadn't been able to resist putting in a slide where he glanced at an interestin
...more
Matt
Jul 07, 2012 rated it liked it
Here are my reading notes. I thought the book was fine. Mostly interesting in the first half. The rest of the book contains a lot of repetitive statements and circular phrases.

# The metaphor as a concept
The way we talk is peppered with metaphors. For instance, we talk of debates the way we talk of warfare.

These metaphors often extend beyond a simple idiom and define a whole system of thought. For instance, we think of time as money -- as a commodity -- and so we use a slew of expressions like "b
...more
Morgan Blackledge
Feb 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I can't believe I never wrote a review for this book.

This is one of the most important books I've had the privilege of reading.

It changed me.

It's like a lightbulb went on, and a bomb went off.

It's profound magic for real.

Please.

Promise me you will read it.
Naeem
Jul 24, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This book changed my life. It has short chapters, 5-10 pages. you can get most of what you need from chapters 1-3 and the epilogue.

It explains the structure of metaphor. Turns out, at least for me, that theory is metaphorical, language is metaphorical, life itself is metaphorical.

So what does that do for us? It makes it possible to realize the perspectivism is not an ideal to shoot for in some pristine Kantian space, but the very quantum material of social life.

In this recognition, I found a
...more
Michael
Jul 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
I got quite a nutritious repast out of this, though the didactic presentation and excessive repeating of elements of their arguments stuck in my throat sometimes. Already you may detect me using a metaphor of reading as a meal of food. Which builds on another metaphor of ideas as objects that can be conveyed as through a conduit (a throat). I can’t think without metaphors, so some of the edifice here is often preaching to the choir (to lean on another metaphor). Yet I was inspired how the author ...more
Romanas
This is a book that is going to shed a new light on the seemingly trivial subject of metaphors. The beginning of the book wasn’t exciting to me, so I almost put it down. It felt too basic and uninspiring. Luckily, the authors were probably just warming up the reader before getting into some serious matters. As the book progressed, things like conceptualization, linguistics and psychology started to intervene, and it eventually became a very interesting read.

The way most of us think about metaph
...more
Lobstergirl
Oct 01, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Bob Bork
I probably wouldn't have picked up this book on my own. I was assigned it in college and hated it so much I never got beyond chapter 4 or so. (The margins of these early pages are so filled with embarrassing personal notes and stream of consciousness ramblings that I would be too embarrassed to sell it or give it away.) Whereupon it sat on a shelf until, lo all these years later, I decided to give it another shot.

If you're interested in the intersection between linguistics and philosophy, you ou
...more
Ushan
Mar 06, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: linguistics
In a science fiction story by Ursula Le Guin a nonconformist ant writes, "Up with the Queen!" The fictional translators add an annotation that the proper English translation is probably "Down with the Queen!" In English, gaining power is associated with the up direction, and losing it with the down direction, though it might be the opposite in the fictional ant language; "Down with the Queen!" means "Let the Queen lose power!" Lakoff and Johnson argue that such metaphors, or "understanding and e ...more
Taka
Jul 06, 2016 rated it liked it
A classic still very much relevant today—

This very much readable volume is written with an admirable clarity that at the same time doesn't sacrifice academic rigor. To be sure, the authors have a penchant for repeating things, but the repetition is part of what makes this so accessible to anyone interested in the topic of metaphor.

Lakoff and Johnson's argument is simple but far-reaching: metaphor isn't just a literary technique you study (and get bored by) in class. It's a powerful conceptual to
...more
Wendy Liu
I like the premise - that metaphors structure our understandings of the world - but this book kinda beat it to death (if you’ll excuse the metaphor). Too deep in the philosophy weeds for my liking. I wouldn’t recommend reading the whole thing unless you’re interested in philosophy or linguistics in an academic context.
Ryan
Feb 11, 2010 rated it really liked it
The point is that everything we think or say is a metaphor. This seems obvious, but the authors' examples constantly catch me off-guard. The afterword, written a few years ago, is important.

The book begins with the metaphors of "time is money" and "arguement is war". Respective examples are: "Is it worth your while?" and "Disagree? Go ahead, shoot". Lakoff and Johnson make the point that societies exist in which time is not a resource- sitting on a hammock is not "wasting time". Also there are c
...more
Nick Arkesteyn
Oct 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This amazing book will have you questioning everything that comes out of your mouth. A simple statement like, "My friend is "in" the race or "in" love will have a completely different meaning. In so far as the human mind can not understand things like events or emotions in concrete terms. It has a difficult time understanding abstract concepts. So in order to make sense of a friend that is "in" love or "in" a race we turn the event or the emotion into a contain with boundaries.

We see love as a
...more
John
Apr 06, 2013 rated it liked it
This book makes a crucial basic point: We can't help but think in metaphors and we live by the metaphors by which we think, and that's okay. It engages in a tremendous amount of definition, categorization, and exemplification that struck me, as a non-linguist, as overkill. Indeed, in the Afterword, the authors retract some of their earlier categorizations as excessive. And, frankly, the take-away for me was limited.

I expect the book is more important than I can appreciate. (The authors certainly
...more
Geoff
May 28, 2011 rated it did not like it
One of the poorest structured books I've read in a long time. Lakoff and Johnson make big claims but deliver none. The whole thing just comes off as academic masturbation with no real novel insight or reasoning. They present a grand idea with little to no underpinnings. The reader is presented with no dialectic to even consider whether the thesis is accurate or not.

The treatise that metaphors are at once the enabling and limiting factors of conceptual thinking needs an axiomatic foundation of wh
...more
Adrian Colesberry
Apr 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This book was published in the early 70s but is still a relevant, compact and powerful attack on Cartesian dualism, the proposed split between mind and body that has plagued us for centuries.

(Not all Descartes's fault as I understand. Socrates came up with the idea of the soul as some pure realm of ideas. Then the Christian's picked it up once it became obvious that the end was not quite as nigh as they were hoping so the preservation of body promised by Paul in Corinthians seemed more and more
...more
Simon Eskildsen
May 29, 2018 rated it it was ok
The main insight here is that we use metaphors constantly, but some are so ingrained we don't even acknowledge them. For example, "FUTURE IS AHEAD." We think of the future in front of us, but in some cultures and languages, they use "back" and "behind" to describe the future. We think of "POSITIVE IS UP," so that if you're talking about an "upswing" it's usually a good thing. These metaphors are all around us in what verbs and adverbs we use day-to-day. I was hoping it'd go more into how metapho ...more
Emma
May 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book was recommended to me originally by my Yoda, my o captain my captain, and part of what enamoured me was just that: the sensation of 'assigned reading'. I often miss being in the classroom in the role of a student and reading something completely foreign, of feeling my mind creak, of feeling someone else's passion for the ideas seep through your skin. I also genuinely enjoyed the central tenets of the book, though I also needed to remember the pre-post-modern writing context and I think ...more
Andrew
Jul 09, 2019 added it
Shelves: linguistics
Gather 'round kids, it's time for a true story. When I was 20 or so, I ate a couple grams of magic mushrooms at my friend's apartment in the middle of a blizzard, and thought "hey man, it's all metaphors. When people talk about physics or the stock market or whatever, that's like learning a system of metaphors."

This remains the nearest thing I've had to a psychonautic breakthrough, and it remains one I actually believe to this day.

George Lakoff had similar ideas, presumably sans psilocybin. And
...more
Dan Slimmon
This book packed a lot of ideas into my mind, which expanded and stretched my mind, ultimately blowing my mind. It'll take me a long time to digest these ideas, which I found palatable but very chewy.
Ufuk
Nov 06, 2015 rated it it was ok
Soul crushingly boring and repetitive.
Conrad
Mar 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
The basic idea argued by Lakoff and Johnson (L&J) in Metaphors We Live By is that most, if not all, of our reasoning about abstract concepts is done through metaphors. These metaphors conceptually link the domain of abstract concepts to the domain of concepts that are closer to our everyday bodily experiences. This link allows us to determine the logical entailments in the more abstract domain by comparison to the cause and effect relationships in the concrete domain of how we physically interac ...more
Quiver
Oct 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing

Imagine a culture where an argument is viewed as a dance, the participants are seen as performers, and the goal is to perform in a balanced and aesthetically pleasing way. … Perhaps the most neutral way of describing this difference between their culture and ours would be to say that we have a discourse form structured in terms of battle and they have one structured in terms of dance.


In English, an argument is most often talked about—and crucially thought about—in terms of war. We attack weak p
...more
Ken Rideout
Nov 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Although weighed down by academic prose and a bit of a slog to read, this book is transformative in the impact it can have on your life. Although already aware of Lakoff's work in political language and mathematical language, coming back to this seminal book was still eye opening for me. For someone who has yet to think really hard about language in this way, I think it could be transformative and make you a better person. (Hence the five stars)

"Metaphor is as much a part of our functioning as o
...more
MJ Scheer
Jul 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
Helpful to have some background in structuralism before reading. Written in the 70's. Essentially: the metaphor form pervades every facet of our conceptual structure, influencing every aspect of our lives on a daily basis. The authors assert the reasonably simple and inarguable premise that the things we say influence how we think and what we do. Many of our most important concepts are entirely metaphorical in nature (i.e., LOVE). We define these concepts entirely by relating them to other (ofte ...more
Jason Cantrell
Feb 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I was assigned to read about 75% of this book for a class at Rowan University (only 75% because the professor assigned the chapters he felt were most relevant to our specific course requirements). It fascinated me so much that I'm continuing to read it on my own time.

I always thought of metaphors the way a typical writer uses them: as descriptive techniques used to add color to a scene, like an artist adding details with his brush (see what I did there?). This book showed me that metaphors are,
...more
Leslie
May 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This book is apparently important in the history of linguistics. Although it is about 30 years old, it provides important insights into the ways human thought and understanding are structured. Much of our thinking is metaphorical, and modern neuroscience appears to be bearing this out.

Its major philosophical weakness is its assumption that truth is in the human realm. It posits that the problems objectivism and subjectivism have connecting meaning, understanding, and truth are solved in experien
...more
Alex
This book was eye-opening. Many books provide new things to think about, this book provided new ways to think. As a Christian and Designer, I found book helpful in helping me reframe and better understand the way we think about things. As a Designer, this provides new ways for me to think through and communicate Design challenges we may encounter. As a Christian, this helps me better understand the way people think about many of the more abstract concepts within faith.

Lastly, I think the implica
...more
Sheng Peng
Jun 27, 2015 rated it it was ok
The first 5 or 6 chapters are pretty promising. And it's straight downhill from there.

The beginning is well written and buttressed by plenty of examples so the ideas reveal themselves naturally and are convincing. The latter part is mostly empty talk and written in a bone dry textbook style with the quintessential bullet lists and ordered lists of talking points every three to five pages, and IIRC, the longest list has 10 items and is less fun to read than the one written on that stone tablet.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Connecting elements with Campbell-The hero with a thousand faces 1 1 Apr 16, 2019 11:08AM  
humanities 1 1 Apr 14, 2019 05:38PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature
  • How to Do Things with Words
  • A Brief Tour of Human Consciousness: From Impostor Poodles to Purple Numbers
  • Course in General Linguistics
  • Metaphor: A Practical Introduction
  • The Unfolding of Language: An Evolutionary Tour of Mankind's Greatest Invention
  • The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language
  • The Power of Babel: A Natural History of Language
  • The Archaeology of Knowledge & The Discourse on Language
  • The Penguin Book of Russian Poetry
  • Artificial Intelligence: A Guide for Thinking Humans
  • Finite and Infinite Games: A Vision of Life as Play and Possibility
  • Language in Thought and Action
  • Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius
  • Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain
  • The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution
  • Phantoms in the Brain: Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind
  • Principia Discordia ● Or ● How I Found Goddess and What I Did to Her When I Found Her: The Magnum Opiate of Malaclypse the Younger
See similar books…
536 followers
George Lakoff is Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at UC Berkeley and is one of the founders of the field of cognitive science.

He is author of The New York Times bestseller Don't Think of an Elephant!, as well as Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think, Whose Freedom?, and many other books and articles on cognitive science and ling
...more

News & Interviews

Let's talk books, shall we? As you can imagine, Goodreads editors are voracious readers and there's nothing we like more than talking shop. Seriou...
14 likes · 3 comments
“Another example of how a metaphor can create new meaning for us came about by accident. An Iranian student, shortly after his arrival in Berkeley, took a seminar on metaphor from one of us. Among the wondrous things that he found in Berkeley was an expression that he heard over and over and understood as a beautifully sane metaphor. The expression was “the solution of my problems”—which he took to be a large volume of liquid, bubbling and smoking, containing all of your problems, either dissolved or in the form of precipitates, with catalysts constantly dissolving some problems (for the time being) and precipitating out others. He was terribly disillusioned to find that the residents of Berkeley had no such chemical metaphor in mind. And well he might be, for the chemical metaphor is both beautiful and insightful. It gives us a view of problems as things that never disappear utterly and that cannot be solved once and for all. All of your problems are always present, only they may be dissolved and in solution, or they may be in solid form. The best you can hope for is to find a catalyst that will make one problem dissolve without making another one precipitate out. [...] The CHEMICAL metaphor gives us a new view of human problems. It is appropriate to the experience of finding that problems which we once thought were “solved” turn up again and again. The CHEMICAL metaphor says that problems are not the kind of things that can be made to disappear forever. To treat them as things that can be “solved” once and for all is pointless. [...] To live by the
CHEMICAL metaphor would mean that your problems have a different kind of reality for you.”
15 likes
“one can be both free and economically secure while leading a totally meaningless and empty existence.” 11 likes
More quotes…