Metaphors for Love

It Has Been Compared to Everything from a Plant to a Disease

Love is a metaphor
Moncherie / Contributor / Getty Images

In literature, music, and popular culture, love is often used as a metaphor, a trope or figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between two unlike things that actually have something in common. For example, when Neil Young sings, "Love is a rose," the word "rose" is the vehicle for the term "love," the tenor.

Or as Milan Kundera wrote in "The Unbearable Lightness of Being,"

"I have said before that metaphors are dangerous. Love begins with a metaphor."

He might have added that love sometimes ends with a metaphor as well. Like the experience of love itself, metaphors make connections. So it's no surprise that love has been imagined, examined, and remembered through a wide variety of figurative comparisons, as the quotes below show.

Love as a Fruit or Plant

As the collection of passages in this and the below sections demonstrate, love has been compared to everything from a plant to a truck. The metaphors in this collection are anything but conventional.

"Love is a fruit, in season at all times and within the reach of every hand. Anyone may gather it and no limit is set."
 – Mother Teresa, "No Greater Love"

"I look at you and wham, I'm head over heels.
I guess that love is a banana peel.
I feel so bad and yet I'm feeling so well.
I slipped, I stumbled, I fell"
 – Ben Weisman and Fred Wise, "I Slipped, I Stumbled, I Fell," sung by Elvis Presley in the film "Wild in the Country"

"Love is a spice with many tastes—a dizzying array of textures and moments."
 – Wayne Knight as Newman in the final episode of "Seinfeld"

"Now that you're gone I can see
That love is a garden if you let it go.
It fades away before you know,
And love is a garden—it needs help to grow. 
 – Jewel and Shaye Smith, "Love Is a Garden"

"Love is a plant of the most tender kind,
That shrinks and shakes with every ruffling wind"
– George Granville, "The British Enchanters"

As a Phenomenon of Nature

Washington Irving compared love to "the rosy cloud in the morning of life," but many others have likened love to various phenomena of nature from lightning to stars and fire, as the quotes in this section demonstrate.

"Oh, love is a journey with water and stars,
with drowning air and storms of flour;
love is a clash of lightnings,
two bodies subdued by one honey."
 – Pablo Neruda, "Sonnet 12"

"[Love] is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken." 
 – William Shakespeare, "Sonnet 116"

"Love is a fire.
It burns everyone.
It disfigures everyone.
It is the world's excuse
for being ugly."
– Leonard Cohen, "The Energy of Slaves"

"Love's fire, if it once goes out, is hard to kindle."
 – German proverb

An Animal

Kurt Vonnegut' called love "a hawk with velvet claws," but many singers, writers, authors, and figures in popular culture have compared love to various animals, including dogs, birds, and even a crocodile.

"Love is a dog from hell." 
 – Charles Bukowski, "Love Is a Dog From Hell"

"Love's wing moults when caged and captured,
Only free he soars enraptured."
– Thomas Campbell, "Love's Philosophy"

Love is a crocodile in the river of desire. 
 – Bhartṛhari, "Śatakatraya"

"Happiness is the china shop; love is the bull."
 – H.L. Mencken, "A Little Book in C Major"

And Even a Disease

Love has been compared to many things, but surprisingly, some have likened it to a disease, as the eclectic mix of quotes shows in this final section.

"They say it is better to travel than to arrive. It's not been my experience, at least. The journey of love has been rather a lacerating, if well-worth-it, journey." 
– D.H. Lawrence, "Fantasia of the Unconscious"

"Love is a truck and an open road,
Somewhere to start and a place to go."
 – Mojave 3, "Truck Driving Man"

"They say love is a two-way street. But I don't believe it, because the one I've been on for the last two years was a dirt road."
 – Terry McMillan, "Waiting to Exhale"

"Love is the master key that unlocks the gates of happiness, of hatred, of jealousy, and most easily of all, the gate of fear."
– Oliver Wendell Holmes, "A Moral Antipathy"

"Love is a beggar, most importunate,
Uncalled he comes and makes his dear demands"
– Corinne Roosevelt Robinson, "Love Is a Beggar"

"I thought love would be my cure
But now it's my disease."
 – Alicia Keyes, "Love Is My Disease"

"Is it natural for a man to fall in love? Love is a disease and disease knows no laws. 
 – Ivan Turgenev, "Diary of a Superfluous Man"