Introduction to Cognitive Science

Lakoff & Johnson's Theory of Metaphor

Last Update: Friday, 20 October 2017

Note: NEW or UPDATED material is highlighted

"All slang is metaphor, and all metaphor is poetry."

—G.K. Chesterton, Defence of Slang,
cited on p. 24 of Winchester, Simon (2012), "The Mongrel Speech of the Streets", NY Review of Books (8 March 2012): 24–26.

Lakoff References:

  1. Lakoff, George, & Johnson, Mark (1980), "Conceptual Metaphor in Everyday Language", Journal of Philosophy 77(8): 453-486.

  2. Lakoff, George, & Johnson, Mark (1980), Metaphors We Live By (Chicago: University of Chicago Press).

  3. Lakoff, George (1987), Women, Fire And Dangerous Things: What Categories Reveal About The Mind (Chicago: University of Chicago Press).

  4. Lakoff, George (1991), "Metaphor and War: The Metaphor System Used to Justify War in the Gulf".

  5. Lakoff, George (2001), "As Advertised: A Review of The MIT Encyclopedia of the Cognitive Sciences", Artificial Intelligence 130(2): 195-209.

  6. Goldstein, Evan R. (2008), "Who Framed George Lakoff?", Chronicle of Higher Education 54(49) (August 15): B6-B9.

Other References:

  1. Squires, Roger (1970), "On One's Mind", Philosophical Quarterly 20(81) (October): 347-356.

  2. "The Mind Is a Metaphor" website

  3. Angier, Natalie (2010), "Abstract Thoughts? The Body Takes Them Literally", New York Times Science Times (2 February): D2

  4. Chorost, Michael (2014), "Your Brain on Metaphors", The Chronicle [of Higher Education] Review 61(1) (5 September): B6–B9.

  5. NEW
    Videla, Alvaro (2017), "Metaphors We Compute By", Communications of the ACM 60(10) (October): 42–45.


Your claims are indefensible.
He attacked every weak point in my argument.
His criticisms were right on target.
I demolished his argument.
I've never won an argument with him.
You disagree? OK, shoot!.
If you use that strategy, he'll wipe you out.
He shot down all my arguments.


You're wasting my time.
This gadget will save you hours.
How do you spend your time these days?
That flat tire cost me an hour.
I've invested a lot of time in her.
You need to budget your time.
Is that worth your while?
You don't use your time profitably.

Because money is a limited resource,
and a limited resource is a valuable commodity

…then, if time is money ("spend time"),
then time is a limited resource ("run out of time"),
and time is a valuable commodity ("lose time")


I'm feeling up.
That boosted my spirits.
My spirits rose.
You're in high spirits.
Thinking about her always gives me a lift.
I'm feeling down.
I'm depressed.
I fell into a depression.
He's really low these days.
My spirits sank.

Some limitations of metaphors and analogies:

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