Metaphors of Vision

Sight is perhaps the most primary of the five human senses.  Thus we have many metaphors of the human experience of seeing the world around us.

blog - vision - eyesa vision

Having sight is also referred to as having vision.  Metaphorically, a vision can also indicate an imagined plan for the future for whatever project one is involved in.

Example:  Every U.S. president has a unique vision for the future of the country.


A person who is known for being able to plan for the future may be called a visionary.

Example:  Martin Luther King, Jr. was a visionary who worked for civil rights for all Americans in the 1960s.

lose sight of

While traveling, people will be able to see a landmark along the side of the road, if driving, or along the coast, if going by boat.  As the people pass that object, we can say that they lose sight of it. Metaphorically, we can also lose sight of a goal or objective of a certain project.

Example:  Many voters become disappointed with members of Congress when they lose sight of their purpose to serve the American people and instead only cater to lobbyists.

take a look at

Everyday we look at objects, images and written texts with our eyes.  This may be described as taking a look at something.  In a figurative sense, taking a look at something can mean examining and analyzing any type of information.

Example:  After the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York City, the U.S. government had to take a hard look at its national defense systems.

blog - vision - viewview

Being able to see something implies that one has a view of it.  Figuratively, however, a person having a view can mean that he or she has an opinion on a certain matter.

Example:  Republicans and Democrats normally have opposing views on taxation of the wealthy in America.


A glimpse is a very quick look at something.  We may also use the word figuratively in the sense of understanding a small amount of information about something or someone.

Example:  Hearing a presidential candidate’s campaign speech can provide a glimpse into his or her plans for the presidency if elected.

blog - vision - transparenttransparent

If we can see directly through a physical object, we say that it is transparent.  The word transparent can also be used to mean something that is perfectly understandable without any deliberate trickery or confusion.

Example:  Most Americans prefer to have transparent government, meaning that we have the right to know everything our politicians do both here and in other countries.


The opposite of being transparent is being opaque, meaning one cannot see through the object clearly. In a sarcastic sense, people may say that things that should be transparent are actually opaque.

Example:  Critics of Barack Obama claim his transparent government was too opaque for the American people.

clear, crystal clear

To be able to see something without visual obstruction is to see it clearly.   Information, opinions, or policies can also be seen clearly if presented simply.  We may also describe this ability as being crystal clear as if the object is as transparent as a natural mineral crystal.

Example:  Presidential candidates try to make their positions crystal clear on top issues such as abortion, taxes and immigration.

focus on, sharper focus

We have the ability to look at objects that are close or far away by focusing our eyes to the correct distance.  Metaphorically we can also focus on issues or problems by examining them in closer detail.  We may also refer to this process as having a sharper focus on something.

Example:  Presidential elections tend to focus our attention on important issues that aren’t always discussed in politics.

blog - vision - Magnifying_glassmagnify

With the aid of optical instruments, we can make objects appear bigger than they actually are.  This is called magnifying the object.  Figuratively, we can also magnify a problem by making it worse.

Example:  Small problems in an election year can be magnified by intense media scrutiny.

the big picture

When looking at something, our eyes can focus on the details of one part of the image, or on the entire image.  Looking at the entire image can be called looking at the big picture.  Metaphorically, we can also say understanding general truths about a matter may be described as seeing the big picture.

Example:  To understand the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we must see the big picture of the work of international terrorist organizations.

Loch Alsh - Reflectionreflection

The word reflect is used to describe the phenomenon of an image returning backwards towards the viewer.  People can see their reflection in a mirror or a dark pool of water.  Metaphorically, a reflection can mean either thinking one’s thoughts over and over again as in a day of prayer and reflection after a tragedy, or alternately, an event or situation that expresses something else.

Example:  The policies of a Democratic-controlled Congress are usually a reflection of their social liberal approach to government.


If something is brightly illuminated by the sun or artificial light, we may say that it is glaring to the eyes.  Figuratively, we can also say if something is very clear or conspicuous in a certain situation, we may say that it is glaring.

Example:  Since the 1980s there has been a glaring gap between the rich and poor in the United States.

blog - vision - blurredblur, blurred

When something is not clear in a person’s vision, we may say that it is blurred. Metaphorically, if a situation is not clear, we can also say that it is blurred.

Example:  Some government policies supported by the so-called religious right may blur the line between church and state.


When an object cannot be seen clearly because it is so dark, we can say that it is murky.  We usually apply this adjective to liquids or atmospheric condition, as in murky waters or murky skies.  Metaphorically, we can also say that a dark or unclear situation is murky.

Example:  American voters do not normally approve of the murky relations of Washington lobbyists and members of Congress.

myopia, myopic

A vision disorder that occurs when a person cannot clearly see objects a great distance is called myopia.  A person with this disorder is myopic. In figurative terms, someone who is accused of not understanding a complex situation may be called myopic.

Example:  During the War in Iraq, some conservatives claimed that liberals had a myopic view of the dangers of Islamic terrorism.

blog - vision - blind as a batblind

When people have a vision disorder in which they cannot see at all, we say that they are blind. In common terms, a person who is accused of not understanding the dangers or complexities of a situation may also be described as being blind.

Example:  A good president cannot be blind to the suffering of the middle and lower classes in America.

blind optimism

Blind optimism occurs when a person is completely confident in the success of something when he or she may not understand the difficult reality of the situation.

Example:  Critics of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld claimed that they had a blind optimism in the success of the War in Iraq.


Next time:  Metaphors of Halloween!