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We Live By


The University of Chicago Press

Chicago and London

Page 2

The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 60637
The University of Chicago Press, Ltd., London

rriJ 1980 by The University of Chicago
All rights reserved. Published 1980

Paperback edition 1981
Printed in the United States of America

OS 04 03 02 01 00 99 12 13 14 15

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data

Lakoff, George.
Metaphors we live by.

Bibliography: p.
1. Languages-Philosophy. 2. Metaphor.

3. Semantics. 4 . Truth. I. Johnson, Mark, joint
author. II. TItle.
PI06.L235 401 80-10783
ISBN 0-226-46801-1 (pbk.)

@) The paper used in this publication meets the minimum
requirements of the American National Standard for Information
Sciences - Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials,
ANSI Z39.48-1984.

Much of the material in all or parts of chapters 1 through 5, 9
through 12, 14, 18, and 21 originally appeared in the article "Con-
ceptual Metaphor in Everyday Language," Journal 01 Philosophy
77, no. 8 (August 1980): 453-86, and is reprinted here with the
kind permission of the editors of the Journal 01 Pllilosophy.

Page 127

Definition and Understanding

We have seen that metaphor pervades our normal con-
ceptual system. Because so many of the concepts that are
important to us are either abstract or not clearly delineated
in our experience (the emotions, ideas, time, etc.), we need
to get a grasp on them by means of other concepts that we
understand in clearer terms (spatial orientations, objects,
etc.). This need leads to metaphorical definition in our con-
ceptual system. We have tried with examples to give some
indication of just how extensive a role metaphor plays in the
way we function, the way we conceptualize our experience,
and the way we speak.

Most of our evidence has come from language-from the
meanings of words and phrases and from the way humans
make sense of their experiences. Yet students of meaning
and dictionary makers have not found it important to try to
give a general account of how people understand normal
concepts in terms of systematic metaphors like LOVE IS A
example, if you look in a dictionary under "love," you find
entries that mention affection, fondness, devotion, infatua-
tion, and even sexual desire, but there is no mention of the
way in which we comprehend love by means of metaphors
etc. If we take expressions like "Look how far we've
come" or "Where are we now?" there would be no way to
tell from a standard dictionary or any other standard ac-
count of meaning that these expressions are normal ways of
talking about the experience of love in our culture. Hints of


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the existence of such general metaphors may be given in the
secondary or tertiary senses of other words. For instance, a
hint of the LOVE IS MADNESS metaphor may show up in a
tertiary sense of the word "crazy" (= "immoderately fond,
infatuated"), but this hint shows up as part ofthe definition
of "crazy" rather than as part of the definition of "love."

What this suggests to us is that dictionary makers and
other students of meaning have different concerns than we
do. We are concerned primarily with how people under-
stand their experiences. We view language as providing
data that can lead to general principles of understanding.
The general principles involve whole systems of concepts
rather than individual words or individual concepts. We
have found that such principles are often metaphoric in
nature and involve understanding one kind of experience in
terms of another kind of experience.

Bearing this in mind, we can see the main difference be-
tween our enterprise and that of dictionary makers and
other students of meaning. It would be very strange in a
dictionary to see "madness" or "journeying" as senses of
"love." They are not senses of "love," any more than
"food" is one of the senses of "idea." Definitions for a
concept are seen as characterizing the things that are inher-
ent in the concept itself. We, on the other hand, are con-
cerned with how human beings get a handle on the
concept-how they understand it and function in terms of
it. Madness and journeys give us handles on the concept of
love, and food gives us a handle on the concept of an idea.

Such a concern for how we comprehend experience re-
quires a very different concept of definition from the stan-
dard one. The principal issue for such an account of defini-
tion is what gets defined and what does the defining. That is
the issue we turn to next.

Page 253


Bolinger, Dwight. 1977. Meaning and Form. London:

Borkin, Ann. In press. Problems in Form and Function.
Norwood, N.J.: Ablex.

Cooper, William E., and Ross, John Robert. 1975. "World
Order." In Robin E. Grossman, L. James San, and
Timothy J. Vance, eds., Functionalism. Chicago:
Chicago Linguistic Society (University' of Chicago,
Goodspeed Hall, 1050 East 59th Street).

Davidson, Donald. 1978. "What Metaphors Mean." Criti-
cal Inquiry 5:31-47.

Frege, Gottlob. 1966. "On Sense and Reference." In P.
Geach and M. Black, eds., Translation from the Philo-
sophical Writings of Gottlob Frege. Oxford: Blackwell.

Grice, H. P. 1957. "Meaning." Philosophical Review

Lakoff, George. 1972. "Linguistics and Natural Logic."
Pp. 545-665 in Donald Davidson and Gilbert Harman,
eds., Semantics of Natural Language. Dordrecht: D.

---. 1975. "Hedges: A Study in Meaning Criteria and
the Logic of Fuzzy Concepts." pp. 221-71 in Donald
Hockney et aI., eds., Contemporary Research in Philo-
sophical Logic and Linguistic Semantics. Dordrecht: D.

---. 1977. "Linguistic Gestalts." In Proceedings of the
Thirteenth Annual Meeting of the Chicago Linguistic So-
cie ty. Chicago: Chicago Linguistic Society.


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Lewis, David. 1972. "General Semantics." Pp. 169-218 in
Donald Davidson and Gilbert Harman, eds., Semantics
of Natural Language.

Lovins, Amory B. 1977. Soft Energy Paths. Cambridge:

Montague, Richard. 1974. Formal Philosophy. Edited by
Richmond Thomason. New Haven: Yale University

Nagy, William. 1974. "Figurative Patterns and Redundancy
in the Lexicon." Ph.D. dissertation, University of
California at San Diego.

Reddy, Michael. 1979. "The Conduit Metaphor." In A.
Ortony, ed., Metaphor and Thought. Cambridge, Eng.:
At the University Press.

Rosch, Eleanor, 1977. "Human Categorization." In N.
Warren, ed., Advances in Cross-Cultural Psychology,
vol. 1. New York: Academic Press.

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