Metaphoria An Algorithmic Companion for Metaphor Creation

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Publication citation

Katy Ilonka Gero and Lydia B. Chilton. 2019. Metaphoria: An Algorithmic Companion for Metaphor Creation. In CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems Proceedings (CHI 2019).


Katy Ilonka Gero
Lydia B. Chilton


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Metaphoria is an online tool that generates metaphorical connections between two words. It's designed to give you ideas for poetry, essays, or stories. It augments your abilities, rather than replacing them.

> Play with Metaphoria <


While computation has opened a floodgate of creative tools for music and the visual arts (like synthesizers, Photoshop, ChucK, SnapChat filters, and GANS) little of that fervor has transferred to the medium of text. Word processors that detect spelling and grammatical errors are useful, but do not support the creative elements of writing.

In this work, we build a metaphor generation tool to help describe abstract concepts like 'love' or 'consciousness'. Metaphors convey abstract ideas by comparing them to more concrete or familiar concepts, and are used in all forms of writing from poetry to journalism.


  1. Generate suggestions that make sense to the writer, given what the writer is looking to do.
    We call this coherence to context.
  2. Generate suggestions that inspire writers to come up with new and different ideas.
    We call this divergent outcomes.


friendship is a window (seed metaphor)
> friendship is for letting in sunshine like a window
> friendship is for looking inside like a window
> friendship is for protecting from the elements like a window

heartache is a bell (seed metaphor)
> heartache is for making noise like a bell
> heartache is for ringing to warn of danger like a bell
> heartache is for summoning servants like a bell


We found that Metaphoria almost always produces some connections that make sense, though it's pretty dependent on the writer as to which connections make sense. We also found that Metaphoria rarely resulted in people writing very similar things; instead, Metaphoria inspires people to write things they might never have thought of.

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