Love Power Is in the Power of Both Fire and Water

The aid of a metaphorical lexicon help us better grasp what love is. Various Western and Eastern languages and cultures have metaphors, metonyms, and related concepts for “fire,” “heat,” and “water” that stand for the core qualities of love (see Karandashev, 2019).

Metaphors of Love as Fire and as Water

In other places, I showed many cultural examples of how the lexicon of many cultures represents the metaphor of “love as fire” in Western cultures as well as in other societies around the world. It is worth noting that these metaphors are frequently associated with metamorphic images of water.

Water is also a power of love, yet it can have different connotations. In some ways, love and relationship emotions resemble the power of water. Nevertheless, they are as powerful as water in its numerous variations. They can be like storms, like waves, like rivers, like the great flood. For example, when we are overwhelmed by feelings, we experience emotional flooding, either in a positive way (feeling elation and euphoria) or a negative way (feeling anxiety and frustration).

  • “Looking at her, I was flooded by love”.
  • “Waves of passion came over me”. 


  • “He swept me off my feet”.
  • “I was carried away by love”.

Jane Eyre: Love Torn Between Fire and Water

The English Victorian culture of 19th century, however, presents a different example of Western cultural views on the metaphors of love-as-fire and love-as-water. “Jane Eyre” (Brontë, 1847/2008)- the novel of Charlotte Brontë beautifully exemplifies this cultural idea of that time. The fire-water image symbolizes the key points of the novel: love finds a golden middle way between the flames of passion and the waters of reason.

“She re-awakens the glow of their love, and their two natures join in a steady flame that burns neither as wildly as the lightning that destroyed the chestnut, nor as dimly as the setting sun of St. John Rivers’ religious dream”

(Solomon, 1963, p. 217).

The wildly passionate appeal of romantic love goes along with control (Imlay, 1993; Solomon, 1963)

Love as Fire and Water in Eastern Cultures

Water and fire metaphors also represent love in Eastern cultures. For instance, the Indian tradition embodies love in the metaphor of heat that commonly represents the power of fire and power of water:

Swept away by rivers of love

(swelling floods of their desire)

Torrents dammed by their elders

(propriety of all parents require)

Close they stand, anxious but still

(hiding passions, restraining sights)

Lovers drink nectars from the blossoms

(the love that pours from the lotus eyes).

Amaruśataka, a collection of Sanskrit erotic lyrical poems (cited by Siegel, 1983).

Eastern Cultural Representations of Love as Water

In India, love is widely represented in the context of water in Hindi films, television dramas, and songs. They follow the aesthetic traditions evolved in Sanskrit/ Hindi and Urdu poetry and art (Dwyer 2006, p. 294). In the Hindi films, romance and love are portrayed in a paradise setting: parks, gardens, mountains, and valleys: “a whole set of visual codes (landscape, setting, physical appearance, costume, symbols, and so on) as well as those of the language itself, a blend of registers of Hindi, Urdu, and English.” (Dwyer & Patel, 2002, pp. 55–59).

The romantic eroticism of water is portrayed by beautiful rivers, waterfalls, mountainous areas, and tropical beaches of paradise. Many episodes of films depict the fantastic places that create private spaces for romantic couples, where they are away from their family that can control their personal lives, love, romance, and marriage.

Islamic island culture in the Maldives is different from Hindu culture. Nevertheless, Maldivian video clips resemble the way love and eroticism are presented in Indian films and music. These video clips, on the other hand, frequently place love in the beauty of the Maldivian landscape. They portray the turquoise water, the swaying palm trees, and the white sand beaches of the islands (Fulu 2014).

Questions for thought:

Do you know any other metaphors about love as water?

How are the relation of fire and water represented in those metaphor?

Do other languages and cultures have similar or different metaphors about love as water?

You may also be interested in the articles:

Where do you feel your love?

Love as a natural force

Body metaphors of emotions across cultures

Love-as-fire across European and North American cultures


Brontë, C. (1847/2008). Jane Eyre. Oxford University Press.

Dwyer, R. (2006). Kiss or tell: Declaring love in Hindi films. In F. Orsini (Ed.), Love in South Asia (pp. 289–302). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Dwyer, R., & Patel, D. (2002). Cinema India: The visual culture of Hindi film. London, UK: Reaktion Books.

Fulu, E. (2014). Domestic violence in Asia: Globalization, gender, and Islam in the Maldives. London, UK: Routledge.

Imlay, E. (1993). Charlotte Brontë and the mysteries of love: myth and allegory in Jane Eyre. Parapress Limited.

Siegel, L. (1983). Fires of love, waters of peace: Passion and renunciation in Indian Culture. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.

Solomon, E. (1963). Jane Eyre: Fire and Water. College English25(3), 215-217.

Body Metaphors of Emotions Across Cultures

Subjective experiences of love are widely embodied in various sensations and organs. Therefore, it is not surprising that bodily metaphors and metonymies are common for verbal expressions of emotion and love (see, for example, Kovecses, 1988, 2003). For example, an increase in body heat and in heart rate may be indicative of love, as in “I felt hot all over when I saw her,” or “He’s a heart-throb.” Sweaty palms and blushing may also stand for love, as in “She blushed when she saw him,” or “His palms became sweaty when he looked at her.”

The Heart Emotional Metaphors Across Cultures

A few types of heart metaphors referring to the expressions of emotions and love are present in Germanic languages (e.g., German and English) and Romance languages (e.g., Italian, Spanish, and French). The heart is a container of sincere feelings and emotions, as it is presented in German, French, Italian, and Spanish in such expressions as “speaking from the heart,” or “speaking from the bottom of one’s heart” (Pérez, 2008).

The Italian “parlare col cuore in mano,”  the same way as the Spanish “hablar con el corazon en la mano,”  has the figurative denotation “speak with the heart in your hand,” meaning “speak frankly,” “clearly show one’s emotions.” In English, the expressions “near my heart,” “give my heart,” “lose my heart,” and “gain a beloved’s heart” are common metaphors of love and affection.

The Turkish words for heart (“kalp” and “yürek”) are also used as metaphors for many emotions, such as fire, force, burden, agitation, and others (Baş, 2017). 

In the Gĩkũy – the spoken language of the Kikuyu people of Kenya (East Africa), the heart metaphor wendo ni ngoro (“love is heart”) figuratively localizes love and other emotions (Gathigia, Ndung’u, & Orwenjo, 2015). Several lexical expressions convey this meaning, such as wendo utumaga uhure ngoro (“love makes the heart beat fast”), wendo ni thakame (“love is blood”), and wendo wa thakame nduthiraga ngoroini (the love of the blood does not end in the heart”).

Cultural Variation in the Embodiment of Emotions

In many cultures, emotions are also localized in other body parts. In some Turkish metaphoric expressions, emotions are in the liver: “My liver, my soul” (Pérez, 2008). The Malay indigenous people also believe that emotions are situated in the liver (Howell, 1981). The Tahitian people believe emotions derive from their intestines (Levy, 1973). In the cultural expressions of emotions and love in several African cultures, such as Nigeria, the Akan people of Ghana, and Cote d’Ivoire, the belly is the seat of emotions. It is worthwhile to note, however, that many culturally specific words may have multiple meanings that cannot be simply interpreted from a dichotomous view. For instance, the African word yam (stomach) is polysemic, and its expressions describe the intricate metaphoric and metonymic relations of the stomach, womb, heart, chest, and brain, representing multiple positive and negative feelings (Agyekum, 2015).

You may also be interested in these articles:

Where do you feel your love?

Love as a natural force

Body metaphors of emotions across cultures

Love-as-fire across European and North American cultures


Agyekum, K. (2015). Akan metaphoric expressions based on yam ‘stomach’. Cognitive Linguistic Studies, 2(1), 94–115.

Baş, M. (2017). The metaphoric conceptualization of emotion through heart idioms in Turkish. Cognitive Semiotics, 10(2), 121–139.

Gathigia, M. G., Ndung’u, R. W., & Orwenjo, D. O. (2015). When romantic love in Gĩkũyũ becomes a human body part: A cognitive approach. Cognitive Linguistic Studies, 2(1), 79–93.

Howell, S. (1981). Rules not words. In P. Heelas & A. Lock (Eds.), Indigenous psychologies: The anthropology of the self (pp. 133–143). San Diego: Academic Press.

Kövecses, Z. (1988). The language of love: The semantics of passion in conversational English. Bucknell University Press.

Kövecses, Z. (2003). Metaphor and emotion: Language, culture, and body in human feeling. Cambridge University Press.

Levy, R. I. (1973). Tahitians. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Pérez, R. G. (2008). A cross-cultural analysis of heart metaphors. Revista Alicantina de Estudios Ingleses, 2, 25–56.