Dream Language


“Hey, that one looks like a dinosaur! No wait…now it looks like a piano!”

When we try and guess the shapes of clouds, it’s similar to guessing the type of dream we’re having.

Like the clouds in the sky, dreams are ethereal, fragile and never exactly the same. For this reason, it makes it difficult to know the context in which the dream occurs. It’s like knowing the answer but not given the question.  However,  from these dreams, we can make note of  patterns, symbols and feelings of deja vu.

 To further explore the underlying meanings, it helps to understand the language of dreams.

To sail with the language of dreams, it is important to keep the right attitude. Dream interpretation requires us to carry the capacity for uncertainties and doubt. To get closer to the mysteries behind dreams, it requires an investigative and open mind.

Like poetry, dreams teach a lot through its rhythm, imagery and feeling tones. These often feature through dream figures, word play and blended scenes. It is , however, wise to look at the entire dream scene instead of focusing on one dream image. The landscape of the dream may help place the dream image and emotions into clearer context.  It is the same for studying poetry, we cannot understand the meaning and depth of a poem by focusing on one word or line.

It is a call to read between and beyond the lines. Here are  some of many poetic ways dreams express realms of meaning:

  1. Exaggeration: 

A dream is often the stage for the imagination to perform. At times, visual exaggeration is a way for a dream to emphasize meaning. Dreams of monsters, ice-cream castles or sensations of running in slow motion  are just a few examples of exaggerations to illustrate a point.

When I was little,  I used to be afraid of escalators. So every time I dreamed of going up an escalator, I saw the escalator stretch out  like a giant measuring tape.

In the dream, the elongated escalator would then rise higher and bend into a roller-coaster loop. While holding onto the banister of the twisting escalator, I could feel my feet dangling in mid-air while the escalator continued to twist and turn into the sky.   It seemed that this fear of escalators often manifested in my dreams as an exaggerated steep and dangerous escalator.  Perhaps the apparent exaggeration in the dream was also a way to mock my fear of something so harmless.

  2. Expressions:

Many of us have experienced dreams of falling and felt the adrenaline rush racing through our senses. This tells us that dreams can master further depth with use of literal and figurative expressions.

A fall in a dream could reflect an actual physical stumble to the ground and/or a fear of failure, among many other things – depending on the entire dream picture. The word “fall” ,for example , may associate with positive expressions such as “ falling for someone”  in an affectionate way. It may also be used in a negative light such as “I fell for a trick” or “I am failing in this decision” to illustrate a weakness.

Other examples of expressions that may reflect literally in a dream are, “ sitting on the fence,” “crying over spilt milk” or “I would kill for a vacation.” A dream may easily create its own comic strip with a secret plot.

What’s important to keep in mind is that sometimes it’s the moral of the story behind the plot that is meant to stand out.

3. Distraction:

 Dreams may make use of distracting imagery to lure our attention away from something else in the dream. splashes of swirling colours, obscene to embarrassing dream scenes are all examples of possible distractions.

Dreams have the ability to mask a guilty conscious, blur secret thoughts or knowledge behind confusing imagery.  Though we may not notice every person, place or idea that crosses our paths, the unconscious part of our minds can. In response to this, dreams may conceal this hidden knowledge with distracting dream imagery. As a result, our attention may be drawn away from something in the dream that holds the key meaning to the dream

One dreamer shared a very vivid dream that she remembered for days. In the dream, her dog squatted down in front of her and began to lay an egg . The melon-sized egg popped out, rolled to the ground and glowed. The glowing egg began to split into two eggs that continued to split till the entire lawn was covered in glowing eggs. She saw her brother in the far distance sitting on a swing with his back to her. The image of her little brother was very distant and faint that she hardly noticed him as the glowing eggs began to multiply and fill the entire scene of the dream.

About a week after her dream, she discovered that she had forgotten her brother’s birthday and this also explained why he was ignoring her for a little while. In this dream, it is possible that the dream used a distracting image to draw attention away from an image of her upset brother. The distracting images of glowing eggs may also symbolize repression of her guilt for not paying enough attention to her brother to remember his birthday. It may also represent her real life distraction from her family.

However, some argue that distraction is also a dream’s subtle way of leaving a hint to remind us of something we may have forgotten or chose to ignore. Whatever the reason for the appearance of distracting dream images, it’s probably a good idea to pay attention to subtle or seemingly insignificant dream symbols when analyzing dreams.

Further examples of subtle or hidden dream symbols may include morphing words, sudden switches from one dream scene to another, and sometimes even blank dream moments. If a distracting dream image censors something, it’s possibly for a deeper reason.

4. Metaphors:

This happens when a direct comparison is made between two unlike things that have something in common. Some metaphors used as expressions are, “she’s a leech,” “true friendship is a jewel,” or “love is blind.”

Once again, the dream may conceal meaning behind a raw image of a metaphor. One dreamer shared a dream about her family cat portrayed as an actual human being dressed in a cat costume. She found the dream very humorous as she does accept the cat as part of their human family.

 5. Root meaning:

Instead of referring to a dream dictionary, it may help to consult a real dictionary that may further explain the origins and historical root meaning of the word(s) related to a dream image. For example, the word “money” is derived from the Latin word “moneta” which originally means “warning.”

A dreamer once told me a story about his grandfather who couldn’t find the key to a compartment in his attic. As a result, the grandfather was very troubled by this and often had difficulty sleeping. The grandfather further complained about two dreams he had in which he found this key.

The dreamer asked his grandfather to describe the dream. It turned out the grandfather had 2 dreams of finding his key at the public library.  Eventually, it was the grandmother who discovered the key under a pile of rocks beside their garden tree.

The dreamer was interested in the connection between the dream image of the library with the actual tree where the key was finally found. Interesting enough if we look up the root meaning of “library”, we discover that it’s derived from the Latin word “liber” which means “to peel.” This refers to the inner bark of a tree as early manuscripts were written on  this tree bark.  It appears that there was some connection between the dream and real life as the originating meaning of the word “library” may be associated with the actual tree.

This shows how investigating deeper into the words helps brainstorm associated historical or alternative meanings that may have more relevance to our dream analysis.

6. Oxymorons:

 This is a combination of two contrasting words or concepts to collectively convey a complex or abstract meaning. Common oxymorons are “love-hate relationship,” “a fine mess” or “a just war.”

Once I experienced a strong dream image of fire burning against calm waters. To me this reflected an oxymoron of an attitude to keep peaceful against burning chaos. This was during a time when I felt there were some things in life out of  my control and that sometimes the only solution is to stay calm and composed.


Dreams are full of brain teasers that also play with homonyms. A homonym has two parts to it. One type includes two words that carry different meanings , are spelt the same but sound different.  For example the word lead ( what a leader does) and the word lead ( a metal ) carry two different meanings, sound different but carry the same spelling.

The other type of homonym includes two words that carry different meanings, sound the same but are spelt differently.  For example, the word jeans ( a type of pants) and the word genes ( our biological make up) are two words that sound the same but carry different meanings and spellings. From a dream perspective, many dream images may trace to words with double or multiple meanings.

One dreamer shared her dream experience of playing golf. In the dream, she is forced to play golf. Instead, she would throw a tantrum, take her jeans off and throw it at her dad. In reality, she said her parents forced her to take up golf  when she was younger. This was because her father was a professional golfer and they expected her to follow in her father’s footsteps. Though she was an excellent golfer, she never actually enjoyed it at all. She recalled her younger days of yelling at her parents and wishing she was someone else without golfing practice.

Interesting enough, she made mention of how the “jeans” in her dream had the same sound as the word “genes.” She made the possible connection of the “jeans”  in her dream with the golfing “genes”from her father that she was throwing back at him out of frustration. It seemed to symbolize her disinterest and detachment from her inherent golfing talent.

8. Repetition:

We may notice that we dream a lot about certain people or places. This can occur through dreams that include similar themes, familiar dream figures or feelings of de javu.

 Sometimes dream repetition also occurs through re-occurring dreams or nightmares.  As dreams are greatly responsive to our feelings and thoughts, it’s always interesting to take note of any forms of repetition in dreams. Repetition could be a dream’s way of trying to tell you something new about something old.

For example, I made mention of my old childhood nightmares of escalators stretching, twisting and roller-coasting toward the sky while I tried to desperately hold on. This repetition of the dream as a seemingly dangerous ride may have been the dream’s way of mocking my exaggerated view of escalators as child-abducting-killer-escalators. As I began to grow comfortable with escalators – most likely because I grew taller, I never experienced child-abducting-killer-escalators again.

 There is much scientific research that proves the link between the ability to dream with the part of the brain associated with motivation and desire. As dreams are very responsive to our patterns of thinking and ways of feeling, dreams are further able to reveal any negative habits that hold us back from defining ourselves in a new and positive way.

-By Nikita King

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