This article presents the evolution of Heinz Werner's thought on metaphor from 1919 until Symbol Formation (1963). Early on, he distinguished between the logical and the psychological approach to metaphor, where the former analyzes the conceptual conflation produced by metaphor and the latter centers on the subjective experience of this incongruence. Starting with an inquiry into direct experience, he initially develops the notion of pneuma and later that of physiognomy. In Symbol Formation, Werner and Kaplan (1963) expand this distinction by introducing the concept of physiognomic and geometric properties of language in general. We argue that the holistic-developmental approach is deeply related to the vitalist and romantic traditions of the 19th century. We analyze three theories of metaphor after 1963: conceptual metaphor, semiotic anthropology, and contextual approaches to metaphor. We argue that while the first of these follows the traditional logical-geometrical approach to language, the latter two may better reflect the spirit of Werner and Kaplan. © The Author(s) 2013 Reprints and permissions: sagepub.co.uk/journalsPermissions.nav.