What Is a Simile? | Meaning, Definition & Examples

What Is a Simile?

A simile is a rhetorical device used to compare two things using the words “like”, “as”, or “than”.

Similes can be used to create vivid imagery or to draw surprising connections between two unrelated things. They’re commonly used in literature, advertising, and everyday speech and are closely related to metaphors and analogies.

Examples: Similes
Anthony used to be as strong as an ox.

Her phone buzzed like a beehive.

The dancer was as graceful as a swan.

Your laughter is like music to my ears.

Instantly correct all language mistakes in your text

Be assured that you'll submit flawless writing. Upload your document to correct all your mistakes.

upload-your-document-ai-proofreader

What is a simile?

A simile is a comparison that uses the words “like”, “as”, or “than”.

Similes are used to emphasise or exaggerate a specific quality of one thing by comparing it to something else. Similes are effective because they “show” rather than “tell” (i.e., they use descriptive language to convey an idea instead of stating it as fact).

Examples: Similes
Mary is as stubborn as a mule.

The child moved through the room like a tornado.

His tongue is sharper than a sword.

The protagonist’s heart beat like a drum.

Similes are commonly used in literature, speeches, advertising, and everyday speech. They can be used to create vivid images and to make surprising connections between two dissimilar things. However, they should be avoided in formal contexts like academic writing.

Note
Not all comparisons that use “like”, “as”, or “than” are similes. While a simile is used to make a figurative comparison between two dissimilar things or things of a different type, other comparisons may be literal:

You look like your father.

You look like a million bucks.

I’m as fast as you.

I’m as fast as lightning.

The only proofreading tool specialized in correcting academic writing

The academic proofreading tool has been trained on 1000s of academic texts and by native English editors. Making it the most accurate and reliable proofreading tool for students.

Correct my document today

Simile vs metaphor

Similes and metaphors are both used to make a comparison between two unlike things. However, they have different functions:

  • A simile makes an explicit comparison between two things (e.g., “love is like a battlefield”).
  • A metaphor makes an implicit comparison by saying that something is something else (e.g., “love is a battlefield”).

Unlike similes, metaphors don’t use the words “like”, “as”, or “than”. Instead, they usually contain a form of the verb “be” to equate two things (e.g., “you are an angel”). This is not literal but rather used to emphasise a specific, implied quality (in this case, “kindness”).

Examples: Simile vs metaphor
Mrs Kennedy’s eyes sparkled like diamonds.

Mrs Kennedy’s eyes were diamonds.

The moon hung in the sky like a lantern.

The moon was a lantern.

Simile vs analogy

There are two main types of analogies:

  • Identical relationship analogies indicate the logical relationship of things being compared (e.g., “A is to B as C is to D”).
  • Shared abstraction analogies compare two unlike things that share a common quality to illustrate a point or make an argument.

Analogies of shared abstraction are closely related to similes, but they serve slightly different purposes. Both draw a comparison between two unlike things, but while similes are typically used to describe something, analogies of shared abstraction are used to explain something or to make an argument.

Examples: Shared abstraction analogies
“Learning a new language is like building a house it requires a solid foundation, attention to detail, and time”.

“A goal is like a compass it gives you a sense of direction”.

“Life is like the theatre and we all play many roles”.

Common similes

Many common expressions are similes.

Simile Meaning
I ran like the wind. Very fast
It fits like a glove. Perfectly
The news hit me like a ton of bricks. Very hard
He was drawn to her like a moth to a flame. With intense interest
The children fight like cats and dogs. Fiercely and often
The old woman is as fit as a fiddle. In excellent physical health
My brother is as mad as a hatter. Crazy or unpredictable
The waiter was as busy as a bee/beaver. Industrious or hardworking
The package is as light as a feather. Lightweight or delicate
The student is as sharp as a tack. Intelligent or quick-witted

The only proofreading tool specialized in correcting academic writing

The academic proofreading tool has been trained on 1000s of academic texts and by native English editors. Making it the most accurate and reliable proofreading tool for students.

Correct my document today

Simile and metaphor worksheet

You can test your knowledge of the difference between similes and metaphors with the worksheet below. Choose whether each sentence contains a simile or a metaphor.

  1. You drink like a fish.
  2. Josephine is old, but she’s as fit as a fiddle.
  3. Life is a rollercoaster.
  4. Your smile is brighter than a thousand stars.
  5. You are an angel, but sometimes you can be as stubborn as a mule.
  1. You drink like a fish.
    • This sentence contains a simile because it makes a direct comparison using the word “like”.
  1. Josephine is old, but she’s as fit as a fiddle.
    • This sentence contains a simile because it makes a direct comparison using the word “as”.
  1. Life is a rollercoaster.
    • This sentence contains a metaphor because it makes an implicit comparison by saying that something is something else.
  1. Your smile is brighter than a thousand stars.
    • This sentence contains a simile because it makes a direct comparison using the word “than”.
  1. You are an angel, but sometimes you can be as stubborn as a mule.
    • This sentence contains both a metaphor (“you are an angel”) and a simile (“as stubborn as a mule”).

    Frequently asked questions

    What is the difference between a simile and metaphor?

    Similes are sometimes confused with metaphors, but they have different functions:

    • A simile draws an explicit comparison between two things using the words “like,” “as,” or “than” (e.g., “your eyes are like the ocean”).
    • A metaphor draws an implicit comparison by saying something is something else (e.g. “your eyes are an ocean”).
    What is an example of a simile?

    A simile is a rhetorical device used to compare two things (typically using the words “like,” “as,” or “than”).

    Many common expressions are similes, including: “as quiet as a mouse,” “as strong as an ox,” and “as fit as a fiddle.”

    Similes are commonly used in literature, advertising, and everyday speech. However, they should be avoided in formal contexts like academic writing.

    Cite this Scribbr article

    If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the ‘Cite this Scribbr article’ button to automatically add the citation to our free Reference Generator.

    Ryan, E. (2023, October 26). What Is a Simile? | Meaning, Definition & Examples. Scribbr. Retrieved 22 February 2024, from https://www.scribbr.co.uk/rhetorical-devices/simile-meaning/

    Is this article helpful?
    Eoghan Ryan

    Eoghan has a lot of experience with theses and dissertations at bachelor's, MA, and PhD level. He has taught university English courses, helping students to improve their research and writing.

    Still have questions?

    Please click the checkbox on the left to verify that you are a not a bot.