[ sim-uh-lee ]
/ ˈsɪm ə li /
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See synonyms for: simile / similes on Thesaurus.com

a figure of speech in which two unlike things are explicitly compared, as in “she is like a rose.”Compare metaphor.
an instance of such a figure of speech or a use of words exemplifying it.


This Or That: Simile vs. Metaphor

Simile vs. metaphor ... it’s the age-old question that none of us can keep straight. So, let’s try looking at it a different way ...

Smoothly step over to these common grammar mistakes that trip many people up. Good luck!
Question 1 of 7
Fill in the blank: I can’t figure out _____ gave me this gift.

Origin of simile

1350–1400; Middle English <Latin: image, likeness, comparison, noun use of neuter of similissimilar


metaphor, simile
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What is a simile?

A simile is a figure of speech in which two unrelated things are compared to each other, as in Jose was as clever as a fox. 

Similes compare two things that seemingly have nothing to do with each other but actually share a trait or characteristic, at least according to the user of the simile. In the simile above, Jose is implied to be wily or sly just like a fox that steals chickens from farmers. Similes often use like or as in the comparison, as in Tom’s insults cut like a knife.

A simile is very similar to a metaphor, another figure of speech. A metaphor also compares two seemingly unrelated things but, unlike a simile, a metaphor says that something is something else. Often, the difference between a metaphor and simile is a single word. Her life was like an open book is a simile, while Her life was an open book is a metaphor.

Similes and metaphors can be used to accomplish the same thing, and it is ultimately up to the writer or speaker which one they’d prefer to use.

Why is simile important?

The first records of the word simile come from around 1350. It ultimately comes from Latin, in which it means “an image” or “a likeness.” A simile says that two things share a likeness or have something in common.

Similes have been used since the beginning of poetry, and even the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle theorized about them. Some of the most common imagery used in similes include things from nature, such as animals, plants, and the weather. Similes also frequently make comparisons based on sensory experiences, such as smells, tastes, and sounds.

Did you know … ?

Similes are still very common in popular culture today and many writers, musicians, and artists use them. Here are a few examples from some modern popular songs:

  • “I’ll worship like a dog at the shrine of your lies” (“Take Me to Church” by Hozier)
  • “I came in like a wrecking ball” (“Wrecking Ball” by Miley Cyrus)
  • “And one thought crystallizes like an icy blast” (“Let It Go” by Idina Menzel)

What are real-life examples of simile?

This video gives an example of how common similes are in the songs we listen to and movies we watch:

Similes are a very popular figure of speech that many people like to use.

What other words are related to simile?

Quiz yourself!

Is the following sentence an example of a simile?

I am going to float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.

How to use simile in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for simile

/ (ˈsɪmɪlɪ) /

a figure of speech that expresses the resemblance of one thing to another of a different category, usually introduced by as or likeCompare metaphor

Word Origin for simile

C14: from Latin simile something similar, from similis like
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Cultural definitions for simile

[ (sim-uh-lee) ]

A common figure of speech that explicitly compares two things usually considered different. Most similes are introduced by like or as: “The realization hit me like a bucket of cold water.” (Compare metaphor.)

notes for simile

Some similes, such as “sleeping like a log,” have become clichés.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.