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Simile

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Simile

A simile is a type of figurative language or a figure of speech, that compares two things, usually to draw attention to their similarities.

Simile meaning and effect

The clue is in the name - simile is all about similarity. Simile uses connecting words such as “like”, “as” or “than”; for example: “running like the wind”, “as hot as a sauna” or “more cunning than a fox”. Simile is one of the most common techniques in creative writing, but it's also very common to hear it in everyday language.

Simile words and examples

In this section, we'll look at examples of similes, some of which you may already be familiar with.

Examples of common phrases that use simile

As cold as ice.

You could use this phrase to describe something that is physically very cold, or you could use it to describe a nasty or unfriendly person. Either way, by comparing that thing (the object or someone's personality) to ice, you are making a point about just how cold it is.

Simile, swearing snowman, StudySmarterAs cold as ice! StudySmarter Originals

Like watching paint dry.

Can you think of anything more boring than watching paint dry? By drawing a comparison to this extremely tedious activity, we get the idea that the thing you are describing is not exactly thrilling!

As clear as mud.

You would normally use this phrase to describe something that is confusing or hard to understand. This comparison comes from the fact that you cannot see through mud - it's the opposite of clear! If somebody were to say, "The instructions are as clear as mud", we understand this to mean, "The instructions are not clear at all". This is an example of simile, comparing two things to draw attention to their differences.

It's worth noting that these three phrases are also examples of idioms. An idiom is a figure of speech that has become common in everyday conversation.

Examples of simile in poetry

... when you rage and moan

and bring your fists down like a stone ”

(Don Paterson, "The Circle," 2009)

Paterson is describing his son angrily banging his fists - we imagine stone as being heavy, helping us to picture the boy's fists slamming down with great force. Throughout the poem, there are allusions to outer space, planets and the elements, and so this simile fits nicely with the theme.

“… Her veins

Like shadows below the lines of the map ”

(Carol Ann Duffy, "The Map-Woman," 2002)

This entire poem compares a woman's body, and life experiences, to a map, and this line in particular serves as a great example of how simile can create vivid imagery. This poem is also an example of extended metaphor.

“What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up

like a raisin in the sun?

Or fester like a sore -

And then run? "

(Langston Hughes, "Harlem," 1951)

This poem uses simile throughout to ask the question, what happens to a dream (or ambition) if you put it to the side rather than pursuing it? The two similes in this extract create some memorable imagery by suggesting that it might dry up like a raisin in the sun” , or more firmly like a sore”.

Examples of simile in song lyrics

"I came in like a wrecking ball"

(Miley Cyrus, "Wrecking Ball," 2013)

A wrecking ball is a device used for demolition, and in this line, Cyrus is describing how she entered a relationship, throwing herself in full force to try and break down the other person's barriers. By comparing herself to a wrecking ball, we get a sense of how destructive her behavior was.

“Just like a moth drawn to a flame,

You lured me in, I couldn't sense the pain ”

(Shawn Mendes, "Stitches," 2015)

We all know that moths are attracted to light, which can be deadly if they are drawn to a flame - you could call it a “fatal attraction”. Here, Mendes is comparing himself to a moth being drawn to a lover (a “flame” - which is also a double meaning ), not knowing what danger could lie ahead.

"I'm cooler than a polar bear's toenails"

(Outkast, “ATLiens”, 1996)

In this playful line, rapper Big Boi compares himself to a polar bear's toenails (or claws) - which obviously spend a lot of time in snow, and so are “cool”. This is a good example of how a smile can be used to humorous effect.

Examples of simile in fiction

"[Her face], when she saw him, always looked like a window that has caught the sunset."

(Edith Wharton, Edith Frome, 1911)

A window that has caught the sunset lights up with warm color - just like the face of somebody who has seen their love interest. This is a great example of how simile can make a line much more interesting and expressive.

“… Ankh-Morpork is as full of life as an old cheese on a hot day, as loud as a curse in a cathedral, as bright as an oil slick, as colorful as a bruise…”

(Terry Pratchett, Mort, 1987)

Here Pratchett strings together a line of original, extremely creative similes, to describe how loud and brash the fictional city of Ankh-Morpork is. “As full of life as an old cheese on a hot day” is a particularly disgusting image - it makes us picture a piece of cheese brimming with maggots and all manner of creepy crawlies, which is fitting for a place as bustling (and dirty) as Ankh-Morpork.

"I struggled through the alphabet as if it had been a bramble-bush"

(Charles Dickens, Great Expectations, 1860-1861)

At this point in the book, the protagonist Pip is learning to read and write, and by comparing his learning of the alphabet to a bramble-bush, we imagine the pain and difficulty of his struggle to get through it.

Simile, Great Expectations, StudySmarterPip struggling with the alphabet, StudySmarter Originals

When is a comparison NOT a simile?

We've established that a simile draws a comparison between two things, but not every comparison is a simile. For example:

Today's dinner is just like yesterday's dinner.

This is NOT a simile. It compares two things that are basically the same (today's dinner and yesterday's dinner). The comparison is literal . Now consider this phrase ...

Today's dinner is like toxic waste.

This IS a simile, as it makes the description more vivid . The comparison is figurative because it has a degree of imagination; it creates imagery to make a point about how bad the dinner is.

Which of the following phrases is a simile?

"You look like your brother", or "You look like a wild dog" .

The answer is, "You look like a wild dog"; once again, the comparison is not literal, but it is making a point through its imagery (albeit not a very nice one!).

If you have any doubt about this, take another look at the examples in the previous section and you'll see how they all compare things that are very different from each other; a boy's fists and stone; a person entering a relationship and a wrecking ball; a city and a piece of old cheese; all of these examples are imaginative and really paint a picture to express an idea or opinion.

How is simile different from metaphor?

Metaphor and simile are easily confused, as they both draw comparisons between two things. The main difference is that simile uses connecting words, such as “like” or “as”, whereas metaphor doesn't . Simile is often a more direct way of comparing two things; metaphor can be a little more abstract. For more information, see Metaphor vs simile - what's the difference?

Simile - key takeaways

  • Simile is a type of figurative language, or a figure of speech, that directly compares two things, usually to draw attention to their similarities.
  • Simile uses connecting words, such as “like” or “as” to draw comparisons - this is one of the main differences between simile and metaphor.
  • Many common phrases, or idioms, make use of similes. Examples include: "as cold as ice", "sleeping like a baby", and "hotter than a sauna".
  • People use similes to create imagery and to express their opinions and feelings in imaginative and creative ways.

Frequently Asked Questions about Simile

Simile is a type of figurative language, or a figure of speech, that directly compares two things, usually to draw attention to their similarities. Simile uses connecting words such as “like”, “as” or “than”; for example: “running like the wind”, “as hot as a sauna” or “more cunning than a fox”.

Some examples of similes are:

Running like the wind.

As hot as a sauna.

More cunning than a fox.

As cold as ice.

Like watching paint dry.

As clear as mud.

Life is like a box of chocolates.

I feel like a million dollars.

The effect of simile is that it compares one thing with another; this can help make descriptions more vivid, or it can express an opinion by drawing attention to the similarities or differences between two things.

The difference between simile and metaphor is that simile uses connecting words, such as “like” or “as”, whereas metaphor doesn’t. Simile is often a more direct way to compare two things; metaphor can be a little more abstract.

A simile does not always have to use 'like' or 'as'. It can use other connecting words such as 'so' or 'than'. Or, it can use verbs such as 'resembles' or 'similar to'.

Final Simile Quiz

Question

Which of the following best describes simile?

Show answer

Answer

A figure of speech that likens one thing to another.

Show question

Question

True or false?


A simile is a type of figurative language.

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

True or false?


A simile always rhymes.

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Answer

False

Show question

Question

Simile is another word for metaphor.

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Answer

False.


Show question

Question

Which of the following is NOT an example of a simile?

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Answer

He’s the most graceful dancer I’ve ever seen.

Show question

Question

Which of the following is NOT an example of a simile?

Show answer

Answer

I like to swim.

Show question

Question

Which of the following is NOT an example of a simile?

Show answer

Answer

Those chips are glass shards.

Show question

Question

True or false?


Similes are frequently used in creative writing.

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

True or false?


Similes can make descriptions more vivid.

Show answer

Answer

True.


Show question

Question

Fill in the blank to make the following sentence a simile:


His temper is ____________ volcano.

Show answer

Answer

“bubbling like a”

Show question

Question

Which of the following common phrases is NOT a simile?

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Answer

Jumping on the bandwagon.

Show question

Question

Which of the following is an example of a simile?

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Answer

Love is as delicate as a flower.

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Question

A simile is the same thing as an idiom.

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Answer

False.


Show question

Question

My dog Rover is about as lively as a brick.

What does this tell us about Rover?

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Answer

That he is not energetic or lively at all.

Show question

Question

A simile is...

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Answer

a figure of speech

Show question

Question

True or false?


Similes are never used in everyday conversations.

Show answer

Answer

False

Show question

Question

Which of the following is NOT an example of a simile?

Show answer

Answer

She was an animal 

Show question

Question

Fill in the blank to make the following sentence a simile:


He is ________ a tree.

Show answer

Answer

tall like

Show question

Question

True or false?


Every comparison made in a text is a simile.

Show answer

Answer

False

Show question

Question

Are similes and metaphors both examples of figures of speech?

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Answer

Yes

Show question

Question

Fill in the blank:


Similes compare two things using _________ words.

Show answer

Answer

connecting 

Show question

Question

Which of the following is not an example of a connecting word?

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Answer

is

Show question

Question

Similes are used to...

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Answer

compare

Show question

Question

True or false?


The meaning of a simile should not be taken literally.

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

Is the following sentence a simile?


Life is a highway.

Show answer

Answer

No

Show question

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