A simile (/ˈsɪməli/) is a figure of speech that directly compares two things.[1][2] Similes differ from other metaphors by highlighting the similarities between two things using comparison words such as "like", "as", "so", or " than",[3] while other metaphors create an implicit comparison (i.e. saying something "is" something else).[1][4] This distinction is evident in the etymology of the words: simile derives from the Latin word similis ("similar, like"), while metaphor derives from the Greek word metapherein ("to transfer").[5]

Author and lexicographer Frank J. Wilstach compiled a dictionary of similes in 1916, with a second edition in 1924.


In literatureEdit

As when a prowling Wolf,
Whom hunger drives to seek new haunt for prey,
Watching where Shepherds pen their Flocks at eve
In hurdl'd Cotes amid the field secure,
Leaps o'er the fence with ease into the Fold:
. . . . . . .
So clomb this first grand Thief into God's Fold[8]

In comedyEdit

Similes are used extensively in British comedy, notably in the slapstick era of the 1960s and 1970s. In comedy, the simile is often used in negative style: "he was as daft as a brush." They are also used in comedic context where a sensitive subject is broached, and the comedian will test the audience with response to subtle implicit simile before going deeper.[9] The sitcom Blackadder featured the use of extended similes, normally said by the title character. For example:

Baldrick: I have a plan, sir.
Blackadder: Really, Baldrick? A cunning and subtle one?
Baldrick: Yes, sir.
Blackadder: As cunning as a fox who's just been appointed Professor of Cunning at Oxford University?

In languages other than EnglishEdit

Given that similes emphasize affinities between different objects, they occur in many cultures and languages.


Sayf al-Din al-Amidi discussed Arabic similes in 1805: "On Substantiation Through Transitive Relations".


Thuy Nga Nguyen and Ghil'ad Zuckermann (2012) classify Vietnamese similes into two types: Meaning Similes and Rhyming Similes.

The following is an example:

Nghèo như con mèo
/ŋɛu ɲɯ kɔn mɛu/
"Poor as a cat"

Whereas the above Vietnamese example is of a rhyming simile, the English simile "(as) poor as a church mouse" is only a semantic simile.[10]


In telugu, simile is known as upamaalankaaramu (ఉపమాలంకారము). Based on the components of the sentence in which the comparison is made, they are classified into complete (పూర్ణోపమాలంకారము- puurnopamaalankaaramu) and incomplete (లుప్తోపమాలంకారము- lupthopamaalankaaramu) similes. The classic example of a complete simile is: ఆమె ముఖము చంద్రబింబము వలెనున్నది (Her face looks like a moon).

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms (2nd ed.). Bedford/St. Martins. 2003. pp. 447–448. ISBN 978-0312259105.
  2. ^ "Simile". Literary Terms. 22 June 2015. Retrieved 6 April 2016.
  3. ^ "LitCharts".
  4. ^ "Oxford Reference: metaphor and simile". Oxford Reference. Retrieved 4 July 2019.
  5. ^ "Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 4 July 2019.
  6. ^ Burns, Robert. "A Red Red Rose". Glen Collection of Printed Music, Vol. 5. National Library of Scotland. p. 415. Retrieved 2016-04-06.
  7. ^ Murfin, Ross; Ray, Supryia M. (2003). The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms (2nd ed.). Bedford/St. Martins. pp. 135. ISBN 978-0312259105.
  8. ^ Milton, John (1852). Henry John Todd (ed.). The Poetical Works of John Milton: With Notes of Various Authors; and with Some Account of the Life and Writings of Milton, Derived Principally from Original Documents in Her Majesty's State-paper Office. Rivingtons, Longman and Company. p. 62.
  9. ^ "What Is A Simile?". Funny Similes!. Retrieved 2016-04-06.
  10. ^ See p. 98 in Thuy Nga Nguyen and Ghil'ad Zuckermann (2012), "Stupid as a Coin: Meaning and Rhyming Similes in Vietnamese", International Journal of Language Studies 6 (4), pp. 97-118.