sim·​i·​le | \ ˈsi-mə-(ˌ)lē How to pronounce simile (audio) \

Definition of simile

: a figure of speech comparing two unlike things that is often introduced by like or as (as in cheeks like roses) — compare metaphor

Keep scrolling for more

Simile vs. Metaphor

Many people have trouble distinguishing between simile and metaphor. A glance at their Latin and Greek roots offers a simple way of telling these two closely-related figures of speech apart. Simile comes from the Latin word similis (meaning “similar, like”), which seems fitting, since the comparison indicated by a simile will typically contain the words as or like. Metaphor, on the other hand, comes from the Greek word metapherein (“to transfer”), which is also fitting, since a metaphor is used in place of something. “My love is like a red, red rose” is a simile, and “love is a rose” is a metaphor.

Examples of simile in a Sentence

But Dickens finds the unexpected detail, the vivid simile. Think of Joe Gargery in Great Expectations, "with eyes of such a very undecided blue that they seemed to have somehow got mixed with their own whites." Or, in David Copperfield, Dora's cousin "in the Life-Guards, with such long legs that he looked like the afternoon shadow of somebody else." — James Wood, New Republic, 14 Dec. 1998 After the internship year, doctors assume greater responsibility for directing patient care. Dr. Shockcor at West Virginia offered a homely simile: "It's like working in a factory, putting doors on cars. I'm now responsible that the doors get put on right, whereas as an intern I had to make sure I had a door in my hands and didn't miss a car going by." — Michael Harwood, New York Times Magazine, 3 June1984 “She's as fierce as a tiger” is a simile, but “She's a tiger when she's angry” is a metaphor. What do you think of the author's use of simile?
See More
Recent Examples on the Web In apparent homage to this simile, the parade’s delivery drivers wore yellow and black hats topped with bee antennae, like heroes in a children’s book. The Economist, "Xi’s embrace of false history and fearsome weapons is worrying," 3 Oct. 2019 Every facsimile has a simile hidden in it somewhere. Tom Carson, Los Angeles Times, "Woodstock glorified them. Tarantino barbecued them. In 2019, whither the hippie?," 15 Aug. 2019 Stoppard’s libretto is poetic but linear, full of juicy similes and winding sentences. Zoë Madonna,, "Putting the pieces together in posthumous premiere of André Previn’s ‘Penelope’," 25 July 2019 In a brilliant short essay, Lydia Kiesling solves this problem by piling up metaphors and similes. Sam Anderson, New York Times, "New Sentences: From Lydia Kiesling’s ‘What Does Being Pregnant Feel Like?’," 25 May 2018 Her class dissects song lyrics from Bruno Mars to detect and decipher hyperboles and similes. Jonece Starr Dunigan,, "Fairfield teacher uses reading to stop school-to-prison pipeline," 27 Apr. 2018 Basketball is probably the best simile with all the back and forth, fouls, shots taken, missed and hit. Chris Stirewalt, Fox News, "What real patriotism looks like," 4 Apr. 2018 That was one of many sayings that kind of puzzled me in childhood, even when a picture accompanied the simile or comparison. Maria Shine Stewart,, "Whether lion or lamb, March heads toward spring: Sun Messages," 2 Mar. 2018 Last night, millions settled in to watch Mikaela Shiffrin’s Pyeongchang Olympics debut only to have their hopes blown away like a loose snowflake on a dandelion, which is a striking simile in both its poetry and its appropriateness. Kelly Conaboy, The Cut, "Stupid Wind Is Ruining the Olympics," 14 Feb. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'simile.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of simile

14th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for simile

Middle English, from Latin, comparison, from neuter of similis

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about simile

Statistics for simile

Last Updated

15 Nov 2019

Time Traveler for simile

The first known use of simile was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for simile


How to pronounce simile (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of simile

grammar : a phrase that uses the words like or as to describe someone or something by comparing it with someone or something else that is similar


sim·​i·​le | \ ˈsi-mə-ˌlē How to pronounce simile (audio) \

Kids Definition of simile

: a figure of speech comparing two unlike things using like or as “Their cheeks are like roses” is a simile. “Their cheeks are roses” is a metaphor.

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on simile

What made you want to look up simile? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to engage in dissolute behavior

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Pass the Little Ribbons: A Pasta Word Quiz

  • rotelle pasta
  • Match the pasta to its meaning in English: Rotelle
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Bee Cubed

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!