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 An effective simile must feel appropriate to the situation. Gary Gilson, Star Tribune, "Similes are like a breath of fresh air; metaphors are a breath of fresh air," 29 Aug. 2020 This simile becomes increasingly literal as the story progresses. Megan Evershed, The New Republic, "Reading the Literature of Grief During a Pandemic," 9 July 2020 Horace goes off on tangents, extends similes beyond their relevance, circles back to topics already covered. Gregory Hays, The New York Review of Books, "Horace’s How-To," 27 May 2020 Throughout the markup, there has been a long list of clichés, similes, metaphors and allusions — some good, some not so good — as lawmakers trudge ahead with a marathon debate on the two articles of impeachment. NBC News, "Democrats vote down GOP amendment on aid to Ukraine," 13 Dec. 2019 This simile has now extended to a discussion of their physicality and defense. Phil Davis,, "‘The Wire’ vs. ‘Melrose Place’? ‘Monday Night Football’ announcers compare TV shows to Ravens, Rams," 25 Nov. 2019 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

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

15th 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

Time Traveler for simile

Time Traveler

The first known use of simile was in the 15th century

See more words from the same century

Statistics for simile

Last Updated

5 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Simile.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Sep. 2020.

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).


Test Your Vocabulary

Homophone Quiz

  • three bears two of them look like theyre whispering to a third bear who looks chuffed to be the center of attention
  • In order to judge how people felt, the senator's office hired a firm to take a ______.
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Syn City

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!