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

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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?
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Recent Examples on the Web

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 Social media was not full of snarky similes and comparisons to cartoon characters. Vanessa Friedman, New York Times, "The Golden Globes’ 500 Shades of Black: Did It Work?," 8 Jan. 2018 Moving into the second half of Sheeran's contributions, the talented artist reflects on his pain implementing a simile comparing the tears running down his face to that of a river. Michael Saponara, Billboard, "Here Are Eminem & Ed Sheeran's 'River' Lyrics Decoded," 18 Dec. 2017 Wilson is at her best in one of the poem’s greatest scenes, the first meeting in Book 19 between Penelope and her unrecognized husband: Wilson gives us the simile, one of the loveliest in Homer. Gregory Hays, New York Times, "A Version of Homer That Dares to Match Him Line for Line," 5 Dec. 2017

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.

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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

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Time Traveler for simile

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

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More Definitions for simile



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.

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More from Merriam-Webster on simile

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with simile

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for simile

Spanish Central: Translation of simile

Nglish: Translation of simile for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of simile for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about simile

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).


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