simile

noun

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

Example Sentences

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?
Recent Examples on the Web That cetaceous simile deliberately mirrors Clute’s own baroque style and might also be the best description of his critical persona that anyone has ever given. Michael Dirda, Washington Post, 10 Nov. 2022 The simile, which locates something barbaric in the trappings of classical culture, places nervous, reasonable Trelawny in a world of archaic ritual and potentially cathartic extremity. Katy Waldman, The New Yorker, 29 Aug. 2022 There's a common simile, metaphor, Sandy, about the difficulty of turning an aircraft carrier. CBS News, 1 Sep. 2021 Wright transforms Caravaggio’s theatrical chiaroscuro lighting technique, popularized in the 16th and 17th centuries as a religious simile for spiritual illumination, into a metaphor of rational enlightenment. Los Angeles Times, 13 July 2021 But despite your choice of simile, there’s no question that the cicada is a bizarre-looking beast. Paul Cappiello, The Courier-Journal, 14 May 2021 And this type of mock simile—comparing small culinary errors to eye-catching calamities—has become the restaurant review’s definitive literary device. Theodore Gioia, The New Republic, 16 Dec. 2020 The Harry Potter series is often the choice for simile for many my age or younger. Luther Ray Abel, National Review, 17 Sep. 2020 An effective simile must feel appropriate to the situation. Gary Gilson, Star Tribune, 29 Aug. 2020 See More

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.

Word History

Etymology

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

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined above

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

Dictionary Entries Near simile

Cite this Entry

“Simile.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/simile. Accessed 1 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition

simile

noun

sim·​i·​le ˈsim-ə-(ˌ)lē How to pronounce simile (audio)
: a figure of speech in which things different in kind or quality are compared by the use of the word like or as (as in eyes like stars) compare metaphor
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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