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.

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?
Recent Examples on the Web Atkins recommends starting with metaphors and similes, which Swift often employs. Clare Mulroy, USA TODAY, 19 Apr. 2024 Only now, in London, does the simile make sense, but the Indian student had to be himself translated in order to grasp it. James Wood, The New Yorker, 1 Apr. 2024 See all Example Sentences for simile 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'simile.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Middle English, borrowed from Latin, "image, likeness, comparison," noun derivative from neuter of similis "having characteristics in common, like" — more at similar

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 30 May. 2024.

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
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