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Simile Examples & Types | What is a Simile?

Jeffrey Mettee, Maria Howard
  • Author
    Jeffrey Mettee

    Jeffrey Mettee has taught 10th, 11th, and 12th grades World Studies, European Studies, and American Studies for over sixteen years. He has a B.A. in Religious Studies from the College of Wooster and received his M.A. in Religious Studies from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

  • Instructor
    Maria Howard

    Maria is a teacher and a learning specialist and has master's degrees in literature and education.

What is a simile? Learn about the simile definition, simile examples, and types of similes. Also learn how similes are used in literature, songs, and speech. Updated: 06/10/2021

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What is a Simile?

A simile is a group of words that use "like" or ''as'' to compare two things. The writer of a simile is making a connection between the two elements of the simile. A more formal definition for a simile is figurative language designed to compare two nouns using either the adverb like or as. Regardless of how formal or casual the definition of simile is, the construction is always the same: two elements are compared, most often using ''like'' or ''as''.

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  • 0:06 What Is a Simile?
  • 1:37 Similes Vs. Metaphors
  • 2:33 Epic Similes
  • 3:37 Limitations
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Simile Literary Definition

A simile is a type of metaphor that draws a comparison between two unrelated things using ''like'' or ''as''. A writer will use a simile to highlight common qualities between the two elements of the comparison. For example, the statement ''He was drawn to the ocean like a moth to a flame'' uses ''like'' to compare a person's attraction to the ocean and a moth's attraction to a flame.

The word ''simile'' comes from the Latin word similis, meaning similar or like, and our understanding of the term began during the 15th century and was championed by writers from the time period such as William Shakespeare.

Adding Depth to Writing

Anyone telling a story does their best to make it exciting for an audience. Similes are one of the tools at a writer's disposal that help create interest. Without the use of similes, the description of the world would be dull and boring.

Imagine reading a story and the author wrote, ''It rained all day.'' While that idea is clear, it's not particularly interesting. Now suppose, instead, the author wrote, ''It rained as long as it would take you to walk around the world.'' Describing the rain as lasting as long as it would take someone to walk around the world implies that the rain continued for a remarkably long time. This simile comparing the length of a rainy period to walking around the world adds emphasis and interest. The comparison allows the reader to build an image for themselves and depth to an otherwise mundane description of rain.

Simile Examples

Here's a short list of common similes that are used every day.

  • The room was as cold as ice.
  • Her eyes were as blue as the sky.
  • The tunnel was as black as coal.
  • His heart pounded like a drum.
  • She ran like the wind.
  • He sank like a stone.

Types of Simile

Similes are written in two general styles. A simile is created by using ''as'' to create a comparison between two things, or a simile is created by using the word ''like'' to connect two dissimilar things. Similes are everywhere! When listening to music, the lyrics will almost certainly contain similes. Likewise, authors constantly use similes to draw readers into the worlds they create. In fact, people use similes in everyday conversations to embellish stories they tell their friends and family.

Similes in Everyday Speech

Here are some examples of similes that might appear in everyday speech.

  • She was as cool as a cucumber.
  • This hamburger is dry as a bone.
  • The boy is growing like a weed.
  • She sat there like a bump on a log.

Similes in Literature

Similes are critical to vibrant storytelling. Authors use similes to describe characters, settings, actions, and emotions. The following is a list of similes in literature.

  • ''The cafe was like a battleship striped for action.'' Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises
  • ''The late afternoon sky bloomed in the window for a moment like the blue honey of the Mediterranean...'' F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
  • ''...the black crowds sprinkled over Mount Cataract like ants in a sugar bowl...'' Donna Tartt, The Secret History
  • ''The thinnest covering of luck was on him like fresh dew.'' Zadie Smith, White Teeth

Similes in Songs

Just like writers of poetry and prose, songwriters and lyricists use simile to express their ideas. Turn on a radio or listen to a music streaming service and chances are a simile will appear in the song lyrics.

  • ''The wind is howling like this swirling storm inside'' -- ''Let It Go'' by Idina Menzel
  • ''Like a bridge over troubled water, I will lay me down'' -- ''Bridge Over Troubled Water'' by Simon and Garfunkel
  • ''And it seems to me you lived your life like a candle in the wind'' -- ''Candle In The Wind'' by Elton John

Simile in Slogans

Advertising and political slogans often make use of similes because similes tend to be dynamic and exciting.

  • Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there. -- State Farm
  • Tastes like awesome feels. -- Doritos
  • Sometimes you feel like a nut. -- Almond Joy
  • Clean as a hound's tooth. -- Dwight D. Eisenhower
  • This time, vote like your whole world depended on it. -- Richard Nixon

Epic Similes

Poets love to use similes in their writing. The ancient Greek poets used similes in their epic poems so much that epic similes are also known as Homeric similes, named after the poet Homer. Epic similes are extended comparisons that may carry on for several lines of text that interrupt the flow of the story but bring vivid detail to the reader. Sometimes the structure uses phrases like ''just as'' and ''so'' or ''that's how'' and ''as'', but these phrases function in the same way ''like'' or ''as'' does in a regular simile.

The Greek poet Homer used similes in his poems

Homer, the poet

Here are some examples:

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are some famous similes?

"Life is like a box of chocolates."

"How does it feel to be without a home, like a complete unknown, like a rolling stone?"

"And it seems to me you lived your life like a candle in the wind."

"The water made a sound like kittens lapping."

What's an example of a simile?

Some examples of similes are:

as cute as a button

as shiny as a new pin

as clean as a whistle

as proud as a peacock

What are the 5 example of simile?

5 examples of similes are:

as busy as a bee

as blind as a bat

stand out like a sore thumb

as cold as ice

colorful like a rainbow

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