What Is a Simile? | Definition, Examples & Uses

Simile is a rhetorical device that makes a comparison between two things and/or people using the comparison words “as,” “than,” or “like.”

The comparison made in a simile is not a literal one between like things but a figurative one between unlike things. For example, “John is as tall as me” is not a simile—just a literal comparison—but “John is as tall as a mountain” is a simile and shouldn’t be taken literally.

Simile examples
Her hair was red as roses.

The crisp, white snow sparkled like diamonds.

I’m happier than the morning sun.

Similes are often used in prose or poetry. Do you want to find your creative voice? Try QuillBot’s Paraphraser!

What is a simile?

A simile is a figurative comparison using one of the following comparison words:

  • As (e.g., “as big as an oak”)
  • Like (e.g., “like a king”)
  • Than (e.g., “quieter than a mouse”)

Note that the comparison must be figurative (nonliteral) to count as a simile. A literal comparison like “Coffee contains more caffeine than tea” isn’t a simile.

Similes may also be negative in form (as in the Shakespeare quotation below), in which case they emphasize how unalike two things are.

Example sentences: Similes
To me, my grandfather always seemed as wise and mysterious as an owl.

The atmosphere of the house comforts me like a warm blanket.

“My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun.” (Shakespeare, Sonnet 130, line 1)

Similes are used in many contexts to express a point vividly or indicate unexpected connections. They are commonly used in literature, in advertising, in everyday conversation, and in many common expressions.

Simile examples

There are many examples of common expressions and proverbs that take the form of a simile. Some are used as part of many different sentences, while others express a complete thought and usually appear on their own.

Simile Meaning
It was clear as day that she wanted something. Overwhelmingly obvious
Don’t worry about him; he’s tough as nails. Physically or mentally resilient
Run like the wind! Very quickly
The new job fit him like a glove. Perfectly
His voice was soft as silk. Very soft or delicate
His voice was light as a feather. Delicate or lightweight
Good news: you’re as fit as a fiddle. Perfectly healthy
The realization struck me like a ton of bricks. Very hard or in an emotionally devastating way
Life is like a box of chocolates. Life is unpredictable

Simile vs metaphor

Similes are sometimes confused with metaphors. They are closely related, since both are rhetorical devices used to make figurative comparisons between very different things—but they are not interchangeable concepts:

  • A simile makes the comparison in the same way you would make any other comparison, using “as,” “than,” or “like” (e.g., “A relationship is like a garden”).
  • A metaphor instead implies a comparison by stating that something/someone is something/someone else (e.g., “A relationship is a garden”).

In both cases, the comparison is figurative rather than literal, but a metaphor typically has a more vivid impact than a simile since it removes the comparison words that tend to have a softening effect.

Examples: Simile vs metaphor
Miriam’s eyes were as black as the night sky.

Miriam’s eyes were the night sky.

This neighborhood looks like a dump.

This neighborhood is a dump.

Analogy vs simile

An analogy (more specifically, a shared abstraction analogy) is a way of illustrating a point or making an argument by comparing two unlike things in terms of a quality they share.

This is closely related to the concept of simile, as both use the words “like” or “as” to construct a comparison. But an analogy is used to make a more in-depth point about something, rather than just to describe something in an evocative way.

Examples: Analogies
Dating is like looking for a job: you might have to go on a lot of first dates before you find the perfect match.

Learning a language is like riding a bike: it’s tricky at first, but you never forget how to do it once you’ve learned.

Just as a warrior wields a sword, a writer wields a pen. Both must keep their weapon sharp through constant practice.

Simile and metaphor worksheet

Try the quiz below to test your understanding of the difference between metaphor and simile. Decide whether each sentence includes a metaphor or a simile.

Frequently asked questions about simile

What is the difference between a simile and a metaphor?

Simile and metaphor are two closely related rhetorical devices. Both involve making a figurative (nonliteral) comparison between two unlike things or people. But they differ in how they are constructed.

  • Simile makes the comparison in the same way you would make a literal comparison: using “as,” “like,” or “than.” For example, “His teeth gleamed like ivory.”
  • Metaphor instead makes the comparison using a form of the verb “be” to directly state that one thing “is” the other. For example, “His teeth were ivory.”

Neither comparison is meant to be taken literally, but a metaphor tends to have a more vivid impact since it is more obviously nonliteral.

What does simile mean?

Simile means a nonliteral (figurative) comparison made between unlike things using the words “as,” “like,” or “than.” For example, “She moved as fast as lightning.”

It differs from metaphor, which makes the same kind of comparison using a form of the verb “be” (e.g., “She was lightning”).

Similes are used to express a quality in a vivid way. They are encountered frequently in literature and song lyrics (e.g., “My love, she speaks like silence”), but they also appear in everyday conversation, in many common expressions (e.g., “light as a feather”).

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Jack Caulfield, MA

Jack is a Brit based in Amsterdam, with an MA in literature. He writes about his specialist topics: grammar, linguistics, citations, and plagiarism. In his spare time, he reads a lot of books.