A simile (//) is a figure of speech that directly compares two things. Similes differ from metaphors by highlighting the similarities between two things through the use of words such as "like" and "as", while metaphors create an implicit comparison (i.e. saying something "is" something else). This distinction is evident in the etymology of the words: simile derives from the Latin word similis ("similar, like"), while metaphor derives from the Greek word metapherein ("to transfer"). While similes are mainly used in forms of poetry that compare the inanimate and the living, there are also terms in which similes are used for humorous purposes and comparison.
- "O My Luve's like a red, red rose." "A Red, Red Rose," by Robert Burns.
- John Milton, Paradise Lost, a Homeric simile:
As when a prowling Wolf,
Whom hunger drives to seek new haunt for prey,
Watching where Shepherds pen thir Flocks at eve
In hurdl'd Cotes amid the field secure,
Leaps o'er the fence with ease into the Fold:
. . . . . . .
So clomb this first grand Thief into God's Fold
- Similes are commonly used in the New Testament to describe the unseen or unknowable by relating it to something familiar to the reader.
- "The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in three measures of flour, till it was leavened" (Matt. 13:33).
Similes are used extensively in British comedy, notably in the slapstick era of the 1960s and 1970s. In comedy, the simile is often used in negative style: "he was as daft as a brush." They are also used in comedic context where a sensitive subject is broached, and the comedian will test the audience with response to subtle implicit simile before going deeper. The sitcom Blackadder featured the use of extended similes, normally said by the title character. For example:
- Baldrick: I have a plan, sir.
- Blackadder: Really, Baldrick? A cunning and subtle one?
- Baldrick: Yes, sir.
- Blackadder: As cunning as a fox who's just been appointed Professor of Cunning at Oxford University?
In languages other than English
Given that similes emphasize affinities between different objects, they occur in many cultures and languages.
Thuy Nga Nguyen and Ghil'ad Zuckermann (2012) classify Vietnamese similes into two types: Meaning Similes and Rhyming Similes.
The following is an example:
Nghèo như con mèo
/ŋɛu ɲɯ kɔn mɛu/
"Poor as a cat"
Whereas the above Vietnamese example is of a rhyming simile, the English simile "(as) poor as a church mouse" is only a semantic simile.
|For a list of words relating to similes, see the English similes category of words in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- Homeric simile
- Like (as a preposition used in comparisons)
- Phono-semantic matching
- Simile aria
- The Bedford Glossary of Critical andM (2nd ed.). Bedford/St. Martins. 2003. pp. 447–448. ISBN 978-0312259105.
- "Simile". Literary Terms. Retrieved 6 April 2016.
- "Oxford Reference: metaphor and simile". Oxford Reference. Retrieved 4 July 2019.
- "Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 4 July 2019.
- Burns, Robert. "A Red Red Rose". Glen Collection of Printed Music, Vol. 5. National Library of Scotland. p. 415. Retrieved 2016-04-06.
- Murfin, Ross; Ray, Supryia M. (2003). The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms (2nd ed.). Bedford/St. Martins. pp. 135. ISBN 978-0312259105.
- Milton, John (1852). Henry John Todd (ed.). The Poetical Works of John Milton: With Notes of Various Authors; and with Some Account of the Life and Writings of Milton, Derived Principally from Original Documents in Her Majesty's State-paper Office. Rivingtons, Longman and Company. p. 62.
- James L. Resseguie, "A Glossary of New Testament Narrative Criticism with Illustrations," in Religions, 10 (3) 217, 31-32.
- "What Is A Simile?". Funny Similes!. Retrieved 2016-04-06.
- See p. 98 in Thuy Nga Nguyen and Ghil'ad Zuckermann (2012), "Stupid as a Coin: Meaning and Rhyming Similes in Vietnamese", International Journal of Language Studies 6 (4), pp. 97-118.