What Is a Simile?

Definition of "Simile"

A simile is a figure of speech that likens one thing to another (usually by using the word like or as).

Table of Contents

  • Examples of Similes
  • Examples of Famous Similes
  • Examples of Funny Similes
  • Similes vs Metaphors
  • Video Lesson
  • Why Similes Are Important
  • Test Time!
simile definition

Formal Definition

A simile is a figure of speech involving the comparison of one thing with another thing of a different kind, used to make a description more emphatic or vivid (e.g., as brave as a lion ). (Oxford Dictionary)

Examples of Similes

Here are some common similes:
  • As brave as a lion
  • As quiet as a mouse
  • As busy as a bee
  • As strong as an ox
  • As white as snow
  • As light as a feather
  • As blind as a bat
  • As happy as a clam
  • As slippery as an eel
  • As sly as a fox
  • As stubborn as a mule
  • As cool as a cucumber
  • As quick as a flash
  • As sharp as a razor
  • As hot as hell
  • As old as the hills
  • As slow as molasses
  • As hard as nails
  • As proud as a peacock
  • As smooth as silk
Here are some similes in sentences:
  • I am as poor as a church mouse.
  • He is hungry like a wolf.
  • She sings like an angel.
  • His woollen scarf hung around his neck like a dead skunk.
  • He was as cool as the other side of the pillow.
  • "Life is like a camera, focus on the good times, develop from the negatives, and if things don't work out, take another shot." (Anon)

Examples of Famous Similes

Here are some similes by famous people:
  • "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee." (Boxer Muhammad Ali)
  • "Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you're gonna get." (Forrest Gump)
  • "Happiness is like a butterfly; the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder." (American naturalist Henry David Thoreau)
  • A room without books is like a body without a soul. (Roman philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero)
  • Writing about music is like dancing about architecture. (English singer-songwriter Elvis Costello)

Examples of Funny Similes

Here are some funny similes:
  • As lost as a penguin in the Sahara
  • As useful as a chocolate teapot
  • As smart as a bag of hammers
  • As quiet as a herd of elephants
  • As graceful as a hippopotamus on roller skates
  • As fast as a snail on tranquilizers
  • As confused as a chameleon in a bag of Skittles
  • As helpful as a screen door on a submarine
  • As fashionable as a mullet haircut
  • As popular as a skunk at a garden party
Here are some funny similes in sentences:
  • He was as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical lame duck, either, but a real duck that was actually lame, maybe from stepping on a land mine or something.
  • Duct tape is like the force — it has a light side, a dark side, and it holds the universe together. (American comedian Carl Zwanzig)
  • Dealing with network executives is like being nibbled to death by ducks. (American author Eric Sevareid)
  • I'm as pure as the driven slush. (American actress Tallulah Bankhead)
  • His teeth looked like an unkempt picket fence.
  • He rolled out of bed like a fruit fly stuck in honey.
  • Her vocabulary was like, yeah, whatever.

Similes vs Metaphors

Similes contrast with metaphors. A metaphor asserts that one thing is something that it literally is not. Here are some examples of similes alongside similar-looking metaphors.
  • John is like a weasel. (something is like something else)
  • John is a weasel.
  • (something is something else)
  • Her focus was like a laser.
  • (something is like something else)
  • Her focus was a laser.
  • (something is something else)
  • Her laser-like focus fixed on her rivals.
  • (something is like something else)
  • Her laser eyes fixed on her rivals.
  • (Metaphors can also be created by using non-literal words.)
Read more about metaphors.

Video Lesson

Here is a short video summarizing this page on similes. video lesson

Are you a visual learner? Do you prefer video to text? Here is a list of all our grammar videos.

Why Similes Are Important

Here are two good reasons to care about similes.

(Reason 1) A simile can be a great way to explain or promote an idea.

Similes are used to create mental pictures that will help your readers grasp your idea with the same clarity as you. They are far more common in creative writing than business writing, but they have utility in both.

Used sparingly in business writing, similes can be memorable and impactful, and using one can make you look confident. They can also be used to clarify your stance on an issue.
  • "Plan A would be like throwing the pilot out of a stricken aircraft to make it lighter."
  • (Plan A might be complex, but this simile makes it clear you think Plan A is counter-productive.)
Even if you're not convinced of ability of similes to make your message more impactful, you might want to use one occasionally just to make your text more engaging. That idea is captured in this quotation.
  • Similes prove nothing, but yet they greatly lighten and relieve the tedium of argument. (Poet Robert South)

(Reason 2) A tired simile can sink you.

Be mindful, however, that overusing similes in business writing can portray you as flippant or dull (especially if they're cliches, i.e., tired similes). The following quotation captures the risk of using an old simile:
  • "The first man to compare the cheeks of a young woman to a rose was obviously a poet; the first to repeat it was possibly an idiot." (Spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dali)

Key Points

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This page was written by Craig Shrives.