Similes and Metaphors

A form of expression using “like” or “as,” in which one thing is compared to another which it only resembles in one or a small number of ways.

Example: Her hair was like silk.


A figure of speech in which a word or phrase that ordinarily designates one thing is used to designate another, thus making an implicit comparison.

: He’s a tiger when he’s angry.

From the Manbottle Library:
Every year, English teachers from across the country can submit their collections of actual similes and metaphors found in high school essays. These excerpts are published each year to the amusement of teachers across the country. Here are one year’s winners:

1. Her face was a perfect oval, like a circle that had its two sides gently compressed by a ThighMaster.

2. His thoughts tumbled in his head, making and breaking alliances like underpants in a dryer without Cling Free.

3. He spoke with the wisdom that can only come from experience, like a guy who went blind because he looked at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it and now goes around the country speaking at high schools about the dangers of looking at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it.

4. She grew on him like she was a colony of E. coli, and he was room-temperature Canadian beef.

5. She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up.

6. Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.

7. He was as tall as a six-foot, three-inch tree.

8. The revelation that his marriage of 30 years had disintegrated because of his wife’s infidelity came as a rude shock, like a surcharge at a formerly surcharge-free ATM machine.

9. The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn’t.

10. McBride fell 12 stories, hitting the pavement like a Hefty bag filled with vegetable soup.

Posted on Wednesday, December 19, 2007, at 2:16 am

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12 Comments on Similes and Metaphors

12 responses to “Similes and Metaphors”

  1. Jane says:

    Yes. A simile is actually a type of metaphor using “like” or “as.”

  2. J Sherer says:

    Isn’t a simile technically just a form of metaphor rather than being something completely different?

  3. Walt C. says:

    I disagree. Both similes and metaphors are forms of analogy, but different from one another. To say “My love is a red rose” is different from saying that she’s “like a red rose.” To say “The passage was as dark as the inside of a cow.” is different from saying “The passage was the inside of a cow” On the other hand, I’ll grant you the interchangeabilty of “We’re ships that pass in the night” and “We’re like ships that pass in the night.” Bottom line answer: sometimes it is, sometimes– in fact, most times– it isn’t.

  4. Jane says:

    I can see your point, Walt. Thanks.

  5. Hayley says:

    1. Her heart was like a lion, big & strong

  6. saji says:

    Good efffort. More examples on similies and metaphors would benefit the foreign students.

    • Thank you for the suggestion.

      Simile examples:
      She sings like an angel.
      He runs like a gazelle.
      This meat is as dry as a bone.

      Metaphor examples:
      His brother is an Einstein.
      Your room is a pigpen.
      She is a walking dictionary.

  7. A/B student says:

    Reflections of M. C. Escher
    Have you ever seen something that felt as though it had almost literally reached off the page and grabbed you? This sensation describes in a phrase the feeling that the graphic works of M. C. Escher have always given me.

    *These are the introductory sentences for my 1500 word, graphic designer research paper.
    *I am inclined to put quotation marks before “reached… [and after] …you?”
    *Also to set of the prepositional phrase in my second sentence with commas like so: ,in a phrase,
    *I definitely do not want to start my paper of with improper punctuation or grammar.
    *I want to continue being an A+ student and feel as though making this initial critical mistake could be the difference between an A+ or B- grade.
    *Can anyone help me with proper punctuation, or if it is even necessary?
    *I am doing my final revisions and hope to submit my paper yet today.
    *I could not find these answers in my MLA 7th ed. Handbook either.

    • We recommend you replace “almost literally” in your first sentence with “virtually.” (See our recent grammar tip Fighting for Literally.) No quotation marks are needed in the sentence. Whether you set off “in a phrase” with commas depends on whether you consider the phrase essential or nonessential.

  8. BronnyG says:

    Would this be considered a metaphor?
    “Facts in his eyes are over, a relic from the age of the printing press.”
    There is no “is” but would the comma act as one?

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