Simile

Definition and Examples of Simile

Simile (derives from the Latin similis, literally “like”), is a figure of speech which consists in comparing or likening one thing to another, either implicitly or explicitly; and is generally introduced using words such as “like”, “as”, “so”, “than”, or a verb such as “resemble”.

Thus, the following expression:
  • “Such a passion is like falling in love with a sparrow flying over your head; you have but one glimpse of her, and she is out of sight,”
  • “Therefore they shall be as the morning cloud, and as the early dew that passeth away; as the chaff that is driven with the whirlwind out of the floor, and as the smoke out of the chimney,”
  • As the stars, so shall thy seed be.”

Although simile uses these specific words to compare similar things but the commonly used words are as, like; for while similes are apt for use in terms of poetry that compare the inanimate and the living, there are also terms in which similes and personificationsOpens in new window are used for humorous purposes and comparisonOpens in new window.

Pre-requisite for Similes — A simile should be constructed in principle with these four basic requirements:

  1. It should contain the comparative words, such as: “like,” “as,” “so,” “resemble,” etc.;
  2. There should be two objects of comparison – the primary term, known as the “tenorOpens in new window”; and the secondary term, known as the “vehicleOpens in new window”;
  3. The two objects which the comparison is based should be substantially different;
  4. Likewise, the two objects should be similar in at least one quality.

Practical Examples — The following are practical examples:

  • “True ease in writing comes from art, not chance,
    As those move easiest who have learnt to dance.”
  • “We have often thought that the public mind in our country resembles that of the sea when the tide is rising. Each successive wave rushes forward, breaks, and rolls back; but the great flood is steadily coming on.”
  • “Nothing is more dangerous to reason than the flights of imagination, and nothing has been the occasion of more mistakes among philosophers. Men of bright fancies may, in this respect, those angels whom the Scriptures represent as covering their eyes with their wings.”
  • “Man, like the generous vine, supported lives;
    The strength he gains, is from th’ embrace he gives.”
  • “I have ventured,
    Like little wanton boys that swim on bladders,
    This many summers in a sea of glory.”
  • “It is on the death-bed, on the couch of sorrow and of pain, that the thought of one purely virtuous action is like the shadow of a lofty rock in the desert - like the light footsteps of that little child who continued to dance before the throne of the unjust king, when his guards had fled, and his people had forsaken him — like the single thin stream of light which the unhappy captive has at last learned to love — like the soft sigh before the breeze that wafts the becalmed vessel and her famished crew to the haven where they would be.”
  • “The illusion that great men and great events came oftener in early times than now, is partly due to historical perspective. As in a range of equidistant columns, the farthest off look the closest; so the conspicuous objects of the past seem more thickly clustered, the more remote they are.”
  • “The condemnation of Socrates took him away in his full grandeur and glory, like the setting of a tropical sun.”
Important Hint! 

Simile is one the commonest figures of speech in English; its major purpose is to draw sharp pictures in the mind through comparisons, to give deeper insight into things, persons, and ideas through suggestive association, or to explain abstract, complicated ideas in simple, concrete imagery.

Further Readings:
Alexander Bain, English Composition and Rhetoric: A Manual | Simile, or Comparison (29).Opens in new window
Xiuguo Zhang, English Rhetoric | Simile (10.1).Opens in new window