A simile (/ˈsɪməli/) is a figure of speech that directly compares two things.[1][2] Similes are a form of metaphor that explicitly use connecting words (such as like, as, so, than, or various verbs such as resemble),[1] though these specific words are not always necessary.[3] While similes are mainly used in forms of poetry that compare the inanimate and the living, there are also terms in which similes and are used for humorous purposes and comparison.


In literature

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[6]

In comedy

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 a subtle implicit simile before going deeper.[7] The sitcom Blackadder featured the use of extended similes, normally said by the title character.

In languages other than English

Given that similes emphasize affinities between different objects, they occur in many cultures and languages.


Sayf al-Din al-Amidi discussed Arabic similes in 1805: "On Substantiation Through Transitive Relations".


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.[8]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Murfin, Ross; Ray, Supryia M. (2003). The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms (2nd ed.). Bedford/St. Martins. pp. 447–448. ISBN 978-0312259105.
  2. ^ "Simile". Literary Terms. Retrieved 6 April 2016.
  3. ^ Harris, Robert A. (5 January 2010). "A Handbook of Rhetorical Devices". Virtual Salt. Retrieved 6 April 2016.
  4. ^ Burns, Robert. "A Red Red Rose". Glen Collection of Printed Music, Vol. 5. National Library of Scotland. p. 415. Retrieved 2016-04-06.
  5. ^ Murfin, Ross; Ray, Supryia M. (2003). The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms (2nd ed.). Bedford/St. Martins. p. 135. ISBN 978-0312259105.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ "What Is A Simile?". Funny Similes!. Retrieved 2016-04-06.
  8. ^ 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.
Allegory of the Cave

The Allegory of the Cave, or Plato's Cave, was presented by the Greek philosopher Plato in his work Republic (514a–520a) to compare "the effect of education (παιδεία) and the lack of it on our nature". It is written as a dialogue between Plato's brother Glaucon and his mentor Socrates, narrated by the latter. The allegory is presented after the analogy of the sun (508b–509c) and the analogy of the divided line (509d–511e). All three are characterized in relation to dialectic at the end of Books VII and VIII (531d–534e).

Plato has Socrates describe a group of people who have lived chained to the wall of a cave all of their lives, facing a blank wall. The people watch shadows projected on the wall from objects passing in front of a fire behind them, and give names to these shadows. The shadows are the prisoners' reality. Socrates explains how the philosopher is like a prisoner who is freed from the cave and comes to understand that the shadows on the wall are not reality at all, for he can perceive the true form of reality rather than the manufactured reality that is the shadows seen by the prisoners. The inmates of this place do not even desire to leave their prison, for they know no better life. The prisoners manage to break their bonds one day, and discover that their reality was not what they thought it was. They discovered the sun, which Plato uses as an analogy for the fire that man cannot see behind. Like the fire that cast light on the walls of the cave, the human condition is forever bound to the impressions that are received through the senses. Even if these interpretations (or, in Kantian terminology, intuitions) are an absurd misrepresentation of reality, we cannot somehow break free from the bonds of our human condition—we cannot free ourselves from phenomenal state just as the prisoners could not free themselves from their chains. If, however, we were to miraculously escape our bondage, we would find a world that we could not understand—the sun is incomprehensible for someone who has never seen it. In other words, we would encounter another "realm", a place incomprehensible because, theoretically, it is the source of a higher reality than the one we have always known; it is the realm of pure Form, pure fact.Socrates remarks that this allegory can be paired with previous writings, namely the analogy of the sun and the analogy of the divided line.

Analogy of the sun

The analogy of the sun (or simile of the sun or metaphor of the sun) is found in the sixth book of The Republic (507b–509c), written by the Greek philosopher Plato as a dialogue between Glaucon (Plato's elder brother) and Socrates (narrated by the latter). Upon being urged by Glaucon to define goodness, a cautious Socrates professes himself incapable of doing so. Instead he draws an analogy and offers to talk about "the child of goodness" (Greek: "ἔκγονός τε τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ"). Socrates reveals this "child of goodness" to be the sun, proposing that just as the sun illuminates, bestowing the ability to see and be seen by the eye, with its light so the idea of goodness illumines the intelligible with truth. While the analogy sets forth both epistemological and ontological theories, it is debated whether these are most authentic to the teaching of Socrates or its later interpretations by Plato. The sun is a metaphor for the nature of reality and knowledge concerning it.

Plato's use of such an analogy can be interpreted for many different reasons in philosophy. For example, Plato uses them to illustrate and help illuminate his arguments. In the Analogy of the Sun, Socrates compares the "Good" with the sun. Plato might be using the image of the sun to help bring life to his arguments or to make the argument more clearly understood. David Hume once wrote, "All our reasonings concerning matters of fact are founded on a species of Analogy."Plato makes the claim that "sight and the visible realm are deficient." He argues that for the other senses to be used all that is needed is the sense itself and that which can be sensed by it (e.g., to taste sweetness, one needs the sense of taste and that which can be tasted as sweet), but "even if a person's eyes are capable of sight, and he's trying to use it, and what he's trying to look at is coloured, the sight will see nothing and the colours will remain unseen, surely, unless there is also present an extra third thing which is made specifically for this purpose." The third thing Plato is talking about is light. Through this analogy he equates that which gives us natural light, the sun, as the source of goodness in this world.

"As goodness stands in the intelligible realm to intelligence and the things we know, so in the visible realm the sun stands to sight and the things we see."In other words, Plato is saying that the true nature of reality cannot be comprehended by the ordinary senses. Thus, we should make use of the mind rather than the sensory organs to better understand the higher truths of the universe. The mind, much like sight, requires a "third thing" to function properly, and that third thing is Plato's idea of goodness. He likens a mind without goodness to sight without light; one cannot operate at peak efficiency without the other.

"Well, here's how you can think about the mind as well. When its object is something which is lit up by truth and reality, then it has—and obviously has—intelligent awareness and knowledge. However, when its object is permeated with darkness (that is, when its object is something which is subject to generation and decay), then it has beliefs and is less effective, because its beliefs chop and change, and under these circumstances it comes across as devoid of intelligence."Having made these claims, Socrates asks Glaucon, "...which of the gods in heaven can you put down as cause and master of this, whose light makes our sight see so beautifully and the things to be seen?" (508a) Glaucon responds that both he and all others would answer that this is the sun. Analogously, Socrates says, as the sun illuminates the visible with light so the idea of goodness illuminates the intelligible with truth, which in turn makes it possible for people to have knowledge. Also, as the eye's ability to see is made possible by the light of the sun so the soul's ability to know is made possible by the truth of goodness.

Understand then, that it is the same with the soul, thus: when it settles itself firmly in that region in which truth and real being brightly shine, it understands and knows it and appears to have reason; but when it has nothing to rest on but that which is mingled with darkness—that which becomes and perishes, it opines, it grows dim-sighted, changing opinions up and down, and is like something without reason. ('The Republic, VI: 508d; trans. W. H. D. Rouse)

The allusion to "...that which becomes and perishes..." relates to all of that which is perceived by the bodily senses. The bodily senses make it clear that all visible things are subject to change, which Socrates categorizes into either the change of becoming or the change of perishing. Socrates argues that the bodily senses can only bring us to opinions, conveying an underlying assumption that true knowledge is of that which is not subject to change.

Instead, Socrates continues, knowledge is to be found in "... that region in which truth and real being brightly shine..." (508d) This is the intelligible illuminated by the highest idea, that of goodness. Since truth and being find their source in this highest idea, only the souls that are illumined by this source can be said to possess knowledge, whereas those souls which turn away are "...mingled with darkness...". This subject is later vividly illustrated in the Allegory of the Cave (514a–520a), where prisoners bound in a dark cave since childhood are examples of these souls turned away from illumination.

Socrates continues by explaining that though light and sight both resemble the sun neither can identify themselves with the sun. Just as the sun is rated higher than both light and sight, so is goodness rated more highly than knowledge and truth. It is goodness which allows us to know the truth and makes it possible to have knowledge. Hence goodness is more valuable than truth and knowledge as it holds a higher place. Through this analogy, Socrates helped Glaucon come to the realization that Goodness is of inestimable value, being both the source of knowledge and truth, as well as more valuable and unattainable than both.Plato further equates the sun to the ultimate form of goodness by calling them both sources of "generation". The sun not only makes objects visible but is necessary for their growth and nourishment, similarly to how goodness not only makes it possible for things to be, but also allows for things to be known.

The sun provides not only the power of being seen for things seen, but, as I think you will agree, also their generation and growth and nurture, although it is not itself generation...Similarly with things known, you will agree that the good is not only the cause of their becoming known, but the cause that they are, the cause of their state of being, although the good is not itself a state of being but something transcending far beyond it in dignity and power.Socrates' main concern was that he did not want his followers to place Goodness, Knowledge, and Truth all on the same level. You can achieve Goodness from Truth and Knowledge, but just because you have Truth and Knowledge that does not mean you have Goodness. Plato writes:

Well, what I'm saying is that it's goodness which gives the things we know their truth and makes it possible for people to have knowledge. It is responsible for knowledge and truth, you should think of it as being within the intelligible realm, but you shouldn't identify it with knowledge and truth, otherwise you'll be wrong: For all their value, it is even more valuable. In the other realm, it is right to regard light and sight as resembling the sun; So in this realm it is right to regard knowledge and truth as resembling goodness, but not to identify either of them with goodness, which should be rated even more highly.Ultimately, the Good itself is the whole point. The Good (the sun) provides the very foundation on which all other truth rests. Plato uses the image of the sun to help define the true meaning of the Good. The Good "sheds light" on knowledge so that our minds can see true reality. Without the Good, we would only be able to see with our physical eyes and not the "mind's eye". The sun bequeaths its light so that we may see the world around us. If the source of light did not exist we would be in the dark and incapable of learning and understanding the true realities that surround us.Incidentally, the metaphor of the sun exemplifies a traditional interrelation between metaphysics and epistemology: interpretations of fundamental existence create—and are created by—ways of knowing. It also neatly sums up two views for which Plato is recognized: his rationalism and his realism (about universals).

Socrates, using the Simile of the Sun as a foundation, continues with the Analogy of the Divided Line (509d–513e) after which follows the Allegory of the Cave (514a–520a).

Animal epithet

An animal epithet is a name used to label a person or group, by association with some perceived quality of an animal. Epithets may be formulated as similes, explicitly comparing people with the named animal, or as metaphors, directly naming people as animals. Animal epithets may be pejorative, readily giving offence, and they are sometimes used in political campaigns. One English epithet, lamb, is always used positively.

Animal similes and metaphors have been used since classical times, for example by Homer and Virgil, to heighten effects in literature, and to sum up complex concepts concisely.

Surnames that name animals are found in different countries. They may be metonymic, naming a person's profession, generally in the Middle Ages; toponymic, naming the place where a person lived; or nicknames, comparing the person favourably or otherwise with the named animal.

CD Alcoyano

Club Deportivo Alcoyano, S.A.D. is a Spanish football team based in Alcoy, in the autonomous community of Valencia. Founded in 1929 it plays in Segunda División B – Group 3, holding home games in Estadio El Collao, with a 4,500-seat capacity. The team is also known by its name in Valencian, Alcoià.

A simile exists in Spanish which includes the name of this football club, "Tener más moral que el Alcoyano" ("To have more morale than Alcoyano"). The phrase possibly originated in the 1950s, when Alcoyano were losing a game by 0–13 at home but never gave up, still trying hard to score at the end of the match. However, this is disputed by some historians, with the origins being somewhat unclear.


Caenocara is a genus of beetles in the family Ptinidae. Members of this genus are sometimes called puffball beetles.


Cloeon is a cosmopolitan genus of mayflies of the family Baetidae.

Dysoxylum alliaceum

Dysoxylum alliaceum is a tree in the family Meliaceae. The specific epithet alliaceum is from the Latin meaning "onion-like", referring to the smell of the inner bark.


A facsimile (from Latin fac simile, "to make alike") is a copy or reproduction of an old book, manuscript, map, art print, or other item of historical value that is as true to the original source as possible. It differs from other forms of reproduction by attempting to replicate the source as accurately as possible in scale, color, condition, and other material qualities. For books and manuscripts, this also entails a complete copy of all pages; hence, an incomplete copy is a "partial facsimile". Facsimiles are sometimes used by scholars to research a source that they do not have access to otherwise, and by museums and archives for media preservation and conservation. Many are sold commercially, often accompanied by a volume of commentary. They may be produced in limited editions, typically of 500–2,000 copies, and cost the equivalent of a few thousand United States dollars. The term "fax" is a shortened form of "facsimile" though most faxes are not reproductions of the quality expected in a true facsimile.

Homeric simile

Homeric simile, also called an epic simile, is a detailed comparison in the form of a simile that are many lines in length. The word "Homeric", is based on the Greek author, Homer, who composed the two famous Greek epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey. Many authors continue to use this type of simile in their writings although it is usually found in classics.

The typical Homeric simile makes a comparison to some kind of event, in the form "like a ____ when it ______." The object of the comparison is usually something strange or unfamiliar to something ordinary and familiar. The Iliad, for instance, contains many such similes comparing fighting warriors to lions attacking wild boars or other prey. These similes serve to take the reader away from the battlefield for a brief while, into the world of pre-war peace and plenty. Often, they occur at a moment of high action or emotion, especially during a battle. In the words of Peter Jones, Homeric similes "are miraculous, redirecting the reader's attention in the most unexpected ways and suffusing the poem with vividness, pathos and humor". They are also important, as it is through these similes that the narrator directly talks to the audience.

Some, such as G.P. Shipp, have argued that Homer's similes appear to be irregular in relation to the text, as if they were added later. On the other hand, William Clyde Scott, in his book The Oral Nature of the Homeric Simile, suggests that Homer's similes are original based on the similarities of the similes and their surrounding narrative text. Scott argues that Homer primarily uses similes to introduce his characters, "sometimes to glorify them and sometimes merely to call attention to them." He uses Agamemnon as an example, noting that each time he reenters the battle he is described with a simile. However, he also points out that Homer's similes serve as a poetic device in order to foreshadow and keep the reader interested – just as the fateful, climactic confrontation of Achilles and Hector.In her article On Homer's Similes, Eleanor Rambo agrees with Scott that the similes are intentional, also noting that Homer's use of similes deepen the reader's understanding of the individual or action taking place through a word-picture association that the reader is able to relate to. She states that "the point of the simile is the verb which makes the common ground for the nouns involved." According to Rambo, Homer uses similes in two different ways: those that stress physical motion and those that stress emotional disturbance.


In English, the word like has a very flexible range of uses, ranging from conventional to non-standard. It can be used as a noun, verb, adverb, adjective, preposition, particle, conjunction, hedge, filler, and quotative.


A metaphor is a figure of speech that, for rhetorical effect, directly refers to one thing by mentioning another. It may provide clarity or identify hidden similarities between two ideas. Antithesis, hyperbole, metonymy and simile are all types of metaphor. One of the most commonly cited examples of a metaphor in English literature is the "All the world's a stage" monologue from As You Like It:

This quotation expresses a metaphor because the world is not literally a stage. By asserting that the world is a stage, Shakespeare uses points of comparison between the world and a stage to convey an understanding about the mechanics of the world and the behavior of the people within it.

The Philosophy of Rhetoric (1937) by rhetorician I. A. Richards describes a metaphor as having two parts: the tenor and the vehicle. The tenor is the subject to which attributes are ascribed. The vehicle is the object whose attributes are borrowed. In the previous example, "the world" is compared to a stage, describing it with the attributes of "the stage"; "the world" is the tenor, and "a stage" is the vehicle; "men and women" is the secondary tenor, and "players" is the secondary vehicle.

Other writers employ the general terms ground and figure to denote the tenor and the vehicle. Cognitive linguistics uses the terms target and source, respectively. Psychologist Julian Jaynes contributed the terms metaphrand, metaphier, paraphrand, and paraphier to the understanding of how metaphors evoke meaning thereby adding two additional terms to the common set of two basic terms. Metaphrand is equivalent to metaphor theory terms tenor, target, and ground. Metaphier is equivalent to metaphor theory terms vehicle, figure, and source. Paraphier is any attribute, characteristics, or aspect of a metaphier, whereas any paraphrand is a selected paraphier which has conceptually become attached to a metaphrand through understanding or comprehending of a metaphor. For example, if a reader encounters this metaphor: "Pat is a tornado," the metaphrand is "Pat," the metaphier is "tornado." The paraphiers, or characteristics, of the metaphier "tornado" would include: storm, power, wind, counterclockwise, danger, threat, destruction, etc. However, the metaphoric use of those attributes or characteristics of a tornado is not typically one-for-one; if Pat is said to be a "tornado" the metaphoric meaning is likely to focus on the paraphrands of power or destruction rather than on, say, the paraphier of counterclockwise movement of wind.

Neurathian bootstrap

Neurath's boat is a simile used in anti-foundational accounts of knowledge, especially in the philosophy of science, which was first formulated by Otto Neurath. It is based in part on the Ship of Theseus which, however, is standardly used to illustrate other philosophical questions, to do with problems of identity. It was popularised by Willard Van Orman Quine in Word and Object (1960).


A parable is a succinct, didactic story, in prose or verse that illustrates one or more instructive lessons or principles. It differs from a fable in that fables employ animals, plants, inanimate objects, or forces of nature as characters, whereas parables have human characters. A parable is a type of analogy.Some scholars of the canonical gospels and the New Testament apply the term "parable" only to the parables of Jesus, though that is not a common restriction of the term. Parables such as "The Prodigal Son" are central to Jesus's teaching method in the canonical narratives and the apocrypha.

Power Politics (poetry collection)

Power Politics is a book of poetry by Canadian author Margaret Atwood, published in 1971.

It contains her famous simile:

The violent surprise of this poem is typical of Atwood’s imagery.Gender is a crucial theme in Power Politics. The collection was often dismissed as a poetic version of Women's Lib although Atwood herself rejected the notion that the Women's Movement influenced the conception of Power Politics.

Simile, Mpumalanga

Simile is the Black township on the northern side of the forestry town Sabie. It falls under the Thaba Chweu Local Municipality of Mpumalanga province, South Africa.

Simile (computer virus)

Win32/Simile (also known as Etap and MetaPHOR) is a metamorphic computer virus written in assembly language for Microsoft Windows. The virus was released in the most recent version in early March 2002. It was written by the virus writer "Mental Driller". Some of his previous viruses, such as Win95/Drill (which used the Tuareg polymorphic engine), have proved very challenging to detect.

When the virus is first executed, it checks the current date. If the host file (the file that is infected with the virus) imports the file User32.dll, then on the 17th of March, June, September, or December, a message is displayed. Depending on the version of the virus, the case of each letter in the text is altered randomly. On May 14 (the anniversary of Israeli independence day), a message saying "Free Palestine!" will be displayed if the system locale is set to Hebrew.The virus then rebuilds itself. This metamorphic process is very complex and accounts for around 90% of the virus' code. After the rebuild, the virus searches for executable files in folders on all fixed and remote drives. Files will not be infected if they are located in a subfolder more than three levels deep, or if the folder name begins with the letter W. For each file that is found, there is a 50 percent chance that it will be ignored. Files will not be infected if they begin with F, PA, SC, DR, NO, or if the letter V appears anywhere in the file name. Due to the way in which the name matching is done, file names that contain certain other characters are also not infected, although this part is not deliberate. The virus contains checks to avoid infecting "goat" or "bait" files (files that are created by anti-virus programs). The infection process uses the structure of the host, as well as random factors, to control the placement of the virus body and the decryptor.

Stylistic device

In literature and writing, stylistic elements are the use of any of a variety of techniques to give an auxiliary meaning, idea, or feeling to the literal or written.


The telautograph, an analog precursor to the modern fax machine, transmits electrical impulses recorded by potentiometers at the sending station to servomechanisms attached to a pen at the receiving station, thus reproducing at the receiving station a drawing or signature made by the sender. It was the first such device to transmit drawings to a stationary sheet of paper; previous inventions in Europe had used rotating drums to make such transmissions.

The telautograph's invention is attributed to Elisha Gray, who patented it on July 31, 1888. Gray's patent stated that the telautograph would allow "one to transmit his own handwriting to a distant point over a two-wire circuit." It was the first facsimile machine in which the stylus was controlled by horizontal and vertical bars. The telautograph was first publicly exhibited at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition held in Chicago.

While the patent schema's geometry implies vertical and horizontal coordinates, systems used in the 20th Century (and presumably before) had a different coordinate scheme, based on transmitting two angles.

In an 1888 interview in The Manufacturer & Builder (Vol. 24: No. 4: pages 85–86) Gray made this statement:

By my invention you can sit down in your office in Chicago, take a pencil in your hand, write a message to me, and as your pencil moves, a pencil here in my laboratory moves simultaneously, and forms the same letters and words in the same way. What you write in Chicago is instantly reproduced here in fac-simile. You may write in any language, use a code or cipher, no matter, a fac-simile is produced here. If you want to draw a picture it is the same, the picture is reproduced here. The artist of your newspaper can, by this device, telegraph his pictures of a railway wreck or other occurrences just as a reporter telegraphs his description in words.

By the end of the 19th century, the telautograph was modified by Foster Ritchie. Calling it the telewriter, Ritchie's version of the telautograph could be operated using a telephone line for simultaneous copying and speaking.The telautograph became very popular for the transmission of signatures over a distance, and in banks and large hospitals to ensure that doctors' orders and patient information were transmitted quickly and accurately.

Teleautograph systems were installed in a number of major railroad stations to relay hand-written reports of train movements from the interlocking tower to various parts of the station. The teleautograph network in Grand Central Terminal included a public display in the main concourse into the 1960s; a similar setup in Chicago Union Station remained in operation into the 1970s.

A Telautograph was used in 1911 to warn workers on the 10th floor about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire that had broken out two floors below.

An example of a Telautograph machine writing script can be seen in the 1956 movie Earth vs the Flying Saucers as the output device for the mechanical translator.

Telautograph Corporation changed its name several times. In 1971, it was acquired by Arden/Mayfair. In 1993, Danka Industries purchased the company and renamed it Danka/Omnifax. In 1999, Xerox corporation purchased the company and called it the Omnifax division, which has since been absorbed by the corporation.

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