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Encyclopedia > Simile
Look up simile in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.

A simile is a comparison between two things, usually with the words “like” or “as”. Wikipedia does not have an article with this exact name. ... Wiktionary (a portmanteau of wiki and dictionary) is a multilingual, Web-based project to create a free content dictionary, available in over 151 languages. ...

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A simile differs from a metaphor by keeping the three items separate and asking the audience to find similar features instead of saying they are the same thing. A popular mnemonic for a simile is that "a simile is similar or alike." This article is about metaphor in literature and rhetoric. ... For other uses, see Mnemonic (disambiguation). ...

Similes have been widely used in literature for their expressiveness as a figure of speech:

  • Curley was flopping like a fish on a line.[1]
  • The very mist on the Essex marshes was like a gauzy and radiant fabric.[2]
  • Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world like a Colossus.[3]


Look up Colossus in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ...

Explicit similes

A simile can explicitly provide the basis of a comparison or leave this basis implicit. For instance, the following similes are implicit, leaving an audience to determine for themselves which features are being predicated of a target:

  • "My dad was a mechanic by trade when he was in the Army," Raymond Thompson said. "When he got the tools out, he was like a surgeon."
  • His mind is like a samurai's sword.

More detail is present in the following similes, but it is still a matter of inference as to what features are actually predicated of the target:

  • You may not live like a samurai, but you can die like a samurai.
  • He walks like a ninja and runs like a cat.
  • He drinks like a fish.

In contrast, the following similes explicitly state the features that are predicated of each target:

  • His mind is as sharp as a samurai's sword.
  • When he got the tools out, he was as precise and thorough as a surgeon.
  • He drinks copiously like a fish.
  • She walks as gracefully and elegantly as a cat.

Unlike a metaphor, a simile can be as precise as the user needs it to be, to explicitly predicate a single feature of a target or to vaguely predicate an under-determined and open-ended body of features. Empirical research supports the observation that similes are more likely to be used with explicit explanations of their intended meaning [4]; this offers some support to the claim that similes are preferred if a user wants to associate an unusual or out-of-the-ordinary property with a target. This article is about metaphor in literature and rhetoric. ...


The most commonplace similes offer a window into the stereotypes that pervade a given language and culture. For example, the following similes convey a stereotypical view of people, animals and things: In modern usage, a stereotype is a simplified mental picture of an individual or group of people who share a certain characteristic (or stereotypical) qualities. ...

  • as precise as a surgeon
  • as regular as a clock
  • as cunning as a fox
  • as ugly as a toad
  • as strong as an ox
  • as sour as vinegar
  • as lithe as a panther
  • as quiet as a mouse

These similes have the status of a cliché or platitude in English, and their use is typically taken to signify a lack of creative imagination. To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ... A platitude is a statement with no meaning, presented as if it were significant. ...

Some stereotypical similes express viewpoints that are technically incorrect but which are widespread in a culture, such as:

  • as hairy as a four footed platypus
  • as cruel as a wolf
  • as stubborn as a goat
  • as drunk as a skunk
  • as violent as a gorilla
  • as humorless as a German
  • as proud as a peacock

Animal stereotypes provide a rich vein of similes in English, as does a persistent body of ethnic stereotypes. Stereotypes of animals show that certain animals are commonly represented with particular traits. ... A 19th century childrens book informs its readers that the Dutch are a very industrious race, and that Chinese children are very obedient to their parents. ...

Similes do not have to be accurate to be meaningful or useful. To be "as proud as a peacock" is "to be very proud" whether peacocks actually do exhibit pride or not. What matters is that peacocks are commonly believed to be exemplary examples of proud behaviour.


Some similes play against expectations to convey an ironic viewpoint, as in the following examples: For the form of speech, see Irony. ...

  • as hairy as a bowling ball
  • as subtle as a sledgehammer
  • as porous as steel
  • as bulletproof as a spongecake

The intended audience for such similes must sufficiently understand the concepts involved so as to appreciate that the opposite of the intended meaning is being conveyed.

Ironic similes create a humorous effect by setting up an expectation that is then incongruously dashed. Incongruity is a core concept in the understanding of humor as a cognitive mechanism. Look up Humour in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ...

Irony is a relatively common feature of similes that are used in web-based texts. Indeed, researchers have estimated that between 10% to 15% of explicit web-based similes (by unique type rather than by frequency) are ironic similes of the above kind[5]

Subversive use of irony

Bona-fide similes that express a widely-held stereotypical belief can also be subverted for ironic purposes. The following explicit similes each subvert another non-ironic simile to achieve a more obvious semantic incongruity and thus a greater humorous effect.

  • as accurate as a blind archer
  • as precise as a drunk surgeon
  • as balanced as an upturned pyramid
  • as gorgeous as an anorexic supermodel
  • as fast as a three-legged cheetah
  • as elegant as a dead cat

External links

Collections and compilations

  • Sardonicus
  • Similepedia


  1. ^ Steinbeck, John (1937), Of Mice and Men, Sprangler, ISBN 0-14-017739-6 .
  2. ^ Conrad, Joseph (1902), Heart of Darkness, Blackwood's Magazine, <http://www.gutenberg.org/files/526/526.txt> .
  3. ^ Shakespeare, William (1623), Julius Caesar .
  4. ^ Roncero,Carlos, Kennedy,John M.,Smyth,Ron (2006), Similes on the Internet have explanations, Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, <http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/psocpubs/pbr/2006/00000013/00000001/art00009> .
  5. ^ Veale,Tony, Hao,Yanfen (2007), Learning to Understand Figurative Language: From Similes to Metaphors to Irony, In proceedings of CogSci 2007, the 29th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, <http://afflatus.ucd.ie> .
For other members of the family, see Steinbeck (disambiguation). ... Year 1937 (MCMXXXVII) was a common year starting on Friday (link will display the full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ... Of Mice and Men is a novella by Nobel Prize winning author John Steinbeck, first published in 1937, which tells the tragic story of George Milton and Lennie Small, two displaced Anglo migrant ranch workers in California during the Great Depression. ... // Joseph Conrad (born Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski; 3 December 1857 – 3 August 1924) was a Polish-born English novelist. ... Year 1902 (MCMII) was a common year starting on Wednesday (link will display calendar) of the Gregorian calendar (or a common year starting on Tuesday [1] of the 13-day-slower Julian calendar). ... Blackwoods Magazine was a British magazine and miscellany printed between 1817 and 1980. ... Wikipedia does not yet have an article with this exact name. ... Year 1623 (MDCXXIII) was a common year starting on Sunday (link will display the full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar (or a common year starting on Wednesday of the 10-day slower Julian calendar). ... Facsimile of the first page of Julius Caesar from the First Folio, published in 1623 Julius Caesar is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed written in 1599. ... Year 2006 (MMVI) was a common year starting on Sunday of the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 2007 (MMVII) was a common year starting on Monday of the Gregorian calendar in the 21st century. ...

  Results from FactBites:
Simile (1726 words)
If a metaphor is equivalent to the corresponding simile, then it should not be heard as anomalous or puzzling in the first place; on that view, the tension is the merest surface appearance.
The Naïve Simile theorist would have to insist that there is a further underlying literal similarity between cold things and unemotional things.
Searle offers the example, "Richard is a gorilla," which the Naïve Simile theory would parse as "Richard is like a gorilla." Let us suppose that what is meant is that Richard is like a gorilla in being fierce, nasty, prone to violence, and perhaps not very bright.
XML.com: SIMILE: Practical Metadata for the Semantic Web (1761 words)
SIMILE Project is working to make it easier to wander from collection to collection and, more generally, to find your way around in the Semantic Web.
Although the problem domain of SIMILE originated in the library community, the tools we are developing will easily be reusable in other domains with similar problems.
In working on RDF browsing for both SIMILE and Haystack, we found that life would be easier if we had a general ontology governing how to display RDF, a kind of stylesheet for RDF that allows us to indicate how we would like to present some abstract data to the user.
  More results at FactBites »



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