Similes – how to understand them

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Similes – definition

similes A simile is a figure of speech in which one thing is directly compared with another.

redbtn The comparison is usually signalled by the use of the terms ‘as’ or ‘like’ or ‘such as’.


He was as strong as a lion

It shot out like a bullet

“Music is such sweet thunder”


redbtn Similes are part of everyday speech. They may be used consciously or unconsciously.

redbtn They are often used in imaginative writing such as fiction and poetry to clarify and enhance an image.

redbtn NB! To say that a girl looks like Marilyn Monroe is not a simile. That’s because two similar things are being directly equated to each other.

redbtn But to say that ‘My heart is like a singing bird’ is a simile. That’s because the two things being likened to each other are quite different – and so an imaginative comparison is being made.

redbtn A simile requires less of an imaginative leap than does a metaphor. A simile states that A is like B, whereas a metaphor suggests that A actually is B.

redbtn The simile is one common component of imagery. This is the process of evoking ideas, people, places, feelings and various other connections in a vivid and effective way.

redbtn Imagery is used in both written and spoken communication in many varieties of form, from advertising to poetry and from chatting to speech-making.

redbtn Simile, metaphor, and symbol are the main types of image making. The result is that communication acquires a creative and vital quality which somehow springs from the essential act of comparison.

redbtn So, a raindrop can become a crystal, fear can become an abyss, and jealousy a monster.

redbtn By employing imagery, we interpret the material world and use language to transmit our vision.


Self-assessment quiz follows …

© Roy Johnson 2004

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