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Poetic diction

Imagery • Figures of speech
Metaphor • Simile
Homeric simile
Personification • Pathetic fallacy
Synecdoche  • Metonymy
Conceit • Extended metaphor
Allegory • Motif • Symbol
Pun • Double entendre
Ambiguity • Idiom


Alliteration • Assonance
Consonance • Rhyme
Repetition • Refrain


Line • Enjambment • Caesura
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List of poetic forms

Modern poetry

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Haiku in English • Tanka

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Collaborative poetry
Glossary of poetry terms
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A simile is a figure of speech that directly compares two different things by employing the words "like", "as", or "than".[1]

Even though both similes and metaphors are forms of comparison, similes indirectly compare the two ideas and allow them to remain distinct in spite of their similarities, whereas metaphors compare two things directly. For instance, a simile that compares a person with a bullet would go as follows: "Chris was a record-setting runner as fast as a speeding bullet." A metaphor might read something like, "When Chris ran, he was a speeding bullet racing along the track."

A mnemonic for a simile is that "a simile is similar or alike."

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In literature Edit

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

  • Curley was flopping like a fish on a line.[2]
  • The very mist on the Essex marshes was like a gauzy and radiant fabric.[3]
  • Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world like a Colossus.[4]

Dickens, in the opening to 'A Christmas Carol', says "But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile."

Explicit similes Edit

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:

  • She is like a dynamo.
  • For he is like a refiner's fire.

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:

  • He fights like a lion.
  • She swims like a dolphin.
  • He slithers like a snake.
  • He runs like a cheetah.
  • He drinks like a fish.
  • She kicks like a mule.
  • He flopped like a fish out of water

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

  • When he got the tools out, he was as precise and thorough as a surgeon.
  • She walks as gracefully and elegantly as a cat.
  • He was as brave as a lion in the fight.
  • He was as tough as a bull.
  • She was as bendy as a snake.
  • She danced as gracefully as a swan.

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;[5] 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.

Without 'like' or 'as'Edit

Similes are sometimes made without using the words "like" or "as." This often occurs when making comparisons of differing values.[6]

  • "Norman was more anxious to leave the area than Herman Milquetoast after seeing ten abominable snowmen charging his way with hunger in their eyes."
  • "But this truth is more obvious than the sun--here it is; look at it; its brightness blinds you."
  • "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate:" - William Shakespeare, Sonnet 18
  • "I'm happier than a tornado in a trailer park." - Mater, Cars
  • "We're in the stickiest situation since Sticky the stick insect got stuck on a sticky bun." - Captain Edmund Blackadder, Blackadder Goes Forth

See alsoEdit

References Edit

External linksEdit

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