Figure Name simile
Source Silva Rhetoricae (; Garrett Epp (1994) ("imago," "simile"); Ad Herennium (385-387); Aristotle 3.11.11; Quintilian 8.6.8; Melanchthon a8r; JG Smith (1665) ("similitudo"); Hart 1874 (150-154); Peacham; Macbeth (1876); Vinsauf (1967) ("similitudo") ("imago"); De Mille (1882) ("comparison); Bain (1867) 29 ("simile"); Hill (1883); Waddy (1889); Demetrius (1902) 193; Jamieson (1844) 152; Blount (1653) 11; Raub (1888) 187; Bullinger (1898) ("simile; or, resemblance"); Johnson (1903) ("simile"); Kellog (1880) ("comparison" or "simile")
Earliest Source None
Synonyms similitudo, imago, comparison, resemblance
Etymology L. “like”
Type Trope
Linguistic Domain Semantic

1. An explicit comparison, often (but not necessarily) employing "like" or "as." (Silva Rhetoricae)

2. A comparison of one thing with another by means of an image. (Garrett Epp)

3. Simile is the comparison of one figure with
another, implying a certain resemblance between
them. This is used either for praise or censure. (Ad Herennium)

4. A similitude, &c.; SIMILITVDO, a Similitude: It is a form of speech whereby the Orator or speaker compares one thing with the other by a similitude fit to his purpose. This Exornation yields both profit and pleasure, profit by its perspicuity,and pleasure by its proportion. A Similitude is a Metaphor dilated, or enlarged, and a Metaphor a Similitude contracted.(JG Smith)

5. S1m11e, or Comparison, consists in formally likening one
thing to another. The Object of Simile is to increase the efFect intended in the main assertion, whether that intention be to exalt or to degrade, to dignify or to burlesque. (Hart)

6. Similitudo, is a forme of speech by which the Orator compareth one thing with the other by a similitude fit to his purpose. (Peacham)

7. Simile is the rhetorical figure that comes first before us. Of this, it is an express law that the names of the things compared are employed in their literal sense. A simile is a comparison distinctly stated; makred by some such word as "like" or "as." (Macbeth)

8. (Similitudo) There are other figures to adorn the meaning of words. All of these I include in the following brief treatment: when meaning is adorned, this is the standard procedure. ... ((10) similitudo) Often from an object basically dissimilar I draw forth a point of resemblance. (Vinsauf)

8. There are other figures to adorn the meaning of words. All of these I include in the following brief treatment: when meaning is adorned, this is standard procedure. ... ((12) Imago) Or I pass over the figures just mentioned, and, as another figure comes to the fore, I introduce a comparison of one thing with a similiar thing by means of an appropriate image. (Vinsauf)

Comparison is that figure by which the resemblance between two objects is pointed out.
There are three kinds of comparison:
1. The comparison degree.
In this the comparison refers to equality, superiority, or inferiority; e.g., "He is as brave as a lion."
2. The comparison of analogy.
Here the objects compared are not similar in themselves, but occupy similar relations to something else; e.g., "Time is like a river."
3. The comparison of similarity.
Here the objection compared are actually similar in themselves; e.g., "He is like his father."
The comparison of analogy and that of similarity are both called simile.

10. "consists in likening one thing to another formally or expressly." (Bain)

11. 1. Forms of Simile.
Simile assumes four forms, i.e., it may be founded on (1) direct resemblance; (2) resemblance of causes; (3) resemblance of effects; or (4) resemblance of ratios.
(1) Direct Resemblance.- Direct resemblance, contrary to a natural presupposition, is the lease common and the least useful of the four kinds of simile. The reason is this is, that, in order to assist the mind in forming a conception, the objects compared must belong to different classes; but, if of different classes, they are likely to have no direct similitude. This is not always so. (Hill)

11. (2) Resemblance of Causes.- The resemblance of causes is more common than the direct resemblance. (Hill)

11. (3) Resemblance of Effects. - Nothing is more evident than that widely different objects may produce similar effects upon the mind. (Hill)

11. (4) Resemblance of Ratios. - The greatest number of similes are based upon analogy, or the resemblance of ratios. (Hill)

12. Simile, or Comparison, consists in formally likening one thing to another that in its nature is essentially different, but which it resembles in some properties. This figure is often as necessary to the exhibition of the though, as it is ornamental to the language by which that thought is conveyed. The comparison is oftenest denoted by the word like, but as, so, just as, similar to, and many more expressions, may be used for the purpose; and sometimes the formal term of comparison may be omitted. (Waddy)

14. "In the use of metaphors, we suppose the primary object transformed into the resembling one. In the use of comparisons, we soar not so high, but content ourselves with remarking similitude merely. ...All comparisons may be reduced to the following heads. I. Those which improve our conceptions of the objects they are brought to illustrate,--we call explaining comparisons. II. Those which augment the pleasure of imagination by a splendid assemblage of other adjacent and agreeable objects,--we call embellishing comparisons. III. And finally, those which elevate or depress the principal object, an operation often requisite in writing, but more particularly in speaking,--we call comparisons of advantage, or of disadvantage." (Jamieson)

15. "Comparison is either of things contrary or equal, or things different." (Blount)

16. "Simile is a comparison of objects based on resemblance. ...The comparison in a simile is usually made by the use of like, as, or so. Likeness is the basis of simile, but it must not be likeness of things of the same kind. Thus, the comparison of the likeness of one man to another, one city to another, etc., is not figurative, but plain language." (Raub)

17. A Declaration that one Thing resembles another; or, Comparison by Resemblance... This figure has no corresponding Greek name. Indeed it can hardly be called a figure, or an unusual form of expression, seeing it is quite literal, and one of the commonest forms of expression in use. It is cold, clear, plain statement as to resembance between words and things. The whole application of the figure lies in this Resemblance, and not in Representation, as in Metonymy; or in Implication, as in Hypocatastasis; or, in Association, as in Synecdoche. (Bullinger, 720)

18. Simile.—A comparison definitely set forth, and announced as such, is a simile... But a comparison of things that are alike in all respects is hardly, contemplated in the definition of a simile... It is only when the likeness is in some way fanciful or partial, or between things that do not belong to the same class, that we pronounce it a simile. (Johnson, 253)

19. A comparison, or simile, is a figure of speech in which a likeness is pointed out or asserted between things in other respects unlike. Its rhetorical value lies mainly in the fact that it makes the thought easy of apprehension. (Kellog, 112-113)


1. My love is like a red, red rose —Robert Burns
Her hair was like gravy, running brown off her head and clumping up on her shoulders. (Silva Rhetoricae)

1. The day we passed together for a while
Seemed a bright fire on a winter's night —Maurice Sceve (Silva Rhetoricae)

1. You are like a hurricane: there's calm in your eye, but I'm getting blown away —Neil Young (Silva Rhetoricae)

1. The air-lifted rhinoceros hit the ground like a garbage bag filled with split pea soup. (Silva Rhetoricae)

2. You were wont, when you laughed, to crow like a cock; when you walked, to walk like one of the lions.... (TGV 2.1 qtd. in Garrett Epp)

3. " He entered the combat in body like the strongest bull, in impetuosity like the fiercest lion." (Ad Herennium)

3. " That creature who flaunts his riches, loaded and weighed down with gold, shouts and raves like a Phrygian eunuch-priest of Cybele or like a soothsayer." (Ad Herennium)

3. "That creature, who like a snail silently hides and keeps himself in his shell, is carried off', he and his house, to be swallowed whole." (Ad Herennium)

4. As it makes no matter whether you lay a sick man in a bedsted made of plain wood, or in a bedsted guilded and garnished with gold; for whithersoever you remove him, he carries his disease with him: even so is it all one, whether the minde which is sick with insatiable avarice, be placed in riches or in poverty; for while the disease hangs still upon it, it finds no rest.

This comfort in danger was but like the honey that Samson found in the Lyons jaws, or like lightning in a foggy night. (JG Smith)

5. "True ease in writing comes from art, not chance, As those move easiest who have learnt to dance. I have ventured, like wanton boys that swim on bladders, this amny summers in a sea of glory." (Hart)

5. "...It came o'er my ear like the sweet sound that breathes upon a bank of violets, stealing and giving odour." - Shakespeare (Hart)

5. " the memory of joys that are past, pleasant and mournful to the soul." - Ossian (Hart)

5. "She's as short and as dark as a mid-winter day." -Milton (Hart)

5. "Lay entranced thick as autumnal leaves that strew the brooks in Vallombross." -Milton (Hart)

5. "...full high advanced, shone like a meteor, streaming to the wind." (Hart)

5. "Still with his soul severe account he kept, weeping all debts out ere he slept; then down in peace and innocence he lay, like the sun's laborious light, which still in water sets at night, unsullied with the journey of the day." -Cowley (Hart)

5. "The day is done, and the darkness falls from the wing of night, as a feather is wafted downward from an eagle in his flight." -Longfellow (Hart)

5. "Superior beings, when of late they saw a mortal man unfold all nature's law, admired such wisdom in an earthly shape, and showed a Newton as we show an ape." -Pope (Hart)

5. "Pharos of the ages, we hail they glimmerings 'mid the cataracts of Time." (Hart)

5. "Thus o'er the dying lamp th'unsteady flame hangs quiv'ring on a point, leaps off by fits, and falls again, as loth to quit its hold. Thou must not go; my soul still hovers o'er thee, and can't get loose." -Addison's Cato (Hart)

6. Cicero: Even as the light of a candle, is opprest with the brightnesse of the Sunne, so the estimation of corporall things must needs be darkened, drowned, and destroyed by the glorie and greatnesse of vertue. As in daungerous sayling the helme is not committed to him that is richest or noblest in birth, but to him that hath the best knowledge in guiding the ship: even so is it requisite and behovefull not to give the principalitie of government to him that is of more wealth then others, or of nobler blood, but to him that excelleth other men in wisedome and loyaltie. (Peacham)

7. "The tear down childhood's cheek that flows
Is like the dew-drop on the rose." -Sir Walter Scott (Macbeth)

8. ((10) similitudo (comparison)) ... just as a ship is engulfed in the rising seas because of one crack no less than of many - both dangers have the same destructive effect. (Vinsauf)

8. ((12) imago (image or simile)) That spirit of nature malign, the general foe, swoops round man on hidden wings, with tortured desire to win back the one whom he lost. That great champion of ours snatched man away with the mighty power of a lion, the cunning of a serpent, and the simplicity of a dove. (Vinsauf)

10. "As the stars, so shall thy seed be." (Bain)

10. "The condemnation of Socrates took him away in his full grandeur and glory, like the setting of a tropical sun." (Bain)

11. (1) Tennyson thus describes a miler:
"Him, like the working been in blossom duet,
Blanched with his mill, they found."
Here there is a direct resemblance between blossom dust and the flour on the miller's clothing, yet the two objects compared belong to different classes. (Hill)

11. (2) An illustration is furnished by Dryden:
"I scarcely understood my own intent;
But, silk-worm like, so long within have wrought
That I am lost in my own web of thought."
If we inquire of what resemblance is here predicated, the answer is, not of the poet and the silk-worm, for there is no resemblance between them, but of the internal process of both poet and silk-worm. (Hill)

11. (3) Mr. Longfellow's simile in the following lines has been criticised as "far-fetched:"
"The day is done, and the darkness
Falls from the wing of night,
As a feather is wafted downward
From an eagle in his flight." (Hill)

11. (4) Dryden very forcibly says"
"of no distemper, of no blast he died,
But fell like autumn fruit that mellowed long,
E'en wondered at because he dropped no sooner.
Fate seemed to wind him up for four-score years,
Yet freshly ran he on ten winters more,
Till, like a click worn out with eating time,
The wheels of weary life at last stood still."
Here the comparison is not between things, but between relations. (Hill)

12. Note the following simile with the formal word of comparison:
"At first, like thunder's distant tone,
The rattling din came rolling on." (Waddy)

13. 'This decree caused the danger which then threatened the city to pass by like a cloud.' (Demetrius)

14. "If, for instance, I discover a resemblance between a man and a horse in swiftness, between a man and an oak in strength, or between a man and a rock in steadiness, such resemblances, being new, and generally unobserved, excite surprise and pleasure, and improve my conceptions of the swiftness, strength, and steadiness, of the man." (Jamieson)

15. "Equal, as Themistocles and Coriolanus (both great States men, both of great deserts to their Countrey, both banished, both dead at one time…. As when things seeming unequal are compared…; for instance, where a woman is compared to a ship." (Blount)

16. "Pleasant words are like oil poured upon the waters" (Raub)

17. Matt. 7:24-27. -Here we have a magnificent and extended Simile, almost amounting to a parable. It is too long to quote, and too plain to need elucidation. It explains to us very clearly and forcibly its own powerful lesson. (Bullinger, 722)

18. Robert Browning's poem Clive furnishes an example of an elaborate simile that requires a long description to set forth the illustration, before' the turn of the thought that applies it to the thing illustrated:

Suppose a castle's new,
None presume to climb its ramparts, none find foothold sure
for shoe
'Twixt those squares and squares of granite plating the imperious pile
As his scale-mail's warty iron cuirasses a crocodile.
Reels that castle thunder-smitten, storm-dismantled? from
Scrambling up by crack and crevice, every cockney prates
Towers—The heap he kicks now! turrets—just the measure
of his cane!
Will that do ? Observe moreover—(same similitude again)—
Such a castle crumbles by sheer stress of cannonade:
'Tis when foes are foiled and fighting's finished that vile
rains, invade,
Grass o'ergrows, o'ergrows till night-birds congregating find
no holes
Fit to build in like the topmost sockets made for banner
So Clive crumbled slow in London, crashed at last.

Browning seldom utters an idea that is not accompanied by a troop of subordinate ideas, and sometimes they all crowd to the front in apparent disorder. Thus the passage quoted here—all of which is a simile, and a double illustrative description. (Johnson, 253-254)

Kind Of Symmetry
Part Of Metaphor
Related Figures metaphor, burlesque, parabola
Notes From Hart, the principal rules to be observed in regard to the use of similes: 1. Similes should not be drawn from things which have too near and obvious a resemblance to the object compared. 2. Similes should not be drawn from objects in which the likeness is too faint and remote. 3. Similes should not be drawn from objects with which orfinary readers are unacquainted. 4. Similes should not, in serious discourse, be drawn from objects which are mean or low. 5. Similes should not be drawn from great or sublime objects, when we are describing what is low or trivial. 6. Similes are inappropriate when strong passion is to be expressed.
Confidence Unconfident
Last Editor Ioanna Malton
Confidence Unconfident
Editorial Notes - Changed Linguistic Domain from lexicographic to semantic. -Added "like" or "as" for linguistic cues. Could also be part of metaphor -Nike
Reviewed No