There’s a big difference between saying someone is “as pretty as a picture” and “as pretty as a barracuda.” It doesn’t matter if the word pretty is in both phrases — chances are, you’d rather be compared to a picture than a toothy fish. Similes are a helpful literary tool for being very complimentary (or very honest) whether you’re writing a short story, a love letter, or a pop music song.
- Watching that new show was like watching paint dry. (Both the show and watching paint dry are boring.)
- I sleep like a baby on my new mattress. (Both the baby and I sleep well.)
- My grandma was as tough as nails. (Both my grandma and nails are tough.)
- The new linebacker is as strong as an ox. (Both the linebacker and the ox are strong.)
Similes make writing more vivid and interesting to read. The sentence “The new linebacker is as strong as an ox,” might make you imagine a huge ox pulling a cart — a much more powerful image than “The new linebacker is strong.”
Some idioms are so common that they’ve become parts of idioms — expressions that we use all the time without considering their meaning — along with specific verbs. How many of these similes do you hear every day?
When you compare two things using like, you’re trusting the reader to understand the connection without directly stating it. For example, if you say “Amber is growing like a weed,” your audience should know that both Amber and weeds grow quickly.
Luckily, these similes are so common that audiences typically know exactly what they mean.
- My idea went over like a lead balloon.
- Your niece swims like a fish!
- That teacher has a voice like a foghorn.
- I ran like the wind to catch the bus.
- The youngest kid climbs like a monkey.
- They fought like cats and dogs.
- This dress fits like a glove.
- Don’t just sit there like a bump on a log.
- You shine like a diamond.
- I worked like a dog until the project was done.
- She went to him like a moth to a flame.
- Your voice sounds like nails on a chalkboard.
- Karly sings like an angel.
- The bad news hit me like a ton of bricks.
- This year has been like a roller coaster.
If you want to be more direct about your comparison, find the perfect simile that uses “as.” These comparisons include the adjective and the nouns they’re comparing.
- I’ve been as busy as a bee lately.
- Your new baby is as cute as a button!
- The little boy was as happy as a clam at the theme park.
- Her request was as bold as brass.
- I was as snug as a bug in a rug in my new quilt.
- Neil’s exercise has made him as thin as a rail.
- Are you okay? You’re as white as a ghost.
- Thank you for the gift you’re as sweet as sugar.
- Kendra was as brave as a lion.
- This house is as clean as a whistle.
- That is as easy as shooting fish in a barrel.
- My love for you is as deep as the ocean.
- I am so thirsty that my throat is as dry as a desert.
- They are as different as night and day.
- That guy is as nutty as a fruitcake.
Examples of similes can be seen in classic literature, including poems and plays. Writers, poets, and songwriters make use of similes often to add depth and emphasize what they are trying to convey to the reader or listener in a vivid way.
In "A Red, Red Rose," poet Robert Burns says that love is "like a red, red rose" and that it is "like the melodie."
O my Luve is like a red, red rose / That's newly sprung in June; / O my Luve is like the melodie / That's sweetly played in tune.
Another example of a simile can be found in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. When Romeo talks to Mercutio before the Capulets' party, he talks about the pain of love, saying that it "pricks like thorn."
Is love a tender thing? It is too rough, / too rude, too boisterous, and it pricks like thorn.
Similes are also found in song lyrics, as they let you convey deeper meaning with fewer words.
- "My heart is like an open highway" - It's My Life, Bon Jovi
- "It's been a hard days night/ And I've been working like a dog" - A Hard Day's Night, The Beatles
- "And it seems to me you lived your life/ Like a candle in the wind" - Candle in the Wind, Elton John
- "You're as cold as ice." - Cold As Ice, Foreigner
- "Steady as a preacher/ Free as a weed" - American Honey, Lady A
Similes are so catchy that they often appear in popular ads and company slogans over the years.
- Chevrolet trucks - "Like a rock"
- Doritos snack chips - "Tastes like awesome feels"
- State Farm insurance - "Like a good neighbor"
- Almond Joy/Mounds candy - "Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't."
- Honda cars - "The Honda's ride is as smooth as a gazelle in the Sahara. Its comfort is like a hug from Nana."
Metaphors are another way to compare two things — but unlike similes, metaphors don’t use like or as.
- Simile: She is as innocent as an angel.
- Metaphor: She is an angel.
- Simile: My literature teacher was as wise as an owl.
- Metaphor: My literature teacher was a wise owl.
The biggest difference between a simile and a metaphor is that a simile makes a direct comparison, while the metaphor's comparison is implied but not stated. Both are essential elements of figurative and poetic language.