Simile vs. Metaphor

Are you unable to tell the difference between a simile and a metaphor? Don’t worry, you are not alone. A simile and metaphor are two types of figurative language often used in poetry, song lyrics, and fiction. They both make comparisons to unlike things, for humorous purposes. They are also used by writers, to draw attention, exaggerate, and emphasize. This is helpful in creating a vivid picture in the imagination of the readers. Let’s take a look at differences between a simile and metaphor as well as their impact on writing.

Simile

Simile vs metaphor is differentiated by just one word. A simile always uses the words either “like” or “as” in a sentence. Let’s take a look at an example of a simile below:

Example 1: Cassie Sings Like a Bird.

In the example above, “Cassie’s voice” is compared to a “bird.” Birds have a sweet and melodious tone. So, in this sentence, the simile indicates that “Cassie’s voice” is very pleasant to hear. As you can see, in this example, the word to compare “Cassie” and the “bird” is “like.” The word “like” is an indication that this it is a simile. Let’s take a look at another example.

Example 2: John Is as Cold as Ice.

In the example above, “John” is compared to “ice.” We know that “ice” is frozen water and very cold. In this example, the simile is an indication that “John” feels similar to ice. He is also very cold. The sentence uses the words “as,” which is evidence that the sentence is a simile.

Example 3: Sally Is as Scared as a Cowardly Lion.

As you can see, in this example, the word “as” is also used. This is an indication that this sentence is also a simile. “Sally” is compared to a “cowardly lion.” A cowardly lion is the lion on the “Wizard of Oz,” who was extremely fearful. In fact, he didn’t have any courage at all. So, in this example, “Sally” is viewed as a very fearful person. Let’s look at another example using the word “as.”

Example 4: My Dad Is as Busy as a Bee.

Bees keep active most of the day. They tend to their honeycombs, and fan their nest with their wings, to ensure it remains at a comfortable temperature. “Dad” is compared to a “bee” because he also stays active throughout the day. In this example, “as” is used to compare “dad” and a “bee,” which indicates this sentence is also a simile.

Example 5: Life Is Like a Box of Chocolates. You Never Know What You’re Gonna Get.

This classic line from Forrest Gump is a perfect example of a simile. In this phrase, Forrest’s mom used to compare life to a box of chocolates. Typically with boxes of chocolates, the flavors will be a mystery until you eat them. Her wisdom compared the surprises of biting into a chocolate to life’s surprises.

Metaphor

We are going to now take a look at a metaphor. Unlike a simile, a metaphor doesn’t have a specific word that lets you know it is a metaphor. Instead, it directly makes a comparison between things, people, or places. Let’s take a look at 4 examples below:

Example 1: Her Daughter’s Life Is an Open Book.

In the above example “like” or “as” is not used in the sentence. This means the sentence isn’t a simile. However, if you read the sentence, a comparison is still being made. The daughter’s life is compared to an open book. A book that is open is there for everyone to read. This sentence indicates the daughter doesn’t hide any secrets. She, instead, shares every detail of her life. A second example is shown below:

Example 2: Kyra’s Voice Is Music to My Ears.

The example above is comparing “Kyra’s voice” to “music.” Music is very soothing and relaxing. This sentence indicates that the person listening to Kyra talk thinks that her voice is soothing. This example is also a metaphor because comparisons are being made without using “like” or “as.” Let’s take a look at another example below:

Example 3: Mya Has a Heart of Gold.

“Gold” is pure and not tainted. It isn’t mixed with any other substance. “Mya’s heart” is compared to “gold” because her heart is pure. She is very kind and generous. Because “like” or “as” isn’t used in the sentence, this would also be a metaphor. One last example is below:

Example 4: William Is My Sunshine.

In the above example, “William” is being compared to “sunshine.” This means that William is the light of my life. Just as the sunshine is bright, William shines bright in my life. This sentence is also a metaphor because a comparison is being made. However, “like” or “as” isn’t used in the sentence.

Simile vs. Metaphor vs. Analogy

Analogies are another literary devices that is related to similes and metaphors and often consist of either a metaphor or simile. An analogy is a comparison of two things to help explain an idea or concept. 

An example of an analogy is “a penguin is to birds as a panda is to bears” since both are classifications of animals.

Final Thoughts

Similes and metaphors are figurative literary devices that are both used to make comparisons. However, remember that the main distinctive difference is the word “like” and “as.” These words indicate that the sentence is a simile. Otherwise, the sentence is a metaphor.


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