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Simile and Metaphor with Detailed Explanantion

Updated on January 28, 2015
Definition of Simile and Metaphor
Definition of Simile and Metaphor | Source

Definition of Simile

The word Simile has been derived from the Latin word similis, which means, like and likeness. A simile is a comparison between two objects using the words, like, or as. It consists in placing the two different things side by side and comparing them with regard to any quality common between them. There are two important things in a simile: the first one is that the objects compared must be of different kinds. Secondly, the resemblance between the two objects is made in such a way that the reader is thoroughly convinced that the resemblance is a real one. Words of comparison, like, as and so, are used while comparing one thing to another thing. The object which is compared to another object is called tenor, while the object with which the tenor is compared called a vehicle.

Definition of Simile
Definition of Simile | Source


Your teeth are like stars;
They come out at night.
They come back at dawn.
When they’re ready to bite.

If you look at the first line of the poem, the poet has compared the teeth to the stars. Though, both the objects are different from each other, yet there is a resemblance of brightness. They are as shiny as the stars. That’s the point of resemblance between the two objects. The teeth serve as tenor, while the stars are used as a vehicle. Similarly, He is as beautiful as a rose. Here the point of resemblance is beauty, though; they are different from each other.
Graham Greene’s line, The great blast furnaces of Liege rose along the line like ancient castles burning in a border raid. is another example of simile, wherein the furnaces have been compared to the ancient castles. In this line, the point of resemblance is the height of furnaces. Here the furnaces serve as tenor, while the ancient castles have been used as a vehicle.

In these lines, taken from Robert Frost’s poem, Birches, offers an excellent example of a simile using the word like.

You may see their trunks arching in the woods
Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground
Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair
Before them over their heads to dry in the sun.

In this poem, the poet, Robert Frost, has compared the arching birches to the girls on hands and knees drying their hair. In these lines, arching birches serve as tenor, while the girls on hand and knees have been used as a vehicle.


The word metaphor has been derived from the Greek word metapherein, which means to transfer. Thus, we can define the metaphor as, a literary device, wherein the sense of one word is transferred to another word i.e., from tenor to vehicle. In simple words, the word metaphor is an implied simile or a comparison which remains hidden. In a metaphor, words of comparison, like and as, are not used. Like simile, the word tenor serves as the subject of comparison, while the vehicle is the means of comparison. In metaphor, the resemblance is assumed as an imaginary identity rather than directly stated as a comparison. When we say, “He is a lion.” is a metaphor, but if we utter the same idea like, “He is like a lion.” Then it becomes a simile. That’s the point of difference between a metaphor and a simile. Now let’s discuss some examples of metaphor

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Examples of Metaphor
Examples of Metaphor | Source


Which one is a metaphor?

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“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -

And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -
And sore must be the storm -
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm -

I’ve heard it in the chillest land -
And on the strangest Sea -
Yet - never - in Extremity,
It asked a crumb - of me.
--- Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson's poem, Hope offers an example of metaphor. In the very first line of the poem, hope has been identified as the tenor, but the vehicle of comparison is hidden. It has been identified as a thing with feather, which means a bird. Thus, hope has been compared to a bird without using any word of comparison as we see it in the simile. This is what we call a metaphor. The word hope is the tenor, while the bird is a vehicle.

© 2014 Muhammad Rafiq


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