- Books, Literature, and Writing
What is the Difference Between a Simile and a Metaphor?
A Simile IS a Metaphor
Similes and metaphors are figures of speech used for the purpose of painting a picture in the mind. Actually, a simile IS a metaphor, but a metaphor is not a simile. What does that mean? Well, a simile is a type of metaphor, just as an apple is a type of fruit. Both compare one item to another, but the difference is in the wording.
The way I always remembered is that a simile is similar. Simile is similar. Simile. Similar. Similar-sounding words there, you see. So, similar items are compared with the words "as" or "like." A metaphor also compares two things to the other, but the words "like" or "as" are left out. A simile says that one item is like another; a metaphor says that one item IS the other. That's the simplest explanation for these two literary terms.
In the movie, Forrest Gump, Forrest describes Jenny and himself in this way: "We were like peas and carrots." They were similar or "like." Therefore, he used a simile to describe himself and his friend. If he had used a metaphor, he would have said, "We were peas and carrots." See the difference?
Both similes and metaphors are used as poetic devices, particularly similes. A metaphor, which compares two things, often unlike things, is actually more forceful, which perhaps is what makes it somewhat less poetic.
Metaphors and similes are used in everyday language, as well as in various types of entertainment mediums. Similes and metaphors abound in music and poetry especially.
Examples of Similes
Here are some examples of similes. Note the phrases that begin with "as" or "like."
The baby was as light as a feather.
Her room was as neat as a pin.
Last night, I slept like a log.
Similes in Poetry:
Oh, my love's like a red, red rose. --Robert Burns
My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun. --William Shakespeare
And of course in the movie, Forrest Gump:
Like is like a box of chocolates. --Forrest Gump
Time is Money!
Examples of Metaphors
A metaphor compares two things that are unlike but have something in common. No "like" or "as" is used in the comparison. Note that metaphors can be different parts of speech, such as adjectives or verbs as well.
Life is a roller coaster.
Time is money!
You are the apple of my eye.
I'm feeling blue.
She is fishing for compliments
He shot down all my ideas.
Note that none of the examples are literal. You are not an apple in someone's eye; if you paid attention in biology, that would be a pupil.
You don't really feel blue, no more than you feel red, brown, or yellow.
As far as the verbs go, nobody fishes for compliments. I envision someone sitting on the bank of the river, fishing pole in the water, trying to hook statements such as "You're pretty" or "Gee, you're nice."
And I've never seen someone pick up a gun and literally shoot someone's ideas until they fall dead to the ground. (At least not literally.)
Examples of Simile and Metaphor in Songs
Review of Simile and Metaphor
Do you think you understand the difference between a simile and a metaphor, and how you can remember which is which?
Just remember the similar (like, as) comparison in a simile, but that a metaphor compares the two without the "like" or "as."
Simile: He has no manners; he eats like a pig!
Metaphor: He has no manners; he is such a pig! And maybe he really, really is!