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What is the Difference Between a Simile and a Metaphor?

Updated on April 9, 2013

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.

A simile is a type of metaphor that compares two items using the words "like" and "as."
A simile is a type of metaphor that compares two items using the words "like" and "as." | Source

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.


Remember that similes are "similar" and are thus compared with "like" or "as."
Remember that similes are "similar" and are thus compared with "like" or "as."

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!

No, time is not really money, but a metaphor compares two things as if they are the same thing.
No, time is not really money, but a metaphor compares two things as if they are the same thing.

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

Source

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!


Simile in Poetry and Song

Metaphors and Similes: Do you know the difference?

Do you feel you know the difference between metaphors and similes?

See results

Metaphor in Song: Life isn't "like" a highway; Life IS a highway!

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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      This was one of the hardest lessons to teach my students; there were some who just couldn't grasp the difference between the two. Great explanation!

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Oh, thanks, Bill. I tried to make it as simple as I could. It seems sometimes students don't grasp things no matter how much we try to simplify it for them. Glad I explained this one well. Thanks for being the first to comment!

    • A.A. Zavala profile image

      Augustine A Zavala 5 years ago from Texas

      I can't believe how difficult it is to review and understand simple concepts! I need to get my Norton reader out...

    • shampa sadhya profile image

      Shampa Sadhya 5 years ago from NEW DELHI, INDIA

      Voted up and useful!

      You have explained it very clearly. The students of English often get confused between the two but your explanation is very loud and clear. Well Done!

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      AA--I hear ya! it's simple when we review it, isn't it? :-)

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      You're right, shampa! Students often get the two confused. Glad the explanation is clear. Maybe it will help! Thanks!

    • jhamann profile image

      Jamie Lee Hamann 5 years ago from Reno NV

      Very informative hub and very well written. Jamie

    • BraidedZero profile image

      James Robertson 5 years ago from Texas

      This has always been a little confusing to me and it always took me a while to get it right, but your examples were great. Cleaned it up pretty well.

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Thanks, Jamie. I appreciate that!

    • arb profile image

      arb 5 years ago from oregon

      I couldn't figure out why you couldn't spell smile. I really wanted to know the difference between a smile and a metaphor! Can you do that one next?

      Great hub, up and across, again and again.

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      BraidedZero--glad things got cleared up! Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      LOL, arb! I'll work on the smile hub. Speaking of smile, you often make me do that. Thank you!

    • Bishopdown profile image

      Bishopdown 5 years ago from Tampa, Florida

      I like this hub. I've noticed how I use mostly metaphors in poetry that is personal while I use similes in poetry that I talk about other people...hmm

    • Fennelseed profile image

      Annie Fenn 5 years ago from Australia

      Victoria this is an excellent hub and one I needed to read!!! Vague recollections of previous classroom lessons came back to me, but no, I couldn't have explained the difference prior to reading your words. Your reinforcements of the difference through examples and music (Oh, how good is "Life is Highway"), made for a thorough lesson and I could confidently say at the end, 'Yes, I now know, this hub clears it up for me'.

      Thank you so much, I enjoyed and appreciated this hub. My votes and best wishes to you Victoria, and sharing.

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      That's interesting, Bishopdown. Perhaps you use metaphors on personal stuff since you know what things are, that they ARE equal. With others, you can't say absolutes but only similarities? I don't know. Just thinking....:-)

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Yay, Fennelseed! I'm so glad that my hub clarified the difference. I love your comments. Thanks so much, dear!

    • Angela Blair profile image

      Angela Blair 5 years ago from Central Texas

      Excellent Hub, Victoria Lynn -- although I know what a simile and a metaphor is I've never heard the difference explained so simply -- can easily be understood by all. You're an excellent teacher, my friend, as well as being a superb writer. Best/Sis

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 5 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Victoria...my friend, Miss Grammar! You did a perfect job at getting this point across. You know, I taught English for just a year at a small private school in my hometown......due to the absence of one of their teachers. I enjoyed it but know that teaching is not my "thing." What IS my thing, is feeling severe creepy crawlies up my spine when I hear or read anything that screams of the slaughter of our beautiful English language. Sadly, there is far too much illiteracy. It baffles me....."blows my mind," and I often wonder, "Even if these people only went as far as 6th grade like "Jethro Clampett," they HAD to learn to speak, read and write better than they do!!!

      I actually have an automatic reflex that causes me to correct people. I know that may be considered rude or embarrassing. I become so disgusted though, that I think THEY are the rude ones and embarrass themselves!!

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Wow, Angela! Great teacher and writer--that's the best compliment I could ever hear! You are so awesome!

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Effer--you are such an awesome commenter! I agree with you about slaughterers of the English language. Makes my skin crawl. I don't often correct people, but, gosh, I want to!!!!!

    • Bishopdown profile image

      Bishopdown 5 years ago from Tampa, Florida

      @Victoria...that does kinda sum it up. Not only are you a great writer but, you have great wisdom too. :-)

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 5 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Well, you see, Victoria....that's because you are NICER than I am!!! lmao!!

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      I don't think I'm nicer, Effer! No way! Maybe just more of a chicken!

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Dear Bishop, now you are flattering me! LOL. Keep it coming!

    • sampe profile image

      sampe 5 years ago from Boston, Massachusetts

      Thanks, this really helped me out!

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      So glad, sampe, that the hub helped!

    • epigramman profile image

      epigramman 5 years ago

      I might be a master of this literary usage - what do you think - and you are indeed a master or a mistress, if you will, of these wonderful, enlightening and inspired self-help hubs - lake erie time 1:19am and I left a message for you back on my new one And God made one big mistake - hope sincerely all is well with you these days - and congratulations on the big 100. You deserve it.

    • ChristyWrites profile image

      Christy Birmingham 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I like that you give examples of both a simile and a metaphor. That's a great way to illustrate the differences. I better watch my grammar!

    • profile image

      lovedoctor926 5 years ago

      I like your interpretation and examples of simile and metaphor. I also learned it the same way. A simile uses like or as and the metaphor like you said is a comparison without the like or as. This is a very good way to remember. I love the movie Forest Gump and do remember the peas and carrots. very cute, but my favorite one is: Life is like a box of chocolate, you never know what you're going to get! It's the best!

    • whonunuwho profile image

      whonunuwho 5 years ago from United States

      Thanks for the refresher course. We all need one from time to time. Thanks for your great explanation of the differences between Metaphors and simile.

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Thanks, Epi. Oh you are definitely the master of this type of literary usage, as you are a master of language and other things. Good to see you again!

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Yep, better watch out, Christy! LOL. Thanks for the feedback!

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      lovedoctor--That's my fave quote from the movie, too! Thanks for reading and for your great comments!

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      whounuwho--You're welcome. Thanks for reading and commenting!

    • profile image

      kelleyward 5 years ago

      Victoria Lynn thanks for writing another helpful hub! I wish you were my grammar teacher ha ha! Love your work! Voted up and Shared! Take care, Kelley

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Aw, Kelley, I'd love to be your grammar teacher! Thanks!!

    • epigramman profile image

      epigramman 5 years ago

      ...well you are the hottest teacher I know so I could write metaphors and similes about you all day and through the night - lol - thanks for these wonderful lessons - and here is the 'apple' that I promised to bring you - lake erie time 9:12pm canada

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      LOL, Epi! An apple for the teacher--I'll take it! Keep up hose similes and metaphors! :-)

    • Sharyn's Slant profile image

      Sharon Smith 4 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

      OMG, I'm not sure I should admit how much I learned here. Well I just did. I never really thought "deeply" about the difference. You have a great way of explaining for others to easily understand. I enjoyed this actually and thank you teacher for the lesson.

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Loved how you explained the differences. You've made it so easy to understand this way.

    • Lord De Cross profile image

      Joseph De Cross 4 years ago

      Got it! Simile: Janine is like you and me, caring and a beautiful teacher indeed. Wrong?

      Metaphor: Vicky and Janine are wonderful teachers for life...? I think I forced the metaphor into an asumption. I dunno!

      Great piece!!

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Sageleaf 4 years ago from Western NC

      Similie looks like "smile." Hehe. I'm smiling about similies. Similies are similar - got it! But to use a metaphorical reference, I'd like to declare that I'm feeling red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, pink, grey, black and white today. :D

    • StephanieBCrosby profile image

      Stephanie Bradberry 4 years ago from New Jersey

      This description, definition, and overview of similes and metaphors is really well done. I love that you used some poetry for examples. But maybe that is because of my background in the humanities. Very useful and thorough.

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Well, thanks, Sharyn! Much appreciated. I'm glad it easily understandable!

    • Teylina profile image

      Teylina 4 years ago

      Finally read the whole hub, and really good, although you nailed it pretty early on. I remember when I first got them straight was 'similar' (not to steal!) to the way you did--except the long way around: as, like, etc. stood for something: stood = simile! Lord de Crosse - Hey, pretty cool!

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Thanks, Susan! Glad you think so!

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Lord--You're awesome and you totally got it right! Always a pleasure to see you!

    • epigramman profile image

      epigramman 4 years ago

      my dear Victoria - you are a simile and a metaphor all in one -

      "She shines like the sun and I begin my day with these thoughts of her"

      lake erie time ontario canada - listening to Cocteau Twins under the almost full moon over the lake at 11:55pm

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      CC, you're funny! Yes, simile does look like smile. You're such a metaphor!!!

    • FullOfLoveSites profile image

      FullOfLoveSites 4 years ago from United States

      Simile is like for comparison to me. this is really useful for me, it cleaned the on those tow subjects. great hub, keep it up!

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      StephanieBCrosby--so glad you think so! Thanks for the great comments!

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Teylina--Thanks for reading and commenting. Yeah, Lord de Cross rocks, huh?

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Epi--You always know just what to say. You are the eternal poet--and that's no metaphor! That's the real deal! :-)

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      FullofLoveSites--Thanks for the input. Glad you liked it!

    • talfonso profile image

      talfonso 4 years ago from Tampa Bay, FL

      Well said about the difference between a simile and a metaphor. This is something that should be read, including those who educate autistic children (most have a poor grasp of figurative language)! I'm rating this useful, up, awesome, and interesting!

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Thanks, talfonso, for the input and all the votes!!!

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