Figurative Language Similes
Figurative language Similes: As the word suggests, simile has the same origins as the word similar. Like the word similar, similes
refer to things being alike. The definition of a simile is a statement that one thing is like another, and is
used primarily as a figure of speech.
Figurative language similes are perhaps the most frequently used form of figurative language.
The two words that are identified with simile, and set it apart from other types of figurative language such as metaphor, are like and as.
So for instance, the girl walks like a gazelle, or the boy is as fierce as a panther.
In the first example we have the word like. We are saying the girl walks like a gazelle. So if we picture what a gazelle looks
like and how typically light on its feet it is, we picture the girl walking similarly, lightly and quickly on her feet.
It is the walking style which
is the focus of similarity and which the simile compares. And the comparison is specific. We are not comparing any other attributes of the
girl and the gazelle. We are focused entirely on walking styles. Similes are very direct and straight forward in what they compare. As such they
are much easier to identify than metaphor.
For our second example, the boy is as fierce as a panther, the simile uses 'as' rather than 'like.' A subtle difference between the words like
and as is that like compares two things, suggesting they are alike, but also dissimilar in some ways. The word as and its effect is much different.
The word as directly states that the two contrasting images are equivalent and amount to the same thing. So the boy's ferocity is not
similar to a panthers, it is the same.
The beauty of simile is that, like other forms of figurative language, it combines two contrasting things - that really aren't anything
alike - in new and novel ways. Great writers are able to create new and fresh similes that exaggerate reality but also seem credibly
For example, 'Pellagrina was very old. She had a large, sharp nose and bright, black eyes that shone like dark stars.'
Excerpt from The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo.
In the Edward Tulane example we may not know what a dark star shines like but we have a strong impression that
Pellagrina's eyes are big, dark and bright.
DeKemel, K.P. (2003) Intervention in Language Arts: A Practical Guide for Speech-Language Pathologists. Butterworth-Heinemann.
DiCamillo, K. & Ibatoulline, B. (2009) The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, Candlewick
Kaderavek, J.N. (2011) Language Disorders in Children: Fundamental Concepts of Assessment and Intervention, Allyn & Bacon
Lazar, G. (2003) Meanings and Metaphors: Activities to Practise Figurative Language, Cambridge University Press
Content Updated 9/11