My favorite line from the novel ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ is where John Greene uses the word ‘stars’ as a metaphor for his thoughts. My favorite simile from the same novel is ‘gate shuffling like a dementia patient’s’.

Similes and metaphors are figures of speech, meaning these are literary devices that convey a meaning different from their literal sense. They are abundantly used in both oral and written communication – without much recognition by the user most of the time.

Similes and metaphors perform one simple job – they show the similarity between two objects through comparison. They are usually employed to highlight or address a quality or a trait. The only difference between these devices is that metaphors are more implicit in making a comparison and directly call one thing another. For instance, ‘a light in one’s life’ is a metaphor where a person is directly regarded as ‘light’ for their significance in ‘one’s life’. A simile, however, is more explicit in making such a comparison and contains prepositions and conjunctions. For instance, ‘as light as air’ is a simile that signifies the lightness of something by comparing it to air. Keep reading till the end to learn in-depth on this subject!

Simile vs metaphor – definitions, uses and example sentences

Definition of simile

A simile is pronounced as ‘si-muh-lee’. In grammar, the word ‘simile’ is used as a noun. However, by definition, a simile is a figure of speech that compares something with a seemingly unrelated and dissimilar thing with at least one thing in common to produce an exaggerated effect on the thing being compared.  Traditionally, most similes use the preposition ‘like’ and the conjunction ‘as’ to make a comparison. For instance, ‘as sly as a fox’ and ‘as dark as night’ are similes that use ‘as’, and ‘eat like a horse’ and ‘sleep like a log’ are similes that use like. It is worth noting that these words are not exclusive to be used in similes. Other words like ‘resemble’ and connecting words like ‘than’ can also be used. The plural of the word simile is ‘similes’ or ‘similia’.

Example sentences of simile:

  • Eleanor Roosevelt famously said, ‘A woman is like a tea bag’,  a simile that proves she was one of America’s earliest feminists.

The first sentence employs the following simile ‘women are like teabags. The uncommon simile highlights Roosevelt’s perception of women. He compared women with teabags to show that they are capable of standing hot waters or problems.

  • It can be argued that one of the famous similes of all time is ‘Life is like a box of chocolates’ – from Tom Hank’s Forrest Gump.

In this sentence, the blockbuster simile compares life to a box of chocolates because of its unpredictability. The rest of the quote ‘you never know what you’re gonna get’ adds further clarification.

  • My friend kept going on and on about how her date’s eyes were brighter than diamonds; it was obvious from his similes that he was in love.

The simile used in the last sentence is ‘eyes brighter than diamonds’. It is worth noting that it uses neither the word ‘like’ nor ‘or’ to make a comparison which clarifies the fact that similes can make use of any word to make a comparison.

Definition of metaphor

The word ‘metaphor’ is pronounced ‘meh-tuh-for’. Grammatically, a metaphor can be used as a noun and less frequently, as a verb. A metaphor is defined as a figure of speech that makes a comparison between two seemingly unrelated and dissimilar things by directly regarding the two things as one. Hence, it can be called an implied simile as it does not state that a thing  ‘acts’ as another or is ‘like’ another thing, but takes it as a given and simply calls one thing another. For instance, ‘apple of one’s eye’ ‘you are a fox’, ‘couch potato’ and ‘heart of stone’ are some examples of everyday metaphors.

Example sentences of metaphor:

  • Shakespeare used the word ‘stage’ as a metaphor for the world, and ‘players’ as a metaphor for all the men and women in it, in his play ‘As You Like It’.

In the first sentence, a metaphor from one of Shakespeare’s plays is used. The comparison of the world to a ‘stage’, and the people to ‘players’ conveys Shakespeare’s cinematic view of the world.

  • An excerpt from William Golding’s Nobel prize-winning ‘Lord of the Flies’ uses the phrase ‘a drop of burning gold’ as a metaphor for the sun.

Here, the metaphor is also used as a description of the scene that transpired. The complete line reads ‘The sun in the west was a drop of burning gold that slid nearer and nearer the sill of the world.’

  • Plato profoundly described time as ‘the moving image of eternity’; a metaphor too deep for its time.

Plato’s description of time in the sentence above refers to its paradoxical and abstract nature. This is also one of the most interesting and unique metaphors you will ever hear.


In a nutshell, similes and metaphors are literary devices that we unknowingly use frequently in everyday life. These are figures of speech that help us compare something to create an exaggerated effect to express how we perceive it, rather than how it literally is; such as a loved one’s beauty to the moon or someone’s bravery with a lion. What’s important to remember is that similes use other words, usually, but not exclusively, ‘like’ and ‘as’ to make a rhetorical comparison whereas metaphors do not. You can remember this by remembering that the word ‘simile’ is close to ‘similar’, which is a word we use when one thing is ‘like’ another thing.