Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A figure of speech in which two essentially unlike things are compared, often in a phrase introduced by like or as, as in “How like the winter hath my absence been” or “So are you to my thoughts as food to life” (Shakespeare).

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun In rhetoric, the comparing or likening of two things having some strong point or points of resemblance, both of which are mentioned and the comparison directly stated; a poetic or imaginative comparison; also, the verbal expression or embodiment of such a comparison.
  • noun Synonyms Simile, Metaphor, Comparison, Allegory, Parable, Fable, similitude, trope. The first six words agree in implying or expressing likeness between a main person or thing and a subordinate one. Simile is a statement of the likeness in literal terms: as, man is like grass; Herod is like a fox. Metaphor taxes the imagination by saying that the first object is the second, or by speaking as though it were; as, “All flesh is grass,” Isa, xl. 6; “Go ye and tell that fox,” Luke xiii. 32. There are various combinations of simile and metaphor: as, “We all do fade as a leaf,” Isa. lxiv. 6;
  • noun In these the metaphor precedes; in the following the simile is in the middle of the metaphor: “These metaphysic rights, entering into common life, like rays of light which pierce into a dense medium, are, by the laws of Nature, refracted from their straight line.” (Burke, Rev. in France.) In the same way the simile may come first. A comparison differs from a simile essentially in that the former fixes attention upon the subordinate object, while a simile fixes it upon the main one: thus, one verse of Shelley's “Ode to the Skylark“begins by saying that the skylark is like a poet, whose circumstances are thereupon detailed. Generally, on this account, the comparision is longer than the simile. The allegory personifies abstract things, usually at some length. A short allegory is Ps. Ixxx. 8–16. Spenser's “Faery Queene” is a series of allegories upon the virtues, and Bunyan's “Pilgrim's Progress” allegorizes Christian experiences. These are acknowledged to be the most perfect allegories in literature. The allegory is an extended simile, with the first object in the simile carefully left unmentioned. A parable is a story that is or might be true, and is used generally to teach some moral or religious truth: as. the three parables of God's great love for the sinner in luke xv. Socrates's story of the sailors who chose their steersman by lot, as suggesting the folly of a similar course in choosing the helmsman of the state, is a fine example of the parable of civil life. A fable differs from a parable in being improbable or impossible as fact, as in making trees choose a king, beasts talk, or frogs pray to Jupiter; it generally is short, and points a homely moral. See the definitions of apologue and trope.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun (Rhet.) A word or phrase by which anything is likened, in one or more of its aspects, to something else; a similitude; a poetical or imaginative comparison.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun A figure of speech in which one thing is compared to another, in the case of English generally using like or as.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun a figure of speech that expresses a resemblance between things of different kinds (usually formed with `like' or `as')

Etymologies

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English, from Latin, likeness, comparison, from neuter of similis, like; see similar.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

First attested 1393, from Latin simile ("comparison, likeness", "parallel"), originally from simile the neuter form of similis ("like, similar, resembling"). Confer the English similar.

Examples

Comments

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  • Metaphor's kid brother. He tries hard, but still doesn't have any friends.

    January 13, 2007

  • The worst simile I have read in quite some time:

    "Over time, DNA accumulates random mutations, just as the front of a white T-shirt tends to accumulate spots."

    Where is Human Evolution Heading?, US News and World Report

    July 26, 2008

  • Oh god. Rolig's going to kick my ass... *cringing*

    July 26, 2008

  • So, metaphorically, the human genome is a stained T-shirt?

    July 26, 2008

  • A stained 'white' T-shirt.

    July 26, 2008

  • Oh c_b, you don't have to be afraid of me. I don't make a habit of kicking ursine buttocks! And really I don't know why you think I might.

    July 26, 2008

  • I was joking. It was right after I made a comment on another word page about American culture not being stultifyingly stupid. Then I read this. *sigh*

    July 26, 2008

  • Although I know next to nothing about how DNA works, I find the image of a white T-shirt accumulating various different stains over time to be extremely vivid, and perhaps it really is a good way to visualize the mutations that accrue to DNA.

    By the way, c_b, I have the greatest respect for you and find your comments to be (usually) insightful, witty, amiable, and to the point.

    July 26, 2008

  • Genetically, are you a wifebeater skip?

    July 26, 2008

  • I'm afraid I don't quite follow you, bilby...

    July 26, 2008