We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is the Difference Between a Metaphor and Simile?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 23, 2024
Our promise to you
Language & Humanities is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At Language & Humanities, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

The differences between a metaphor and simile can easily confuse people. It’s handy to understand how these two figures of speech differ, so that you can easily recognize one or the other when you encounter them in common speech, any type of writing and most especially literature. It can be said that the simile is much simpler than the metaphor. Actually the metaphor has numerous types, while the simile is a very straightforward comparison.

When you think of the word simile, think of the concept of “similar to,” when you’re making a comparison. You will almost always notice that this type of comparison is preceded by the words like or as. Here are a couple simile examples:

He sat himself down away from the ships with a face as dark as night.

Old Marley was as dead as a doornail.
Charles Dickens

Once you’re awake to similes, you’ll find them virtually everywhere. Things like “as easy as pie,” “or as blind as a bat” stand out. Even a child’s lullaby like “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” states that the star is “like a diamond in the sky.

The metaphor is frequently used too, but unlike the simile the comparison is direct. The metaphor is not “like” or “as” the thing to which it is compared, it is the thing. Consider these following examples:

Books are the carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature is dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill.
Barbara Tuchman

Reading is a basic tool in the living of a good life.
Mortimer Adler

The Tuchman quote uses numerous metaphors. In her words, books are not like the carriers of civilization, they are the carriers. She further extends her metaphor by comparing history to voices, literature to thought, and science to physical progress. Each of these things is hindered, in her view, without books.

Sometimes metaphors are not so direct. Authors may use extended metaphors in a symbolic manner without ever referring specifically to the thing the metaphor is meant to symbolize. In the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis, Aslan is an extended metaphor for Christ, though this is never specifically stated. The symbol is there, and Aslan is very clearly Christ.

Simpler examples of the metaphor are in common daily use. You might state that your heart aches if you break up with a boyfriend or girlfriend. This is symbolic of your sadness, but not truly a heart that aches. You could alternately turn this into a simile by saying, “My heart feels like it aches.”

Essentially the main points to remember about metaphor and simile are the following:

  • Similes always compare using works such as “like” and “as”
  • Metaphors are direct comparisons between two objects
  • Metaphors do not have to even refer to the object to they’re being compared but can be used in symbolic and extended fashion
  • Both are common in everyday language, literature, and music
Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Language & Humanities contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon98468 — On Jul 23, 2010

Thanks a lot. Cleared my confusion.

By anon70394 — On Mar 14, 2010

thanks. i found this to be an excellent answer to my question.

By anon31627 — On May 08, 2009

I found this to be an excellent explanation of the difference between metaphors and similes.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Language & Humanities contributor,...
Learn more
Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.