A simile compares two unlike things using the words like or as to make the comparison.
It’s a form of figurative language as well as a literary device and it is used in both prose and poetry. So…does that clear it up? No?
Rather than look at the definition of a simile, which is never too helpful, let’s look at several examples which SHOW good similes used in writing.
The following are all examples of literary quotes containing similes. Remember, one thing is always being compared to something else using either the words like or as.
Simile Example 1:
“The words were clumsy in my mouth, like typing with hammers.”
-David Levithan, Another Day
This is a wonderful example of a simile which compares two different things (clumsy speech is being compared to typing with hammers). As a reader, we get can really imagine how clumsy and awkward this character must have been speaking.
Simile Example #2:
“Her courage seemed to collapse around her ankles like an old pair of elastic undies.”
-Julie Anne Grasso, Escape From the Forbidden Planet
In this simile example, loss of courage is being compared to an old pair of undies falling down around her ankles. What a visual!
These are two very different things and yet the simile helps to create a very strong mental picture.
Additionally, as an abstract concept, courage (or loss of courage) can be a difficult thing to describe, and yet, by using this unique simile, the feeling of the character’s loss of courage is so well conveyed. I definitely feel for her!
Simile Example #3:
“The moon was a crescent, thin and sharp as the blade of a knife.”
-George R. R. Martin, A Dance with Dragons
In this simile example, the curved shape of the crescent moon is being compared to a sharp knife blade. Two very unlike things and yet, what a vivid description! You may also notice that this simile uses the word as to make its comparison rather than like.
Simile Example #4:
“Peeing is like a good book in that it is very, very hard to stop once you start.”
-John Green, Paper Towns
In this simile example, peeing is compared to reading a good book, two very unlike things that are linked together by a mighty clever simile.
Simile Example #5
“Reading it was like subletting a small apartment in someone else’s head.”
-Garth Risk Hallberg, City on Fire
In this simile example, reading something (becoming informed) is compared to renting an apartment in a writer’s head. It’s a clever way to say that by reading something, they were much better able to understand someone else’s perspective. Again, the simile helps create a strong mental picture for the reader.
What are some simile examples in poetry?
Although the above similes examples were found in prose, similes are a literary device also found in many poems. Some poems with similes are very simple and short, while others can be longer and more complex.
I’ll keep things as simple as possible by starting with examples of similes in short poems of only one stanza of three or four lines.
Poem with Simile Example #1:
Mary’s Lamb by Sarah Josepha Hale
This first poem, “Mary’s Lamb” is a classic nursery rhyme that generations have grown up reciting or singing. The simile is found in the second line of the poem, “It’s fleece was white as snow,” so the two unlike things being compared are the lamb’s fleece and snow.
Poem with Simile Example #2:
I’ve Got a Dog by Anonymous
Here’s another four line poem, but this time the simile is found in the very first line “I’ve got a dog as thin as a rail.” In this simile example, the two unlike things being compared are the dog’s tail and a rail.
Poem with Simile Example #3
The Scorpion by Hilaire Belloc
In this four line poem, the simile is in the first line, “The scorpion is as black as soot.” The poem is making a comparison between two unlike things: a scorpion and soot.
Poem with Simile Example #4
Crickets at Dawn by Leonora Speyer
In this poem, the simile is in the second line, “Like little stars of twinkling sound…” The poem compares the crickets’ chirp to stars making a twinkling sound. There’s a lot of visual imagery happening here in a three line poem.
Poem with Simile Example #5
The Duck by Josephine Redmond Fishburn
In this poem, the simile is in the first line, “The little duck is like a boat,” and the poem is making a comparison between two things unlike things: a duck and a boat.
Poem with Simile Example #6
Jacky Frost by Laura E. Richards
There are actually three similes in this longer poem, two similes are using as and one using like.
- sly as a silver fox
- still as a mouse
- blushing like a rose
Why should I know about similes?
Similes make good written descriptions (even really GREAT descriptions!)
- For the writer, similes help to describe something in a very unique and creative way.
- For the reader, similes create a strong visual image in our heads as we’re reading.
It’s one thing to recognize similes in writing, but it’s more difficult to incorporate them into your own writing. Using similes in your writing makes it more creative as well as descriptive.
As a reader, I always love coming across an unusual similes because they make me think about a topic in a brand new way. Here’s my attempt at writing a simile about a simile:
Reading a really good simile is like getting a warm, sunny day in the middle of winter. It’s often unexpected, but always a welcome surprise.
For more simile examples, check out:
Mentor Poems for Teaching Poetry