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Figures of speech - Simile and metaphor

Posted by Manjusha Filed in English Writing

A figure of Speech is a word or expression used to give particular emphasis to an idea or sentiment. Some figures of speech, such as simile, metaphor, personification and apostrophe are based on resemblance. Some are based on contrast (antithesis, epigram) while some others, such as climax and anticlimax, are based on the construction of plot.


In simile, a comparison is made between two distinctly different objects which have at least one point in common. The simile is usually introduced by such words as like, so or as.

  • The righteous shall flourish as the palm tree.
  • O my Love is like a red, red rose.
  • O my Love is like a melodie.
  • Life is as tedious as a twice-told tale.
  • Her eyes were like diamonds.

Note that a comparison of two things of the same kind is not a simile.

Some common similes of everyday speech are given below:

  • As proud as a peacock
  • As bold as brass
  • As clear as crystal
  • As good as gold
  • As old as the hills
  • As cool as cucumber


Metaphor is an implied simile. Here a word or expression that in literal usage denotes one thing is applied to a distinctly different kind of thing for the purpose of suggesting a likeness between the two. Unlike the simile, the metaphor does not state that one thing is like another or acts as another, but it takes that for granted and proceeds as if the two things were one.

  • Life is a dream.
  • Variety is the spice of life.
  • Revenge is a kind of wild justice.

Note that every simile can be compressed into a metaphor and every metaphor can be expanded into a simile. When we say, "Her eyes were like diamonds" we use a simile, but when we say, "Her eyes were diamonds" we use a metaphor.

  • O my Love's like a red, red rose. (Simile)
  • O my Love's is a red, red rose. (Metaphor)
  • He fought like a lion. (Simile)
  • He was a lion in the fight. (Metaphor)

Not only nouns, but other parts of speech may also be used metaphorically. In the following example, the verb is used metaphorically.

  • How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank. (Merchant of Venice by Shakespeare)

In a mixed metaphor an object is identified with two or more different things in the same sentence. When used inadvertedly, the effect can be ludicrous.

  • I smell a rat, I see it floating in the air, but I will nip it in the bud.



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