Difference Between Simile and Metaphor

Main Difference

The main difference between Simile and Metaphor is that a Simile is a figure of speech that is usually used to compare one thing with another to make it more emphatic by using the word “like or as,” whereas Metaphors directly narrate a comparison.

Simile vs. Metaphor

If we look into these two figures of speech, The example simile could be “As brave as a lion” and “Women like a rose.” However, contrast the example of metaphor could be “You are a piece of art.” Chiefly Simile contains connecting words such as “like and as” but Metaphors do not. Simile shows a straight comparison, while Metaphor is more of an oratorical comparison. Simile shows explicit comparisons, while Metaphor shows implicit comparisons. Simile refers to a literary technique to compare unlikely things and actions, whereas Metaphor is another literary technique in which a word or phrase is exerted to an object or action to which it is not exactly applicable. In everyday language, both are in common use, but Similes are more frequently used figures of speech in the English language. Metaphor is more likely to be used in literature and poetry. Metaphor (implicit comparison) and Simile(explicit comparison) both have a place of “trope” and “figures” in an elaborate apparatus in which Metaphor is classed as ‘tropes’ and Simile as ‘figure.’ Simile usually compares one thing to another in a simple manner while Metaphor is more complex as it chiefly compares things which have typically nothing to do with each other.

Comparison Chart

SimileMetaphor
A comparison between two different kinds of things and replaces the word with another one and uses the word like or as.A comparison between two different kinds of things and replaces the word with another one.
Example
As innocent as a baby.Life is a battlefield.
Comparison
Direct comparisonIndirect comparison
Effect
SimpleMore Complex
Uses
As or LikeNo linking word
Purpose
To paint a picture and give an example.To paint a picture for a reader.
Subject
The subject is as or like another.The subject is said to be another.

What is Simile?

It derives from a Latin word ‘Similis’ (similar, like). It is a figure of speech which directly expresses the resemblance between two different things to make a description clear and emphatic. It uses the linking words ‘like’ or ‘as.’ Simile compares two unlike things explicitly, e.g., “the realization hit me like a bucket of cold water.” Similes are usually used in poetry to compare the dead and living. It can be in terms of comparison and jocular purpose. It can be seen in literature as well, e.g., “O My Luve’s like a red, red rose.” by Robert Burns. Here ‘A Red, Red Rose’ is a simile. Sometimes simile also serves as an Epic Simile, in which simile contains many lines of detailed comparison, i.e.: “As when a prowling Wolf, Whom hunger drives to seek new haunt for prey, Watching where Shepherds pen thir Flocks at eve In hurdl’d Cotes amid, the field secure, Leaps o’er the fence with ease into the Fold: ……. .……. So clomb this first grand Thief into God’s Fold.” By John Milton, Paradise lost.

Simile becomes a cliché when it is an overused expression which is no longer interesting. These should be avoided in our writings because they are considered as trite unless used purposely for a special effect. Creative writings should not contain so many clichés otherwise, an editor may reject it. E.g., cool as a cucumber.

What is a Metaphor?

The word metaphor is the derivation of the word ‘Metapherein’ that is a Greek word meaning ‘to transfer.’ It is a figure of speech which compares one thing by another in a rhetoric manner without using connecting words such as like or as. It compares different things implicitly, i.e., “the day off from school was a golden ticket to freedom.” The metaphor has two parts: ‘target’ and ‘source.’ A target is an object whose attributes are borrowed, and the source is by which attributes are described. E.g. “life is a battlefield,” Metaphors are present in all types of literature. A popular illustration of a metaphor in English literature is: “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances …” By William Shakespeare, As you like it. Here “All the world’s a stage” illustrates a metaphor in which a world is not a stage in actual but by showing a comparison between the world and stage, it helps to understand the mechanics of the world and behavior of people who live in it.

Dead metaphor such as ‘he’s a rat’ and ‘grasp a concept’ is in use so often that they are considered Cliché. It is better to avoid them. Another problem with metaphors is the tendency to mix them or overwork it, results to bring two things together that don’t make sense together, e.g., “Our keyboard will teach your mind’s eye to play by ear.” Here two metaphors are mixed, leading to nonsense.

Key Differences

  1. A simile compares two or more things by directly making a correlation using certain works to link whereas, metaphor corresponds to two unrelated things.
  2. A simile makes direct comparisons. On the other hand, a metaphor makes indirect comparisons.
  3. A simile use ‘like’ or ‘as’ to show comparison. Conversely, metaphor uses no direct correlation.
  4. Simile shows implicit comparisons. On the flip side, metaphor shows implicit comparisons.

Conclusion

Metaphor and simile both make comparisons in two different ways. However, the manner they do it differs. A simile shows direct comparison, whereas metaphor shows rhetorical.

Aimie Carlson

Aimie Carlson is an English language enthusiast who loves writing and has a master degree in English literature. Follow her on Twitter at @AimieCarlson

View all posts by Aimie Carlson