From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
A simile is a technique that uses words such as "like" or "as" to compare two ideas. Even though similes and metaphors are both forms of comparison, similes allow the two ideas to remain distinct in spite of their similarities, whereas metaphors seek to equate two ideas despite their differences. For instance, a simile that compares a person with a bullet would go as follows: "John was a record-setting runner and as fast as a speeding bullet." A metaphor might read something like, "John was a record-setting runner. That speeding bullet could zip past you without you even knowing he was there."
A mnemonic for a simile is that "a simile is similar or alike."
Similes have been widely used in literature for their expressiveness as a figure of speech:
- Curley was flopping like a fish on a line.
- The very mist on the Essex marshes was like a gauzy and radiant fabric.
- Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world like a Colossus.
First attested 1393, from Latin simile ("comparison, likeness", "parallel"), originally from simile the neuter form of similis ("like, similar, resembling"). Confer the English similar.