Simile Examples in Literature and Everyday Language

By: Zach Taras  | 
Young woman in an orange shirt working on a laptop in a dorm room
Finding the perfect simile without resorting to an overused trope can be tricky. Carol Yepes / Getty Images

Similes are like spices for writing: Used in the right proportion, they can add zest and verve to your prose. Once you're familiar with them, you'll likely notice that simile examples abound in everyday speech, writing, song lyrics and even advertising slogans.

Here, we'll take a look at some simile examples, as well as how they differ from other types of figurative language such as metaphors.


What Is a Simile?

A simile is a type of figurative language that draws a direct comparison between two different things. This figurative language can be used for emphasis, surprise, irony or any number of effects. A simile uses the words "like" or "as" to make an explicit comparison between the two things.

Similes have been used throughout history, both in everyday speech and as literary devices in poetry, novels and plays. Similes can create vivid images in a piece of writing, or they can add color and clarity to conversation.


13 Common Simile Examples

It's likely that you've heard, or used, the following common examples of similes. They're often found in contemporary American English, although as with all things in speech, they change over time in popularity.

  1. Busy as a bee: "She's as busy as a bee with her new volunteer position." Our association with bees as "buzzing" with activity, flying from flower to flower — and to and from the hive — makes this simile example work.
  2. Light as a feather: "The carbon fiber bike feels as light as a feather." Feathers are light enough to float calmly on the breeze, emphasizing how light the bicycle feels.
  3. Cool as a cucumber: "She was in deep trouble, but she was acting as cool as a cucumber." Cucumbers are served cool, which accentuates the emotional coolness being depicted in the sentence.
  4. Cold as ice: "When we arrived at the cabin, the interior was as cold as ice." This one is pretty obvious: The interior was cold enough to remind the speaker of ice.
  5. Proud as a peacock: "That fellow must be as proud as a peacock." The large and vivid feathers displayed by peacocks are often thought of as denoting pride.
  6. Like watching paint dry: "Sitting through that Zoom meeting was like watching paint dry." The idea here is that paint dries very slowly and, without any perceptible visual interest, is very boring.
  7. As American as apple pie: "A picnic on the Fourth of July is as American as apple pie." Apple pie, being considered a signature dessert in American culture, symbolizes a deep association with the United States.
  8. Like cats and dogs: "The siblings fought like cats and dogs over the inheritance." As two species that often don't get along, the notion of them fighting creates a strong descriptive image.
  9. Like two peas in a pod: "The friends were like two peas in a pod." This simile trades on the fact that peas are placed in pods very close together.
  10. Blind as a bat: "Without her glasses, she's as blind as a bat." Since many bat species have very poor vision, the simile emphasizes her inability to see without glasses.
  11. Brave as a lion: "When facing adversity, he is as brave as a lion." Like many popular examples of similes, this simile anthropomorphizes an animal. In this case, the lion is presumed to have bravery, and the person is compared to that animal.
  12. Strong as an ox: "If you're looking for help moving furniture, Ken is as strong as an ox." In another animal simile example, Ken's strength is being vividly evoked by comparing him to an ox.
  13. Clean as a whistle: "We took a look at the suspect's record, and they're as clean as a whistle." This example is meant to show that the person's record is spotless, or free of anything negative.


5 Similes in Classic Literature

The use of simile as a literary device goes way back in world literature, being found in poetry, drama and prose. The English language has plenty of examples of similes from antiquity to the present day, illustrating just how effective they are at creating a vivid image in the mind of the reader.

1. From the Robert Burns poem 'A Red, Red Rose'

"O my Luve is like a red, red rose
That’s newly sprung in June;
O my Luve is like the melody
That’s sweetly played in tune."

You've probably heard this one before, as it's been repeated to the point of parody (but you might not have realized that the poem is old enough to include spelling from an antiquated Scottish dialect).


Here, the poet compares his love to the newly sprung (or freshly sprouted), bright-red rose of springtime. In the second couplet, the poet relates his love to a sweetly melodic song.

2. From the William Wordsworth poem 'I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud'

"I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills..."

Here, both the title of the poem and its first sentence uses the same simile. In this as in other literature examples, the simile uses a mental image to create a mood and illustrate an idea.

3. From the play 'Macbeth'

"His virtues / Will plead like angels, trumpet-tongued, against
The deep damnation of his taking-off"

The works of William Shakespeare have a great many examples of similes and metaphors. In this example, the simile helps illustrate that Macbeth knows the risk he would be taking by following through with his plan to kill King Duncan.

4. From 'Romeo and Juliet'

"Is love a tender thing? It is too rough,
Too rude, too boisterous, and it pricks like thorn."

This example of a Shakespearean simile makes a comparison between love and the painful prick of a thorn, highlighting the emotional pain that can follow when things don't go well.

5. From 'A Christmas Carol'

"Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail."

In this Charles Dickens classic, the comparison between two apparently unlike things makes for a powerful image. In Dickens' day, door-nails, unlike other nails, were bent in such a way that ensured they could not be re-used.


What Is the Difference Between a Simile and a Metaphor?

Unlike similes, metaphors do not use the words "like" or "as" to draw a comparison between two or more nouns. Instead, they simply state that one thing is another. Metaphors are therefore a bit harder to spot, but once you get used to it, you'll see they are also very common. In fact, some are simply variations on the simile examples outlined earlier.

  • "You've been a busy little bee, haven't you?" In this case, the person being addressed is being directly called a bee, without the use of "like" or "as," marking it as a case of metaphor.
  • "I was lucky to have her during those trying times; she was my rock." In this case, the speaker uses the image of rock as steady and solid to convey how they relied on someone else. Once again, there is no "like" or "as" being used. The person is instead being directly characterized as a rock.
  • "When it comes to sinking baskets from outside the paint, he's a machine." The speaker is emphasizing impressive reliability and consistency by drawing a comparison to the player and a machine.


How to Teach Similes

Whether working with students, or seeking to improve your own writing, it helps to start by studying other writers. The literature examples above are good to know about, both to inspire your own and to avoid using common similes that are overly familiar.

It can be helpful to go back to a simple simile definition: a part of speech comparing two apparently dissimilar things. Often, it's a person and an animal. What's being drawn out is a particular quality that unites them, such as in "She is as wise as an owl."


The person's wisdom is being compared to that of an owl, an animal classically associated with wisdom (in part, due to its ties to the Greek goddess Athena).

From here, you can get creative and see if you can come up with your own owl simile examples, such as "as silent as an owl in flight" or "as watchful as an owl." This can be a terrific way to get more originality into your writing.