Basics of metaphor and simile
This page is intended to help you refresh your grasp of what you
presumably should have learned in your earlier schooling or in introductory
classes in literary study.
No matter far how one advances in experience, a return to basics is
never without benefit.
So first, some definitions:
Next, some examples from poetry. Memorize these, or a couple of them, as
"an explicit likening of one thing to another"
(Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary )
"A figure of speech in which two essentially unlike things are compared, the
comparison being made explicit typically by the use of the introductory
'like' or 'as' ..." (American Heritage Dictionary)
"a figure of speech by which a thing is spoken of
as being that which is only resembles, as when a ferocious man is called
a tiger" ( Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary )
"A figure of speech in which a term is transferred from the object it
ordinarily designates to an object it may designate only by implicit
comparison or analogy, as in the phrase 'evening of life.'"
(American Heritage Dictionary)
- My love is like a red, red rose ... Robert Burns
- My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun ... Shakespeare
- Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate. Shakespeare
- Helen, thy beauty is to me
Like those Nicean barks of yore ... Poe
- Like a skein of loose silk blown against a wall
She walks by the railing of a path in Kensington Gardens ...Ezra
- Like to a Feavers pulse my heart doth beat ... Cavendish
- As virtuous men pass mildly away ...
So let us part and make no noise ... Donne
If you'd like to read
some analysis of these metaphors, click here.
- Yes! in the sea of life enisled, ...
We mortal millions live alone. Arnold
- A Sonnet is a moment's monument ... D. G.
- Not, I'll not, carrion comfort, Despair, not feast on thee ...
- I taste a liquor never brewed ...
Inebriate of Air -- am I -- ... Dickinson
- I shall never get you put together entirely
Pieced, glued, and properly jointed. Plath
- Prayer, the Church's banquet, Angels' age,
God's breath in man returning to his birth ...
- The hour-glass whispers to the lion's paw ...
Check your grasp of the distinction on this page of samples.
There are many pages on the Web about metaphor, it turns out. Here's
one that prints a relevant discussion by Cleanth Brooks
and Robert Penn Warren, among the high priests of the New
Return to Index of
(1) It is an interesting mark of linguistic development (or
decline?) that more recent editions of this dictionary are entitled
Last updated March 7, 1999 by Seamus Cooney