Similes and metaphors are similar but not quite the same. A simile is a figure of speech that draws a comparison between two different things, especially a phrase containing the word “like” or “as”.
Socrates' method of teaching is like that of online schools in which students learn and grow on their own time
A metaphor is used to describe somebody or something with a word or phrase that is not meant literally but by means of a vivid comparison expresses something about him, her, or it. For example, “That Parker is a snake,” is a metaphor, whereas “That Parker leaves a trail like a drunken snake,” is a simile.
These are our picks for
the 101 best similes in literature. If you know of a good one, send it to us.
We’ll add it to the list, or replace one of those on the list.
2. “Sometime during my thirties the nickname and I mysteriously parted company, Stingo merely evaporating like a wan ghost out of my existence, leaving me indifferent to the loss.” Sophie's Choice by William Styron.
3. “The café was like a battleship stripped for action.” The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway.
4. “Some starlings had alighted on a wire overhead in perfect progression like a piece of knotted string fallen slantwise.” Suttree by Cormac McCarthy.
5. “Jimmy Smith was moving through the room like an enormous trained mole collecting the empty cans.” Suttree by Cormac McCarthy.
6. “This is the large iceberg; while the small and distant islands, floating on the smooth sea, in the light of a clear day, look like little floating fairy isles of sapphire.” Two Years Before The Mast by Richard Henry Dana Jr.
7. “She is, as sailors say, like a lady's watch, always out of repair.” Two Years Before The Mast by Richard Henry Dana Jr.
8. “Moments before sleep are when she feels most alive, leaping across fragments of the day, bringing each moment into the bed with her like a child with schoolbooks and pencils.” The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje.
16. “Elderly American ladies leaning on their canes listed toward me like towers of Pisa.” Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov.
17. “Time has not stood still. It has washed over me, washed me away, as if I’m nothing more than a woman of sand, left by a careless child too near the water.” The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.
18. “There was a quivering in the grass which seemed like the departure of souls.” Les Miserables by Victor Hugo.
19. “Warmish-cool, with a faint taste like the hot July wind in cedar trees smells.” As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner.
20. “Her eyes look like lamps blaring up just before the oil is gone.” As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner.
21. “He looks like right after the maul hits the steer and it no longer alive and don’t yet know that it is dead.” As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner.
22. “The lumps of white coral shone round the dark mound like a chaplet of bleached skulls, and everything around was so quiet that when I stood still all sound and all movement in the world seemed to come to an end.” Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad.
23 “I would have given anything for the power to soothe her frail soul, tormenting itself in its invincible ignorance like a small bird beating about the cruel wires of a cage.” Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad.
24 “All at once he sprang into jerky agitation, like one of those flat wooden figures that are worked by a string.” Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad.
25 “The day passed away thus: Edmond felt a species of stupor creeping over him; the gnawing pain at his stomach had ceased; his thirst had abated; when he closed his eyes he saw myriads of lights dancing before them, like the meteors that play about the marshes.” The Count Of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumans.
26. “There shall not be one a minute longer than you please,” said Dantes, who had followed the working of his thoughts as accurately as though his brain were enclosed in crystal, so clear as to display its minutest operations.” The Count Of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumans.
27. “With that I drew my traces hard, and set my ashen staff into the snow, and struck out with my best foot foremost (the best one at snow-shoes, I mean), and the sledd came after me as lightly as a dog might follow; and Annie, with the lanthorn, seemed to be left behind and waiting like a pretty lamp-post.” Lorna Doone, A Romance of Exmoor by R. D. Blackmore.
28. “And the misty breath of frost, piercing through the ribs of rock, striking to the pith of trees, creeping to the heart of man, lay along the hollow places, like a serpent sloughing.” Lorna Doone, A Romance of Exmoor by R. D. Blackmore.
29. “The other was fair, as fair as can be, with great masses of golden hair and eyes like pale sapphires.” Dracula by Bram Stoker.
30 “His face was deathly pale, and the lines of it were hard like drawn wires.” Dracula by Bram Stoker.
31. “The ride was actually over in six and a half minutes, and I had no choice but to hobble like an off-balance giraffe on my one flat, one four-inch heel arrangement.” The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger.
32. “Kate inched over her own thoughts like a measuring worm.” East Of Eden by John Steinbeck.
33. “She was a pale blonde with a skin like clean and polished bone.” East Of Eden by John Steinbeck.
34. “A beardless, boyish face, very fair, no features to speak of, nose peeling, little blue eyes, smiles and frowns chasing each other over that open countenance like sunshine and shadow on a wind-swept plain.” Heart Of Darkness by Joseph Conrad,
35. “...being quicker of mind than I am (who leave more than half behind me, like a man sowing wheat, with his dinner laid in the ditch too near his dog)...” Lorna Doone, A Romance of Exmoor by R. D. Blackmore.
36. “...and snow lay here and there in patches in the hollow of the banks, like a lady's gloves forgotten.” Lorna Doone, A Romance of Exmoor by R. D. Blackmore.
37. “All from her waist to her neck was white, plaited in close like a curtain, and the dark soft weeping of her hair, and the shadowy light of her eyes (like a wood rayed through with sunset), made it seem yet whiter, as if it were done on purpose.” Lorna Doone, A Romance of Exmoor by R. D. Blackmore.
38. “Climbing back, as the stones glid down, I heard the cold greedy wave go japping, like a blind black dog, into the distance of arches and hollow depths of darkness.” Lorna Doone, A Romance of Exmoor by R. D. Blackmore.
39. “In the eastern sky there was a yellow patch like a rug laid for the feet of the coming sun...” The Red Badge Of Courage by Stephen Crane.
40. “Near him, her black form merged in the night, like a figure half chiselled out of a block of black stone.” The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad.
41.”...and stood looking up at her, his drowsy gray eyes wide with a smile and the sun so bright on his blond hair that it seemed like a cap of shining silver.” Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell.
42. “The very mystery of him excited her curiosity like a door that had neither lock nor key.” Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell.
43. “The muddy Flint River, running silently between walls of pine and water oak covered with tangled vines, wrapped about Gerald's new land like a curving arm and embraced it on two sides.” Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell.
44. “Scarlett looked about her for the little town she remembered so
well. It was gone. The town she was now seeing was like a baby grown overnight into a busy, sprawling giant.” Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell.
45. “By this time Scarlett was boiling, ready to rear like a horse at the touch of a strange rough hand on its bridle.” Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell.
46. “...impressions poured in upon her of those two men, and to follow her thought was like following a voice which speaks too quickly to be taken down by one's pencil...” To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf.
47. “A shutter, like the leathern eyelid of a lizard, flickered over the intensity of his gaze...” To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf.
48. “...while there throbbed through her, like a pulse in a spring which has expanded to its full width and now gently ceases to beat...” To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf.
49. “The lights of the town and of the harbour and of the boats seemed like a phantom net floating there to mark something which had sunk.” To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf.
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50. “...and they turned back over the plain toward the rocket, whose ports gleamed afar like a row of staring eyes.” The Lotus Eaters by Stanley G. Weinbaum.
51. “A parson is like a doctor, my boy: he must face infection as a soldier must face bullets.” Candida by George Bernard Shaw.
52. “Eugene divines her meaning at once: his face whitens like steel in a furnace that cannot melt it.” Candida by George Bernard Shaw.
53. “The water made a sound like kittens lapping.” The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.
54. “He had stood among the Forresters one day, like an ash sapling among giant
oaks.” The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.
55. “The sink-hole was set in the arid scrub, at the core of the pine island, like a lush green heart.” The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.
56. “A red-bird swung in an arc across the sink-hole. It turned and dropped down to the pool, like a bright leaf falling.” The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.
57. “The young quail, each no bigger than the end of his thumb, scattered like small wind-blown leaves.” The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.
58. “It was Françoise, motionless and erect, framed in the small doorway of the corridor like the statue of a saint in its niche.” Swann's Way by Marcel Proust.
59. “…a reflection of the sunlight had contrived to slip in on its golden wings, remaining motionless, between glass and woodwork, in a corner, like a butterfly poised upon a flower.” Swann's Way by Marcel Proust.
60. “Camperdown, Copenhagen, Trafalgar—these names thunder in memory like the booming of great guns.” Mutiny on the Bounty by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall.
61. “…shoals of flying fish rose under the ship's cutwater to skim away and plunge into the sea like whiffs of grapeshot.” Mutiny on the Bounty by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall.
62. “…and that to form an impression of the ladies of Tahiti from the women who visited his ships would be like judging the virtue of Englishwomen from a study of the nymphs of Spithead.” Mutiny on the Bounty by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall.
63. “The girls meantime spread the table, set the children round the fire, and fed them like so many hungry birds...” Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.
64. “...she tried to get rid of the kitten which had scrambled up her back and stuck like a burr just out of reach.” Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.
65. “...from the depths of the veil in which she had shrouded herself like a nun sick of the world.” Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.
66. “All sorts of pleasant things happened about that time, for the new friendship flourished like grass in spring.” Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.
67. “Her romantic mind was like the tiny boxes, one within the other, that come from the puzzling East...” Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie.
68. “They sat thus night after night recalling that fatal Friday, till every detail of it was stamped on their brains and came through on the other side like the faces on a bad coinage.” Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie.
69. “It was not really a happy question to ask him; it was like an examination paper that asks grammar, when what you want to be asked is Kings of England.” Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie.
70. “The unhappy Hook was as impotent as he was damp, and he fell forward like a cut flower.” Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie.
71. “All day Tarzan followed Kulonga, hovering above him in the trees like some malign spirit.” Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs.
72. “The back of his short neck was as a single lump of iron sinew which bulged beyond the base of his skull, so that his head seemed like a small ball protruding from a huge mountain of flesh.” Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs.
73. “Then she loosened the soft mass of golden hair which crowned her head. Like a shimmering waterfall turned to burnished metal by a dying sun it fell about her oval face; in waving lines, below her waist it tumbled.” Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs.
74. “On the fore part lay sacks of oats covered with canvas, and the cannon itself was hung all over with kettles, soldiers' knapsacks, bags, and looked like some small harmless animal surrounded for some unknown reason by men and horses.” The Kiss by Anton Chekhov.
75. “...the sun was casting what looked like scarlet dust upon the venerable tops
of four rows of elms...” An Historical Mystery (The Gondreville Mystery) by
Honore De Balzac.
76. “Malin, an inferior man, incapable of comprehending Fouche's hidden
genius, or of distrusting his own perceptions, burned himself, like a
moth in a candle, by asking him confidentially to send agents to
Gondreville...” An Historical Mystery (The Gondreville Mystery) by
Honore De Balzac.
77. “But such feelings lay in her soul like a treasure hidden at a great depth
beneath a block of granite.” An Historical Mystery (The Gondreville Mystery) by
Honore De Balzac.
78. “...when I laid down the paper, I was aware of a flash--rush--flow--I do not know what to call it--no word I can find is satisfactorily descriptive--in which I seemed to see that bedroom passing through my room, like a picture impossibly painted on a running river. To be Taken with a Grain of Salt
by Charles Dickens
79. “...but she waved us into our respective chairs like a reverend abbess receiving two rather leprous mendicants.” The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
80. “Holmes's eyes, as he gazed at him, contracted and lightened until they were like two menacing points of steel.” The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
81. “Holmes looked at him thoughtfully like a master chess-player who meditates his crowning move.” The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
82. “She entered with ungainly struggle like some huge awkward chicken, torn, squawking, out of its coop.” The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
83. “The glorious sunlight filled the valley with purple fire. Before him, to left, to right, waving, rolling, sinking, rising, like low swells of a purple sea, stretched the sage.” Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey.
84. “Sharp notches of the rim-wall, biting like teeth into the blue, were landmarks by which Venters knew where his camping site lay.” Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey.
85. “Scrawled mounds of stone, like mountain waves, seemed to roll up to steep bare slopes and towers.” Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey.
86. “Her father had inherited that temper; and at times, like antelope fleeing before fire on the slope, his people fled from his red rages.” Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey.
87. “...and how at that word a half-dozen of his supple blackamoors sprang upon the knight like greyhounds upon a hare and bore him writhing to the ground.” The Sea-Hawk by Rafael Sabatini.
88. “Lithe brown arms encircled him like a legion of snakes.” The Sea-Hawk by Rafael Sabatini.
89. “...the vast yellow oars standing out almost horizontally from the sides of each vessel like the pinions of some gigantic bird.” The Sea-Hawk by Rafael Sabatini.
90. “He swung a great scimitar, before which Spaniards went down like wheat to the reaper's sickle.” The Sea-Hawk by Rafael Sabatini.
91. “In a marvelous great voice, with a flavor of German accent, he inquired for Dr. Silva, and sailed into the dean's group like a frigate among fishing-
smacks.” Arrowsmith by Sinclair Lewis.
92. “Past him, ten feet from his front wheels, flung the Seattle Express like a flying volcano.” Arrowsmith by Sinclair Lewis.
93. “The guinea pigs, awake and nibbling, were making a sound like that of a wet cloth rubbed on glass in window-cleaning.” Arrowsmith by Sinclair Lewis.
94. “Aboard, it seemed to him that the forward deck looked like the backyard of an old-iron dealer, that the St. Buryan leaned too much to one side, and that even in the dock she swayed undesirably.” Arrowsmith by Sinclair Lewis.
95. “She looked at him, smiling, with the stretched corners of her lips like tiny flung arrows.” Arrowsmith by Sinclair Lewis.
96. “...utterly absorbed by the curious experience
that still clung to him like a garment.” Magnificent Obsession by Lloyd C. Douglas.
regard the soul as a sort of congenital disease that ought to be
cured. The soul has been passed along, from one common carrier to
another, like a trunk with a bent lock and a broken hinge, labelled
'Received in Bad Order.'“ Magnificent Obsession by Lloyd C. Douglas.
98. “Miss Brinklow was sitting bolt
upright with her eyes closed, like some rather dingy and outmoded
idol.” Lost Horizon by James Hilton.
99. “On putting the probing knife carefully to that
kind of abscess one immediately discovered, like a maggot in a
putrescent body, a little Jew who was often blinded by the sudden light.” Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler.
100. “...the jewel-eyed harlots of his imagination, fled before the hurricane, squeaking like mice in their terror and huddled under a mane of hair.” A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce.
101. “Smoke lowering down from chimney pots, making a soft black drizzle, with flakes of soot in it as big as full-grown snow-flakes-gone into mourning, one might imagine, for the death of the sun....” Bleak House by Charles Dickens.