I've always been taught that metaphors and similes both draw a parallel between two disparate ideas/thoughts/objects, but that a simile is a more explicit comparison using the word "like" or "is", whereas a metaphor's connection is more implicit. For example, "His injured ankle burned like a hot stove" is a simile, where as, "His injured ankle was a hot stove of pain" is a metaphor.

However, I recently heard a colleague note that similes are nothing more than a special kind of metaphor. In other words, all similes are metaphors. This seems to contradict what I was always taught (and what I've read online, for what that's worth). Can anyone straighten me (or my colleague) out?

  • 2
    I never can remember whether a simile is like a metaphor or the other way around.
    – Hot Licks
    Sep 15, 2016 at 21:39

1 Answer 1


The Wikipedia article on Metaphor agrees with your colleague:

Metaphor also denotes rhetorical figures of speech that achieve their effects via association, comparison or resemblance (e.g., antithesis, hyperbole, metonymy and simile, which are all types of metaphor).

(emphasis added)

The article cites "The Oxford Companion to the English Language (1992) pp.653–55" as a reference for the above information, but I don't have access to that publication to verify the statement directly.

Edit: Well, it turns out that I do have access to that reference. Here it is, from p. 653, paragraph 2:

METAPHOR ... (1) All figures of speech that achieve their effect through association, comparison, and resemblance. Figures like antithesis, hyperbole, metonymy, simile are all species of metaphor.

  • My pleasure. I was taught the same rule as you, so I was also surprised by the answer. I'm glad you asked!
    – e.James
    Oct 10, 2010 at 2:50
  • 3
    Wikipedia has been updated; this is no longer the case... A simile is NOT a metaphor. Case closed, thank you.
    – user52407
    Sep 19, 2013 at 18:25
  • 1
    @Bradog: Poe's law in full effect.
    – e.James
    Sep 24, 2013 at 4:00
  • 4
    Nice to see that a couple of edits on Wikipedia can change the English language. Sep 26, 2014 at 19:26
  • 1
    Sorry folks, but Wikipedia is not recognized as a credible source in academia.
    – user196492
    Sep 15, 2016 at 20:49

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