• simile •
sim-ê-lee • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: A figure of speech in which two different objects are compared, using the conjunctions like or as.
Notes: No, I didn't misspell smile today, though a good simile will often bring a smile to our faces. This word comes with a rarely used adjective, similitive, which means, roughly, related to similes, as the similitive conjunction like and several cousins like similar and assimilate. When we omit the conjunction from a simile, the result is a metaphor: Randy is a workhorse, a pig, an angel. Such expressions also compare Randy to different things but without as or like.
In Play: Similes are phrasal comparisons such as "cool as a cucumber", "cute as a button", "hot as a firecracker", "nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs", and "lower than a snake's belly in a wagon rut". Almost every adjective has a cliché like these and some are quite funny. But this figure of speech is quite common and we all make up new ones every day: "I thought Lionel's simile comparing our negotiator Jess Newcombe to a walking disaster was quite apt."
Word History: Today's Good Word is Latin simile "a like thing," the neuter of similis "like," from Old Latin semol "together". This word was an extension of the root sem-/som- that came through the Germanic family tree to English as same. In Greek this root was converted to homos "same", which appears in many English borrowings like homogenize (make the same) and homonym, a word spelled the same as another. (Today we thank the students of Kathi Kitao's English composition class in Kyoto, Japan, for suggesting a Good Word like those we love to see in our series.)
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