Simile, Metaphor, Alliteration or Onomatopoeia: Which Is It?


By: Robin Tyler

6 Min Quiz

Image: ER Productions Limited/DigitalVision/GettyImages

About This Quiz

The English language is simply incredible. And it is an evolving beast. It certainly is constantly changing. We no longer speak the English of 50 years ago, let alone Chaucer's English. In fact, today we casually use many words and phrases that didn't exist 50 years ago. 

Want a few examples? Well, "eye candy." Used to describe someone beautiful, this phrase didn't even exist in 1970. Maybe you consider yourself a "foodie" today, but if you lived before the 1980s you would not have called yourself that. What about "party animal"? No, that's a phrase that apparently started in the 1980s. 

And we could go on. But let's cut to the chase. This quiz is all about words and phrases, but very specific ones. In this quiz, you are going to have to identify the difference between a simile, metaphor, alliteration and onomatopoeia. 

But you seem as cool as ice, even though this might be as difficult as nailing jello to a tree! One thing in your favor... this is not a timed quiz, so no tick-tock, tick-tock will be distracting you!

Just remember to stay as cool as a cucumber and work like a dog, and you should have this quiz nailed to the wall!

Good luck!

"Craig is as brave as a lion." Is this phrase a simile, metaphor, alliteration or onomatopoeia?

A simile is usually a phrase that contains either the word "as" or "like." In this case, it is "as," which tells us what the person is as brave as. And let's be honest - lions are pretty brave!


What figure of speech best describes this sentence: "Don’t judge a book by its cover"?

Metaphors are similar to similes (try that for a tongue twister). Metaphors rhetorically refer to something by mentioning something else. So, in the example above, a person's outward appearance is compared to a book cover.


"Go and gather the green leaves on the grass" is an example of which of these?

Alliteration is the repetition of the same sound in neighboring or nearby words. The repeated sound is usually the first, or initial, sound - as in "seven sisters" - but the repetition of sounds in non-initial stressed, or accented, syllables is also common: "appear and report." "Gathering green grass" is definitely an alliteration.


"Achoo" is an example of what?

So what is an onomatopoeia? Well, it's a word that imitates the sound of something. When we sneeze, we go "achoo," and that is the word to describe a sneeze. Do you see how it works? Another example of an onomatopoeia is "knock."


Can you tell us, of the options below, which best suits the phrase "as difficult as nailing jelly to a tree"?

People sometimes get similes and metaphors confused. Both compare something with something else, but a simile usually contains the word "like" or "as." Oh, and don't try to nail jelly to a tree. It's impossible... we tried!


Which option best suits the following: "Little Larry likes licking the sticky lollipop"?

Similar-sounding consonants are constantly repeated in the sentence "Little Larry likes licking the sticky lollipop," so it's an alliteration. Did you know that the term "alliteration" is from "littera," the Latin word that means "letter of the alphabet"?


"Barry kicked the bucket." Is this a simile, metaphor, alliteration or onomatopoeia?

Of course, to "kick the bucket" simply means that Barry has passed on. And yes, that is a metaphor indeed. Note that this is a slang phrase and probably said between friends, never in formal conversation.


Which of the options below would the word "boom" be categorized as?

"Boom" is another great example of an onomatopoeia. Did you know that onomatopoeia is found in other languages, not just English? For example, "tick-tock," the sound a clock makes, is "tictac" in Spanish. Awesome, right?


Of the options below, which suits this phrase: "as American as apple pie"?

Nothing is as American as apple pie, right? This is such a classic simile. Interestingly, in ancient times, Aristotle used what he called "imago," which is what we would call a simile today.


The word "fizz" is an example of what figure of speech?

When you're looking for a brilliant example of an onomatopoeia, look no further than "fizz." Just thinking of the word in your brain actually makes you hear that fizzing sound! Incredible!


Can you figure out what this is: "Mark is as cold as ice"?

Ice is certainly cold! And because this phrase is comparing Mark to an object - in this case, ice - it is a simile. What else gives it away? The presence of the word "as."


True or false? The word "jingle" is a simile.

No, a simile would be a phrase, something like "as cold as ice." "Jingle" is actually an onomatopoeia, as the word describes a sound.


Below is a range of options. Can you select one that best matches this sentence: "The boy buzzed around, as busy as a bee"?

Jackpot! With all the Bs in that sentence, it is a brilliant example of alliteration. "Buzz" is an onomatopoeia, of course, and "busy as a bee" is a simile.


Of the options below, which describes "Warren Buffett is rolling in the dough"?

Yes, Warren Buffett has plenty of money. That's what this metaphor means. A metaphor has two parts, the tenor and the vehicle. In this example, the tenor is Warren Buffett and the vehicle is "rolling in the dough."


What figure of speech would you apply to a snake's hiss?

Did you know that the compound word for "onomatopoeia" in Greek is "ὀνοματοποιία"? When translated this means to imitate sound, and that is exactly what this figure of speech does.


"O My Luve's like a red, red rose." Which of these below best describes this phrase?

Did you know that similes are often used by poets to connect something that is inanimate to something drawing breath? An example of this is a line from Robert Burns' "A Red, Red Rose," which says, "O My Luve's like a red, red rose."


The word "croak" is associated with the noise a frog makes. Is it a simile, metaphor, alliteration or onomatopoeia?

Now here's something a little weird. Depending on where you come from, frogs make a different sound. Think about it. Some people say a frog will "croak," while others say a frog will "ribbit." Both of these are onomatopoeias.


True or False? The phrase "Don't shoot the messenger" is a metaphor.

Indeed it is a metaphor. Do you know what it means? Well, it means don't get angry or argue with someone delivering a message for someone else - for example, a co-worker giving you instructions from a boss. They are merely the vehicle of delivery. There's no literal gun involved here.


Of the options below, which would you pick to describe the word "honk"?

It's pretty easy to see that the word "honk" is an onomatopoeia. Interestingly, in Mandarin the word used to describe the sound of a car horn is "ba-ba." And of course, that is an onomatopoeia. Isn't language amazing?


This sentence, "Bake a big cake with lots of butter and bring it to the birthday bash," is an example of what?

That certainly is an alliteration, a very long one at that. Many incredible books and poems make use of alliteration. This includes Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner."


"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal," said Abe Lincoln. Which of the options below would "new nation" be?

Abe Lincoln was not the only person to use alliteration in his speeches. Martin Luther King Jr. did too, in this line, "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."


"Betty Botter bought a bit of butter, but she said, this butter's bitter; if I put it in my batter, it will make my batter bitter, but a bit of better butter will make my bitter batter better..." is an example of ______?

What a tongue twister. I bet you don't want to read that again. This is a classic case of an alliteration and comes from the rhyme "Betty Botter," by Carolyn Wells.


Can you tell us which figure of speech "as daft as a brush" would be?

Similes can be used in a number of ways. For instance, comedians often use a simile to see how an audience might react to a controversial subject. A favorable response will see them delve deeper into that subject.


Do you know if "Tess is as sour as vinegar" is a simile, metaphor, alliteration or onomatopoeia?

Simile is a device often used in comedy. In fact, many classic British comedy shows use simile. One of these, "Blackadder," uses this form of comparison extensively.


"All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players: They have their exits and their entrances..." Which figure of speech was Shakespeare using here?

That is one of the most classically quoted metaphors of all time. Did you know that metaphors can be categorized into various types? For instance, a mixed metaphor will combine two inconsistent things, as in "I knew enough to realize that the alligators were in the swamp and it was time to circle the wagons."


"Black bug bit a big black bear. But where is the big black bear that the black bug bit?" What figure of speech is shown here?

"Black bug bit a big black bear. But where is the big black bear that the black bug bit?" is certainly alliteration - it's easy to see that. It's a great example of what is known as an alliteration tongue twister, and there are many other examples of these. Alliteration tongue twisters are always very popular with children.


"In this company, it's survival of the fittest." What figure of speech is this?

Not just in a company but also life in general, don't you think? Interestingly, this metaphor comes from the man who gave us the Theory of Evolution, Charles Darwin. Stronger creatures survive, which leads to their species ultimately becoming stronger. In the case of animals in the wild, the phrase is not a metaphor; it's just reality.


"Time is running out!" Any idea about which of the options below this figure of speech refers to?

"Time is running out!" is not simply a metaphor - it is a dead metaphor. A dead metaphor is a word or phrase that has lost its metaphoric meaning through common use.


Chuck E. Cheese's is not only a famous franchise, but it's also an example of what?

Of course, as a form of wordplay, alliteration is sometimes used in advertising. In this case, it's the actual name of a business. Other examples of alliteration in names are Dunkin' Donuts and Krispy Kreme.


"Usain Bolt is as quick as lightning." Which figure of speech would this be?

That certainly is the perfect simile to describe the recently retired sprint sensation, Usain Bolt. Did you know that similes are not only an English phenomenon? For example, in Vietnamese, a common simile is "poor as a cat."


We have all heard of the "point of no return," haven't we? Of the options below, which best describes this saying?

Another classic metaphor, the "point of no return" means that going back is not an option - forging on is the only plan. It can be applied to many different aspects of life.


What figure of speech is "Patent portae; proficiscere"?

A great example of alliteration, "Patent portae; proficiscere" is Latin, with the phrase attributed to Cicero. Politicians love alliteration. In fact, in his inaugural address John F. Kennedy made use of alliteration over 20 times.


Which of the options below would "wham!" be categorized as?

Comic books managed to bring many new examples of onomatopoeia into the literary world. Think of examples such as "wham," "crunch" or "biff."


Robert Frost's poem "Acquainted with the Night" includes the line, "I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet." What is this?

That's a fine example of alliteration in a poem. There are many others, such as "Three grey geese in a green field grazing; grey were the geese and green was the grazing," in a nursery rhyme.


Which of these would describe the phrase, "eyes like a hawk"?

Yes, indeed, it is a simile. While many similes compare things using "as," many others use "like," as in this example. Just keep a lookout for "as" or "like," and you may be dealing with a simile.


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