Life, Defined

Life, Defined

  1. The course of life is like the sea; men come and go; tides rise and fall; and that is all of history —Joaquin Miller
  2. Each person’s life is like a mountain. And each person has to climb that mountain top alone —Rosamund Pilcher

    Pilcher builds on the mountain simile by explaining that as a child you start in a warm and sunny valley, then you climb a somewhat steeper mountain with a wonderful view to make the end of the journey worthwhile.

  3. A human life is like a single letter in the alphabet. It can be meaningless. Or it can be part of a great meaning —essay by National Planning Committee of Jewish Theological Seminary for Rosh Hashan, September 5, 1956
  4. Human life may be regarded as a succession of frontis pieces. The way to be satisfied is never to look back —William Hazlitt
  5. Life … a formless lump like cold tea leaves from which goodness and badness and even the last tang of bitterness have been stewed out —Gerald Kersh

    The life being compared to cold tea leaves in Kersh’s novel, The Angel and the Cuckoo, is obviously one that is deteriorating.

  6. Life is a big gambling game. Some are born lucky and some are born unlucky —Jack London
  7. Life is a blister on top of a tumor, and a boil on top of that —Sholom Aleichem
  8. Life is, after all, a kind of disaster through which we do what we can to keep each other’s spirits up —Thomas Mallon, New York Times Book Review, October 12, 1986
  9. Life is a kind of chess, in which we have often points to gain, and competitors or adversaries to contend with, and in which there is a vast variety of good and evil events that are, in some degree, the effect of prudence or the want of it —Benjamin Franklin
  10. Life … is a kind of stage play, where men come forth, disguised one in one array, and one in another, each playing his part —Erasmus
  11. Life is a little like disease, with its crises and periods of quiescence, the daily improvements and setbacks —Italo Svevo

    In his novel, Confessions of Zeno, Svevo continues the simile as follows: “But unlike other diseases life is always mortal. It admits of no cure. It would be like trying to stop up the holes in our body, thinking them to be wounds. We should die of suffocation almost before we were cured.”

  12. Life is … a long series of challenges, like hurdles in a race —Rosamund Pilcher
  13. Life is a long strong twisted rope made up of a number of human relationships —Mary Borden
  14. Life is an incurable disease —Abraham Cowley
  15. Life is a public performance on the violin, in which you must learn the instrument as you go along —E. M. Forster
  16. Life is a train constantly crossing the border from the past to the present —Susan Fromberg Schaeffer
  17. Life is but a day; a fragile dew-drop on its perilous way from a tree’s summit —John Keats
  18. Life … is like a beach covered with lots of pebbles, the faster we qualify ourselves to pick these pebbles the richer we will be —Evan A. Sholl
  19. Life is like a beautiful and winding lane —George Augustus Sala

    The simile continues as follows: “On either side bright flowers, beautiful butterflies, and tempting fruits which we scarcely pause to admire and taste, so eager are we to hasten to an opening which we imagine will be more beautiful still. But by degrees, as we advance, the trees grow bleak, the flowers and butterflies frail, the fruits disappear, and we find we have arrived to reach a desert waste.”

  20. Life is like a B-picture script. It is that corny —Kirk Douglas, Look, October 4, 1944

    To add emphasis to his simile, Douglas added: “If I had my life story offered to me to film, I’d turn it down.”

  21. Life is like a cash register, in that every account, every thought, every deed, like every sale, is registered and recorded —Fulton J. Sheen
  22. Life is like a cup of tea … needing love to make it sweet —Edward A. Guest

    To show that the same basic simile can have different meanings, there’s this line from J. M. Barrie’s The Admirable Crichton: “Life, Crichton, is like a cup of tea; the more heartily we drink, the sooner we reach the dregs.”

  23. Life is like a dissected map. If I could live a hundred years … I feel I could put the pieces together until they made a properly connected whole —Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
  24. Life is like a fire; it begins in smoke, and ends in ashes —Arab proverb
  25. Life is like a game of dice —Alexis

    The comparison of life to the roll of the dice has been an irresistible simile throughout history. Variations include “Life is like a game of tables,” the chances are not in our power but the playing is dating back to B.C., and “Life is like a game of roulette.”

  26. Life is like a game of cards —Edgar Watson Howe

    Howe built on the comparison as follows: “Reliability is the ace, industry the king, politeness the queen, thrift the jack. Common sense is playing to best advantage the cards you draw.” A 1978 poem by Diane Wakoski used the simile for its title and theme.

  27. Life … is like a grapefruit … sort of orangy-yellow and dimpled on the outside, wet and squidgy in the middle —Douglas Adams
  28. Life is like a jigsaw puzzle with most of the pieces missing —Anon
  29. Life is like a kiss that does not last long enough for a fellow to ascertain how good it is —Elbridge G. Dow Jr.
  30. Life is like a mountain: after climbing up one side and sliding down the other, put up the sled —Josh Billings

    The word ‘is’ has been changed from the dialect form ‘iz.’

  31. Life is like an onion, which one peels crying —French proverb
  32. Life is like an onion: you peel off layer after layer and then you find there is nothing in it —James G. Huneker
  33. Life is like a school of gladiators, where men live and fight with one another —Seneca The Elder
  34. Life is like a scrambled egg —Don Marquis
  35. Life is like a stew, you have to stir it frequently, or all the scum rises to the top —Tom Robbins
  36. Life is like drunkenness: the pleasure passes away, but the headache remains —Persian proverb
  37. Life is like music, it must be composed by ear, feeling and instinct, not by rule —Samuel Butler
  38. Life is like playing a violin solo in public and learning the instrument as one goes on —Samuel Butler
  39. Life is like that, a cake-walk —Clifford Odets

    The simile is from Odets play, Awake and Sing.

  40. Life is not a game of chess, the victory to the knowing; it is a game of cards, one’s hand by skill to be made the best of —Jerome K. Jerome
  41. Life is very much like an arms race, each side waiting for the other one to put his stick down first —Merle Shain
  42. Life, like a dome of many-coloured glass, stains the white radiance of eternity —Percy Bysshe Shelley
  43. Human life is like the petals that fall from the rose and lie soft and withering by the side of the vase —Anon Persian poem
  44. The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story, and writes another, and his humblest hour is when he compares the volume as it is with what he vowed to make it —J. M. Barrie
  45. The life of man is like a long journey with a heavy load on the back —Japanese proverb
  46. Life’s a library owned by an author. In it are a few books which he wrote but most of them were written for him —Harry Emerson Fosdick
  47. Life seems to me like a Japanese picture which our imagination does not allow to end with the margin —Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
  48. Life’s like a play: it’s not the length but the excellence of the acting that matters —Seneca

    A variation made famous by the playwright Ben Jonson: “Our whole life is like a play.”

  49. Man’s life is like a candle in the wind —Chinese proverb
  50. The scenes of our life are like pictures done in rough mosaic … There is nothing beautiful to be found in them, unless we stand some distance off —Arthur Schopenhauer
  51. This mundane life is like a drink of salt water, which seems to quench, but actually inflames —Gaon Elijah
  52. The way of life is like a path between two forbidding roads, one of fire and one of ice —Judah

    Judah built on the simile with this advice: “The slightest bend in either direction is fatal. Let him walk in the middle.”

  53. A well-ordered life is like climbing a tower; the view halfway up is better than the view from the base, and it steadily becomes finer as the horizon expands —William Lyon Phelps
  54. The whole of life of some people is a kind of partial death, a long lingering death-bed, so to speak, of stagnation and nonentity on which death is but the seal —Samuel Butler
Similes Dictionary, 1st Edition. © 1988 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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