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Frank J. Wilstach, comp. A Dictionary of Similes. 1916.


Man is a social creature, and we are made to be helpful to each other; we are like the wheels of a watch, that none of them can do their work alone, without the concurrence of the rest.

Some men are like a brook, noisy but shallow.

Man is like a razor, the sharper for being stropped.

Some men, like wagons, rattle most when there’s nothing in them.

Tall men, like tall houses, are usually ill furnished in the upper story.
—Francis Bacon

The majority of men are like animals—they take fright and are reassured by trifles.
—Honoré de Balzac

Like the falling star,
Or as the flights of eagles are,
Or like the fresh spring’s gaudy hue,
Or silver drops of morning dew,
Or like a wind that chafes the flood,
Or bubbles which in water stood:
Even such is man, whose borrowed light
Is straight call’d in and paid to-night.
—Francis Beaumont

Men, like musical instruments, seem made to be played upon.
—C. N. Bovée

An honest man is like a plain coat, which without welt [fold] or guard, keepeth the body from wind and weather, and being well made fits him best that wears it; and where the stuff is more regarded than the fashion, there is not much ado in the putting of it on. So, the mind of an honest man, without tricks or compliments, keeps the credit of a good conscience from the scandal of the world and the worm of Iniquity; which being wrought by the Workman of Heaven, fits him best that wears it to His service; and where Virtue is more esteemed than Vanity, it is put on and worn with that ease that shows excellency of the Workman.
—Nicholas Breton

Men are like old ships, easy towed, but hard to steer.
—Robert Bridges (American)

Man is like a book … the commonality only look to his binding.
—Edward Bulwer-Lytton

A young man is like a fair new house, the carpenter leaves it well built, in good repair, a solid stuff; but a bad tenant lets it rain in, and for want of reparation fall to decay, etc. Our Parents, Tutors, Friends, spare no cost to bring us up in our youth in all manner of virtuous education; but when we are left to ourselves idleness as a tempest drives all virtuous notions out of our minds, etc., and nihili sumus, on a sudden, by sloth and such bad ways, we come to naught.
—Robert Burton

Man is like a napkin, the more neatly the housewife doubles him, the more carefully she lays him on the shelf.
—Robert Burton

We are like billiard balls in a game played by unskillful players, continually being nearly sent into a pocket, but hardly ever getting right into one, except by a fluke.
—Samuel Butler (1835–1902)

In fact, man ain’t constructed for a heavy strain of bliss.
Human beings are like boilers, and the same rules, it would seem,
Have an equal application to affection and steam.
—William Allen Butler

A young man of high talent, and high though still temper, like a young mettled colt, ‘breaks-off his neck-halter’, and bounds forth, from his peculiar manger, into the wide world; which, alas, he finds all rigorously fenced-in. Richest clover-fields tempt his eye; but to him they are forbidden pasture: either pining in progressive starvation, he must stand; or, in mad exasperation, must rush to and fro, leaping against sheer stone-walls, which he cannot leap over, which only lacerate and lame him; till at last, after thousand attempts and endurances, he, as if by miracle, clears his way: not indeed into luxuriant and luxurious clover, yet into a certain bosky wilderness where existence is still possible, and Freedom, though waited on by Scarcity, is not without sweetness.
—Thomas Carlyle

Some men are like musical glasses,—to produce their finest tone, you must keep them wet.
—Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Great men, like great cities, have many crooked arts and dark alleys in their hearts, whereby he that knows them may save himself much time and trouble.
—C. C. Colton

Great men, like comets, are eccentric in their courses, and formed to do extensive good, by modes unintelligible to vulgar minds.
—C. C. Colton

A good man, like a well trained wrestler, ought to struggle against adversity with the whole energy of his faculties.

Why do you make such haste to have done loving me? You men are like watches, wound up for striking twelve immediately; but after you are satisfied, the very next that follows, is the solitary sound of a single one.
—John Dryden

Men are like Geneva watches with crystal faces which expose the whole movement.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson

Men are like wine,—not good before the lees of clownishness be settled.
—Owen Feltham

Such men grew wiser as well as better, the farther they departed from home, and seemed like rivers, whose streams are not only increased, but refined, as they traveled from their source.
—Oliver Goldsmith

Wise men, like wine, are best when old; pretty women, like bread, are best when young.
—Sam Slick

As no two pots will boil alike, so with men; they seethe in trouble with a difference.
—Maurice Hewlett

A bad man is like an earthen vessel, easy to break, and hard to mend. A good man is like a golden vessel,—hard to break, and easy to mend.

Men, like peaches and pears, grow sweet a little while before they begin to decay.
—Oliver Wendell Holmes

As is the race of leaves, such is that of men; some leaves the wind scatters upon the ground, and others the budding wood produces, for they come again in the season of Spring. So is the race of men, one springs up and the other dies.

A man whose great qualities want the ornament of superficial attractions, is like a naked mountain with mines of gold, which will be frequented only till the treasure is exhausted.
—Dr. Samuel Johnson

Good men, like the sea, should still maintain
Their noble tastes in midst of all fresh humours,
That flow about them, to corrupt their streams,
Bearing no season, much less salt of goodness.
—Ben Jonson

Like to the falling of a star,
Or as the flights of eagles are;
Or like the fresh spring’s gaudy hue,
Or silver drops of morning dew;
Or like a wind that chafes the flood,
Or bubbles which on water stood:
Ev’n such is man, whose borrow’d light
Is straight call’d in, and paid to-night.
The wind blows out, the bubble dies;
The spring entom’d in autumn lies;
The dew dries up, the star is shot;
The flight is past—and man forgot.
—Henry King

Wise men are like moorlands—ride as far as you will on the sound ground, you are sure to come upon a soft place at last.
—Charles Kingsley

Man is like a tree which is shaken that its fruit may drop to the ground.
—Alphonse M. L. Lamartine

Great men stand like solitary towers!
—Henry W. Longfellow

Great men are like meteors: they glitter and are consumed to enlighten the world.

Men are like money: we must take them for their value, whatever may be the effigy.
—Madame Necker

A man, like a watch, is to be valued for his manner of going.
—William Penn

Man, like the generous vine, supported lives;
The strength he gains is from the embrace he gives.
—Alexander Pope

Men like bullets, go farthest when they are smoothest.
—John Paul Richter

Man is like horse-radish: the more it is grated the more it bites.
—John Paul Richter

Men are weathercocks, which are never constant or fixed, but when they are, they are worn out or rusty.
—Jean Jacques Rousseau

Most men are like plants: they possess properties which chance discovers.
—Cesar Vichard de Saint-Réal

At ten, Mercury is in the ascendant; and at that age, a man, like this planet, is characterized by extreme mobility within a narrow sphere where trifles have a great effect upon him; but under the guidance of so crafty and eloquent a god, he easily makes great progress. Venus begins her sway during his twentieth year, and then a man is wholly given up to the love of women. At thirty, Mars comes to the front, and he is now all energy and strength—daring, pugnacious, and arrogant.
—Arthur S. Schopenhauer

Men, like butterflies,
Shew not their mealy wings but to the summer;
And not a man, for being simply man,
Hath any honour.
—William Shakespeare

Man, like this sublunary world, is born the sport of two cross planets, love and scorn.
—Sir Edward Sherburne

If you were to say that man was like a time glass—that both must run out, and both render up their dust, I should listen to you with more attention, because I should feel something like surprise at the sudden relation you had struck out between two such apparently dissimilar ideas as a man and a time glass.
—Sydney Smith

It is in men as in soils, where sometimes there is a vein of gold which the owner knows not of.
—Jonathan Swift

Man, like everything else that lives, changes with the air that sustains him.
—Hippolyte Adolphe Taine

A man, like a book, must have an index; he is divided into chapters, sections, pages, prefaces, and appendix; in size, quarto, octavo, or duodecimo, and bound in cloth, morocco, antique, or half calf; the dress, the gait, the behavior, are an index to the contents of this strange book, and give you the number of the page.
—T. DeWitt Talmage

Man is like to vanity: his days are as a shadow that passeth away.
—Old Testament

Great men are like oaks, under the branches, of which men are happy in finding a refuge in the time of storm and rain; but when they have to pass a sunny day under them, they take pleasure in cutting the bark and breaking the branches.

Great men are like great bells; every sound they utter strikes our ears with the noise of thunder.
—J. Penford Thomas

Man, like to Cassia, is proved best being bruised.
—John Webster

Every man is like the apostle Peter in one respect, that his tongue betrays him.
—Richard Grant White

Man’s like the earth, his hair like grasse is grown,
His veins the rivers are, his heart the stone.
—Wits Recreations, 1640