Physical Appearance

Physical Appearance



  1. As innocent of makeup as an apple he might have polished on his sleeve —John Yount
  2. As straight as a stick and looked as brittle —V. S. Pritchett
  3. Awful [looking] … like an oil filter that should have been changed five thousand miles ago —Saul Bellow
  4. Began to look like the last solitary frost-touched rose on a November bush —Honoré de Balzac
  5. Looked like a sparrow fallen from its nest —Dominique Lapierre
  6. Belly as bright ivory overlaid with sapphires … legs are as pillars of marble —The Holy Bible/Song of Solomon
  7. (He was) bowed and gnarled like an old tree —W. Somerset Maugham
  8. Chorus-line figure, but with a face like a racehorse —Richard Ford
  9. Dry and bony, like a handsome tree withered by blight —Louis Bromfield
  10. Fragile-looking yet surprisingly voluptuous, she resembled a scaled-down ancient love goddess, the gilded plastic replica sold at museum shops —T. Gertler
  11. Gnarled as a cyprus —Mary Lee Settle
  12. Had a face like a barn owl. The heavy rolls of fat were covered with thick white powder and gave the appearance of a snow-covered mountain landscape. Her black eyes were like deep-set holes and she stared at Kern as though she might fly at him any moment with her claws —Erich Maria Remarque

    An example of a colorful portrait created with a string of similes, from Remarque’s novel, Flotsam.

  13. Had the aging body of a poet and the eyes of a starving panther —Ellery Queen
  14. Had the rough, blowsy and somewhat old-fashioned look of a whore of the Renoir period —Thomas Wolfe
  15. Had the threadbare appearance of a worn-out litigant —Sir Walter Scott
  16. He’d been put together with care, his brown head and bullfighter’s figure had an exactness, a perfection like an apple, an orange, something nature has made just right —Truman Capote
  17. He had smooth skin and a thin moustache which made him look like the toy groom on a wedding cake —Andrew Kaplan
  18. He looked like a goat. He had little raisin eyes and a string beard —Flannery O’Connor
  19. (Up till then I’d assumed that “Gross” was the man’s name, but it was his description.) He looked like something that had finally come up out of its cave because it has eaten the last phosphorescent little fish in the cold pool at the bottom of the cavern. He looked like something that better keep moving because if it stood still someone would drag it out back and bury it. He looked like a big white sponge with various diseases at work on the inside. He looked like something that couldn’t get you if you held a crucifix up in front of you. He looked like the big fat soft white something you might find under a tomato plant leaf on a rainy day with a chill in the air —Donald E. Westlake

    A nice bit of comparative excess, something to be indulged in sparingly, which may account for the fact that Westlake’s novel, The Fugitive Pigeon, contains few other similes.

  20. He [Marvin Hamlish] looks at certain angles, like a cheeseburger with all the ingredients oozing awkwardly out of the bun —Rex Reed
  21. Her anxious brown eyes and full, slightly drooping cheeks gave her the look of a worried hamster —Sheila Radley
  22. Her face and hands were as white as though she had been drowned in a barrel of vinegar —O. Henry
  23. Her great buttocks rolled like the swell on a heavy winter sea —Miles Gibson
  24. He was handsome, in a brooding, archaic way, like a face from early Asiatic temple sculpture —Christopher Isherwood
  25. He was like a piece of cinnamon bark, brown and thin and curled in on himself —David Brierley
  26. He was ruddy as a ranch hand, and dressed like one —Joyce Reiser Kornblatt
  27. His face and body had an evil swollen look as if they had grown stout on rotten meat —Ross Macdonald
  28. His face and head had an unfinished look, like a sculpture an artist might have left under a damp cloth until he had time to work on it again —Dorothy Francis
  29. (The guy didn’t seem to have any neck at all.) His head rested on his shoulders like a bowling ball on a shelf —Jonathan Valin
  30. (She is tall,) homely as Lincoln —Alice McDermott
  31. A huge ruin of a woman with a face like a broken statue —Edith Wharton
  32. In appearance she was not unlike a sea cow —Larry McMurtry
  33. A little gnarled fellow like the bleached root of a tree —Zane Grey
  34. Look awful, all trembling and green about the gills, like a frog with shell shock —A. Alvarez
  35. Looked and moved like an elderly gentleman with bowel problems —T. Coraghessan Boyle
  36. [Old people] looked dry as a locust shell stuck on a pear tree —Anthony E. Stockanes
  37. Looked like a pale spectre beneath the moon —Émile Zola
  38. Looked like a bat … had the ears and the snout and the gray pinched mouse-face, the hunched bony shoulders that were like folded wings —Paul Theroux
  39. Looked like a man recuperating from a coronary or just about to have one —Jonathan Kellerman
  40. Looked like a man who has stepped on the business end of a rake and given himself a good one, whack between the eyes —Stephen King
  41. Looked like an animated skeleton —Jimmy Sangster
  42. Looked like a pearl laid against black velvet —O. Henry
  43. Looked like a seedy angel —William McIlvanney
  44. Looking like a drooping and distracted hen —Patrick White
  45. [Paul Newman in The Color of Money] looking like an only slightly worn Greek statue —Julie Salamon, Wall Street Journal, October 16, 1986
  46. Look … like a fine healthy apple —Katherine Anne Porter
  47. Look like someone who’s spent the night in a bus station —Anon
  48. Looks as if when you touch her she’d crackle like cellophane —Harryette Mullen

    See Also: FRAGILITY

  49. Looks like a garage sale waiting for a place to happen —George V. Higgins
  50. Looks like the side of a barn with the doors open —Ben Ames Williams
  51. Managing with his mussed fair hair and mustache to look like a shopworn model for a cigarette advertisement —Derek Lambert
  52. A man like a scarecrow, old and stormbeaten, with stiff, square, high shoulders, as if they were held up by a broomstick stuck through his sleeves —Vicki Baum
  53. Men deterioriate without razors and clean shirts … like potted plants that go to weed unless they are tended daily —Beryl Markham

    Markham makes this observation in her autobiography, West With the Night, when she lands her plane and is met by two unshaven hunters, adding this simile about one of them (Baron Von Blixen): “Blix, looking like an unkempt bear …”

  54. (Looks worse every time I see her, so) old and dried out, like a worn shoe —Jan Kubicki
  55. Pink and glazed as a marzipan pig —Truman Capote about Henri Soule
  56. A pinprick of a scarlet pimple glowed like blood against the very pale skin on the side of her nose. Her freshly washed gray hair was slightly askew, and she looked … like that demented figure in the painting of Pickett’s charge at Gettysburg —Joseph Heller
  57. Plump and sweet as a candied yam —Marge Piercy
  58. Potbellied, and bearded with extra chins like a middle-aged high school gym coach —Jonathan Valin
  59. A profile and neck like a pharaoh’s erotic dream —Loren D. Estleman
  60. Raindrops sat on his white skin like sweat —Sue Miller
  61. A regular old jelly … sliding around like aspic on a hot plate —Joyce Cary
  62. She is chipped like an old bit of china; she is frayed like a garment of last year’s wearing. She is soft, crinkled like a fading rose —Amy Lowell
  63. She [a woman of sixty] looked like a lovely little winter apple —Mary Lee Settle
  64. She looked like a tree trunk … her big gnarled hands seemed to protrude from her like branches —Marguerite Yourcenar
  65. She looked, with her red-cherry cheeks and wide semicircle of smile, like something that might have briskly swung out of a weather-house predicting sunshine —Peter Kemp
  66. She reminded him, in her limp dust-colored garments, of last year’s moth shaken out of the curtains of an empty room —Edith Wharton
  67. She was gray as a wick and as thin —Patricia Hampl
  68. She was heavy but not unattractive, like a German grandma —Peter Meinke
  69. She was in her mid-thirties … faded, but still fruity, like a pear just beginning to go soft —Derek Lambert
  70. She was like a fat little partridge with a mono-bosom —Kate Wilhelm
  71. She [mother dancing before narrator] was like a pretty kite that floated above my head —Maya Angelou
  72. She was tall like a lily, carried herself like a queen … was dressed like a rose —Hugh Walpole
  73. A short woman, shaped nearly like a funeral urn —Flannery O’Connor
  74. Slender and tall as the great Eiffel Tower —W. H. Auden
  75. Small, chinless and like an emasculated Eton boy —Dylan Thomas

    The simile is a self portrait.

  76. A smallish man who always looked dusty, as if he had been born and lived all his life in attics and store rooms —William Faulkner
  77. Small, runty and rooty, she looks like a young edition of an old, gnarled tree —Laurie Colwin
  78. Tall and flat like a paper doll —Elizabeth Bishop
  79. Tan and wrinkled all over as if had been dipped and stained in walnut juice —George Garrett
  80. They [an old couple] were brown and shriveled, and like two little walking peanuts —Carson McCullers
  81. Thin and old-looking … as if the frame she was strung on had collapsed and the stuffing had shifted. Like a badly stuffed toy after a month in the nursery —Josephine Tey
  82. A thin man with a collarbone like a wire coathanger —Penelope Gilliatt
  83. Thin, white-whiskered … like a consumptive Santa Claus —Dashiell Hammett
  84. With his longish head he looked like an Egyptian king —Iris Murdoch
  85. With his small dark eyes and jowly cheeks he looked like an intelligent bulldog —Andrew Kaplan
Similes Dictionary, 1st Edition. © 1988 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Physical Appearance



bald as a coot To be so bald as to resemble a coot. The coot has a straight and slightly conical bill whose base extends onto the forehead forming a broad white plate. Anyone whose pate resembles a coot’s forehead is said to be “bald as a coot.” This phrase was used as early as 1430, as cited in the OED.

flat as a pancake Flat; having a surface that is free from projections or indentations. Though usually used literally, this expression is sometimes employed in its figurative sense to describe something that is flatter than it should be or flatter than one would expect. In his play, The Roaring Girl (1611), Thomas Middleton used the expression to describe a woman with small breasts.

pilgarlic A bald-headed man; an unfortunate, pitiable wretch. Originally peeled garlic, the term was applied to one whose hair loss was due to disease (venereal by implication) and whose naked scalp supposedly resembled the flaky, shiny bulb of that plant. Eventually pilgarlic came to be applied to persons deserving of contempt or censure, probably because of the reputed source of the affliction. It was often used in a quasi-affectionate way, however; frequently for one-self, as in the following passage from Rabelais’ Pantagruel (1532):

Never a bit could poor pilgarlic sleep one wink, for the everlasting jingle of bells.

plug-ugly See CRIMINALITY.

a shadow of one’s former self Said of one who has become extremely feeble or emaciated. This expression uses shadow in the sense of something that resembles the original but lacks substance, thus implying that a person has been reduced to a mere shadow, either through the ravages of disease, aging, stress, etc., or by choice. The expression is sometimes shortened to shadow of one-self.

He appeared to wither into the shadow of himself. (Sir Walter Scott, Guy Mannering; or The Astrologer, 1815)

A shadow of one’s former self is sometimes used complimentarily in goodnatured reference to a formerly corpulent person who has lost weight as a result of dieting.

ugly duckling See REVERSAL.

Picturesque Expressions: A Thematic Dictionary, 1st Edition. © 1980 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in classic literature ?
Fanning, a Yankee mariner of some reputation, likewise records his lively impressions of the physical appearance of these people; and Commodore David Porter of the U.S.
"And you think that regardless of their physical appearance the fact that they were without souls would have been apparent?" asked Bulan.
It is a short love story revolving around the chemistry that fires up between her and Muneeb Butt's character as he develops an interest in her despite of her unpopular physical appearance.
The police spokesperson said all applicants must first undergo physical appearance screening and certificate presentation.
Relying on experts in criminology and sociology, and compiled/edited by Professor Berry, "Appearance Bias and Crime" describes the role of bias against citizens based on their physical appearance.
In what appears to be a rather weak attempt at a pun on the PTI's 'tabdeeli' mantra, Mr Chaudhry made a nasty remark about Ms Awan's physical appearance.
KARACHI -- I would like to highlight the unethical behaviour of some people who judge others by their physical appearance - their features and their clothes.
The product has a new physical appearance and smaller footprint than previous Graymills models, and can be mounted vertically or horizontally and easily adjusted in the field.
There is a positive and meaningful relationship between the sub dimensions of the body language; mimic, gesture, physical appearance, tonality and accent.
Looking good; a curriculum on physical appearance and personal presentation for adolescents and young adults with visual impairments.
Given the emphasis many gay men place on physical appearance, this study demonstrates the vital importance of cultivating a strong sense of self-worth.

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