To describe something that looks similar to something else, English provides us style and like words to create compound adjectives. For example:

  • Elvis–Presley-style dance
  • Elvis–Presley-like dance


  • bell-like
  • bell-style

(meaning: 1. having or producing a clear musical sound like that of a bell. "her clear bell-like voice" 2. shaped like a bell. "bell-like flowers")

But how we can know in which cases to use "-style" and in which cases to use "-like"?

  • 2
    You don't. As with all compounds, the individual parts are not predictable. Some will go together, and some won't; and some have been together for so long that you can't tell the parts. May 19, 2022 at 14:23
  • Do you know the meanings of the preposition "like" and the noun "style"? Their meanings in combination are similar to their meanings otherwise. May 19, 2022 at 17:27

1 Answer 1


"Style" implies a a pattern people have chosen and imitate. It makes sense to say "Presley-style dance," or "bell-bottom-style trousers," or "SUV-style (or styled) vehicle."

For a natural object, one is less likely to use "style". "Bell-like flower," or "pearl-like teeth," would be used.


  • A style is part of a flower, part of the pistil.
  • A common phrase is, "I like your style," meaning, "I like the way you present yourself (dress, hair-style...).
  • Thanks, now it is much clearer to me.
    – john c. j.
    May 19, 2022 at 21:11
  • I'd add that 'Xlike' almost always has a noun as X, and that such adjectives (I don't think they class as 'compounds' as -like is a suffix) are usually solid, unless they are new / odd (but reasonable) coinings. Thus 'ladylike' but 'Balrog-like'. yesterday

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