What is an Analogy? | Examples & Definition

Writing updated on  February 26, 2024 3 min read

An analogy explains an idea by comparing two things with a focus on how they’re alike.

What does analogy mean?

An analogy is a comparison that draws attention to what two things have in common. Although the two things may differ in many ways, analogy zooms in on some aspect that they share and ignores their differences.

Analogies compare two things for the sake of explaining something or making a point.

Analogy examples
A math problem is like surgery: difficult to perform but extremely rewarding once it’s over.
My dog is my child, and I will do anything for her.
Good grades are gold to me because they will get me what I want.

Analogy can also be used as a literary device. When it is, it points out how ideas, people, or things are alike to illustrate a concept, add emphasis, show a relationship, or clarify a point, and it explains the comparison.

Examples: Analogy examples in literature
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other word would smell as sweet. So Romeo would, were he not Romeo called.” —William Shakespeare, “Romeo and Juliet”
“My mom always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” —Winston Groom, “Forrest Gump”
“If you want my final opinion on the mystery of life and all that, I can give it to you in a nutshell. The universe is like a safe to which there is a combination. But the combination is locked up in the safe.” —Peter De Vries, “Let Me Count the Ways”

What is the difference between an analogy and a metaphor?

A metaphor is a figure of speech based on comparison, connection, or similarity between two things or ideas.

In one of the most common types of metaphors, a writer compares two things or ideas by saying one thing is another. The writer doesn’t mean the two items are literally the same; it’s just a more poetic way of comparing them.

An analogy can contain a metaphor, but it goes beyond comparison to give an explanation.

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Examples: Metaphor examples
Staying out in the sun is a death sentence.
This assignment is a drop in the ocean of work I have to do.
My cat is an angel.

If we add an explanation to these metaphors, they become analogies (e.g., “My cat is an angel because she behaves well and makes me happy”).

What is the difference between an analogy and a simile?

A simile is a method of drawing a similarity through an explicit statement by using the words like or as.

An analogy can contain a simile, but it goes beyond comparison to give an explanation.

Simile examples
Joey and Matt fight like wild animals.
Energy drinks are like poison to my body.
She’s as radiant as the sun.

If we add an explanation to these similes, they become analogies (e.g., “Joey and Matt fight like wild animals, always screaming and clawing at each other”).

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What is an analogy in literature?

Analogy can be used as a literary device. It will compare two things and explain the comparison.
For example, Shakespeare’s As You Like It includes this analogy, comparing the world with a stage: “All the world’s a stage, / And all the men and women merely players; / They have their exits and their entrances”

What is the purpose of an analogy?

An analogy is used to explain something by way of comparison. They convey a message by analyzing how two things are alike.


Hannah Skaggs

Along with Meredith Harris, Paige Pfeifer

Hannah, a writer and editor since 2017, specializes in clear and concise academic and business writing. She has mentored countless scholars and companies in writing authoritative and engaging content.

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