Analogy vs. Metaphor: Exploring Similarities and Differences

The question of an analogy vs. metaphor can be challenging because these are so similar, but there are differences between these two that are worth studying.

Literary devices make writing more engaging, and knowing how to use them well will make you a stronger writer. Analogy and metaphor are both a type of literary device known as figurative language. They are similar, but they do have differences as well.

As you explore figurative language in your own writing, learning the difference between analogy vs metaphor is helpful. Once you understand these, you can make comparisons using them and make your writing more interesting to the reader.

What Is a Metaphor?

Analogy vs metaphor

Metaphors are figures of speech that describe something by comparing it to another thing that it really isn’t, but that helps make the meaning more clear. It states that one thing is the other thing, even though the items are dissimilar things. 

When you look at a metaphor carefully, it becomes quite humorous. Yet it creates a mental image that makes the meaning of your message more clear in the reader’s mind.

Examples of Metaphors

The best way to identify metaphors is to look at specific examples. Some common metaphors include common phrases like these:

  • He is a couch potato
  • Love is a battlefield.
  • You’re the black sheep of the family.
  • Laughter is the best medicine
  • I have a weight on my shoulders
  • Life is a race
  • He is a night owl.
  • You are a chicken.
  • The classroom was a zoo.

In each of these examples, the literal meaning is nonsense, yet the reader automatically knows what the writer’s intended meaning is. 

Here are additional examples from famous works:

  • All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. William Shakespeare
  • You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog. Elvis Presley
  • If you want a love message to be heard, it has got to be sent out. To keep a lamp burning, we have to keep putting oil in it. Mother Teresa.
  • Dying is a wild night and a new road. Emily Dickinson.
  • Conscience is a man’s compass. Vincent Van Gogh.
  • Life is a box of chocolates. Mama from Forest Gump.

Types of Metaphors

The English language has multiple types of metaphors. Some work well, and others do not.

Different types of metaphors include:

  • Dead Metaphors: These are metaphors that no longer have their impact because of over-use.
  • Mixed Metaphors: These metaphors are nonsensical. 
  • Extended Metaphors: These metaphors go through a lengthy piece of writing, such as an entire book or an entire paragraph.
  • Submerged Metaphors: A metaphor that is implied, so one of the items is not explicitly stated.

A simile is another literary device that often gets lumped in with metaphors, but it is separate. Like a metaphor, a simile compares two unlike items, but it uses the word “like” or “as” to make that comparison.

Why Use Metaphors?

Analogy vs. metaphor
When the reader pictures the image made from the metaphor, their imagination comes into the picture, and imagination makes writing more memorable

A metaphor lets you create a vivid image in the mind of your readers. The direct comparison goes beyond the literal meaning of the words you write. This visual image helps your reader visualize what you are trying to convey.

Metaphors often take a hard-to-understand concept like life, personhood, and love and transform it by comparing it to something concrete, like candy, a hound dog, or a battlefield. This tool makes the abstract something that’s easier to understand.

When the reader pictures the image made from the metaphor, their imagination comes into the picture, and imagination makes writing more memorable. In other words, using metaphors can help people remember what you are writing longer than they would if you simply shared factual information. 

What Is an Analogy?

Analogies show ways that two things are alike, even though they may appear unlike at first glance. However, unlike a metaphor, where the comparison is left in the mind of the reader, an analogy will explain the ways the items are alike to make some sort of point.

The word “analogy” comes from the Ancient Greek word that means “proportionality.” In the Greek culture, analogies were often proportionate, as scholars would compare relationships between pairs of words. 

Examples of Analogies

Analogies are more than just one statement because they require some explanation. A classic example of an analogy is to compare the human mind to a computer. While they are not the same, the way a mind processes information, taking in, processing, storing, and retrieving it, is like an advanced computer, so the analogy works.

An analogy takes a comparison and explains it. For example, you might say:

  • Samantha’s poor personal care and hygiene reminded me of a pig that rolls in the mud all day.

Here, the comparison is further explained, rather than simply saying Samantha is a pig, which would be a metaphor.

Here are some famous analogies from literature:

  • “Explaining a joke is like dissecting a frog. You understand it better but the frog dies in the process.” E. B. White.
  • “They crowded very close about him, with their hands always on him in a careful, caressing grip, as though all the while feeling him to make sure he was there. It was like men handling a fish which is still alive and may jump back into the water.” George Orwell.
  • “Withdrawal of U.S. troops will become like salted peanuts to the American public; the more U.S. troops come home, the more will be demanded.” Henry Kissinger.

Why Use Analogies?

Analogies help readers understand unfamiliar concepts by explaining them through familiar references. This can speed up the comprehension process when explaining logical points or abstract concepts. 

Analogies also work to add clarity to a point in a story or argument. They can bring the reader to a logical conclusion by adding imagery to the work.

Differences Between Metaphors and Analogies

Metaphors and analogies have many similarities, but they have one key difference. Metaphors simply state the comparison, while analogies add further explanation.

Metaphors work to create emotion in the reader by generating an interesting visual image, while analogies push readers to a logical conclusion about the topic at hand. 

Metaphors compare two things by stating that one thing is the other thing. Analogies compare two terms to draw readers to a point of thought. 

Final Word in Analogy vs. Metaphor

Metaphors and analogies are quite similar. Some English scholars would say a metaphor is a type of analogy. But they have one distinct difference.

Metaphors compare items by stating that one is the other. Saying “The teenage boy is a ravenous beast.” is a metaphor, because a boy is definitely not a wild animal of any sort.

Analogies draw comparisons with more explanation. You could say, “The teenage boy, because he is growing so quickly and needs constant energy, is a ravenous beast by the time dinner rolls around.”

Both have benefits in your writing by giving the reader more context for what you are saying and creating visual images in the reader’s mind. Learn to use them well, and your writing will become more effective.

FAQs About Analogy vs. Metaphor

How does a simile differ from an analogy?

 A simile is a comparison using the words “like” or “as” and is typically a simple statement. This is an example of a simile:

Example: His smile was as wide as the Grand Canyon.

An analogy is a longer comparison that provides an explanation behind why the two items are compared. This example is a simple analogy:

Example: His smile was as wide as the Grand Canyon when he got the shocking news that he won the scholarship.

Are a metaphor and an analogy the same?

Though they have similarities, metaphors and analogies are not the same. Metaphors strive to create a visual in the mind of the reader, while analogies are logical in nature and try to persuade the reader to come to a conclusion.

How does a simile differ from an analogy?

 A simile is a comparison using the words “like” or “as” and is typically a simple statement. This is an example of a simile:

  • His smile was as wide as the Grand Canyon.

An analogy is a longer comparison that provides an explanation behind why the two items are compared. This example is a simple analogy:

  • His smile was as wide as the Grand Canyon when he got the shocking news that he won the scholarship.

Are a metaphor and an analogy the same?

Though they have similarities, metaphors and analogies are not the same. Metaphors strive to create a visual in the mind of the reader, while analogies are logical in nature and try to persuade the reader to come to a conclusion.

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