Analogy Definition With Detailed Examples

If you’ve ever watched a 20th-century teen comedy set in a high school, then you’ve likely learned the following three things about the SAT exam, whether you took it back then or not:

  • It was a huge deal.
  • If you didn’t do well on the SAT, you should probably just drop what you were doing and start living under a bridge because without a good score, you couldn’t get into the college of your choice. If you didn’t get into the right college, you’d never be able to get a job, and without a job, you’d have to live under a bridge and eat Spaghetti-Os out of tin cans whenever you weren’t riding the rails with all three of your belongings tied up in a bandana that you carry on the end of a long stick.
  • The SAT analogy question section was BRUTAL.

Fortunately, the SAT did away with its notorious analogy definition section in 2005. That doesn’t mean that you can just skate through life being dazed and confused about analogies, though — especially if you want to make a living using your writing skills. Grab your popcorn, crank up the “10 Things I Hate About You” soundtrack and let’s get to it. 

Analogy Definition

An analogy is a statement that compares the similarities between two things in order to explain or clarify a concept. That last part is what sets analogies apart from similes and metaphors: Similes and metaphors aren’t used to explain anything. Typically, they’re just straight-up description, like if you say your lovable but stupid pet raccoon Todd is “as dumb as a rock” or “Todd is not the sharpest claw on the paw.” That simile and that metaphor, respectively, double-down descriptively on how stupid your pet raccoon is.

If, on the other hand, you said, “Todd is to raccoons what Homer Simpson is to the town of Springfield,” that’s an analogy. It shows instead of tells. It doesn’t directly state that Todd is lovable but dumb; rather, it explains his position within the raccoon population by comparing him to a very well-known fictional character and his relationship to his community.

In other words, if you’re familiar with Homer Simpson, you’re very likely to have a precise and oddly satisfying understanding of Todd the Raccoon’s temperament. You know he’s kind of a doofus and doesn’t often exercise common sense, but you root for that little trash panda nonetheless. 

What Is an Analogy?

All analogies compare two similar things in order to explain or illuminate something about one of them. They don’t all take the same approach toward completing that task, though.

There are two main varieties of analogy that you can use to hook a reader’s attention. Check out each subset of analogy definition below:

Identical Relationships

Analogies are used to represent relationships. These are those old, straightforward chestnuts — and by “chestnuts,” I mean “pains in the you-know-where” from standardized testing: A is to B as C is to D.

A simple example of an analogy that uses an identical relationship to explain something would be, “Frogs are to amphibians as jaguars are to mammals.” Frogs and jaguars are both members of a broader class of animals — amphibians and mammals, respectively.

Here’s another one: “Good is to evil as peace is to war.” Since both pairs are opposites, that’s another example of an analogy that tidily rests upon an identical relationship.

Shared Qualities

Other analogies get a bit more abstract — and if you’re a writer, parent or high school football coach, this is where all the fun and opportunities for colorful communication begin. Instead of utilizing straightforward relationships, these analogies compare via shared attributes. Here’s an example:

  • Marriage is to dating as Kenny G is to Motörhead.

Here, marriage and dating are being compared to two popular recording artists in order to illuminate the difference between being married and dating someone. The analogy posits that being married is like that sax-heavy smooth jazz music you might hear playing over the loudspeakers at your dentist’s office or perhaps a Jo-Ann Fabrics. In other words, it’s fine and tame and kind of boring.

On the other hand, the analogy for dating someone is like the music of a proto-thrash metal band. It’s exciting, it’s sexy and somebody might get a bottle broken over their head.

Right about now, you might be asking: “Hey, why couldn’t you just say that marriage can be dull and dating is almost always more fun?”

You could, but that conveys less meaning and specificity. Also? Yawn City.

Analogies are an engaging and revelatory way to explain things, especially abstract ideas such as dating, marriage, love and how relegation works in English Premier League soccer. Analogies add depth.

Creative Analogy Examples

While there are two main divisions of analogy definition, individual analogies come in all shapes and sizes. As you scope out the examples below, see if you can tell the difference between those that use identical relationships to make their point and those that rely on shared traits.

  • The Black-Eyed Peas are to music what Applebee’s is to steak.
  • Brenda feels about the keto diet the same way she feels about rollercoasters: they’re fine for somebody else to go on.
  • “The Godfather Part III” is to Coppola’s film trilogy what that 2:30 a.m. burrito run is after a fun night of drinking. It sounded good at the time, but nobody really needed it, and it made your roommate throw up in his mouth a little bit.
  • Jeff’s girlfriend, who lives in Canada, is a lot like Bigfoot. She has great hair, and we’re pretty sure she doesn’t exist.
  • Hawkeye is to “The Avengers” what Tito was to The Jackson 5.
  • You know at awards shows how the losing nominees all have to clap for the winner on camera? That’s what attending a bridal shower is like, but for at least an hour straight. You’re in uncomfortable clothes, clapping and smiling at shiny things you barely care about, surrounded largely by acquaintances and dreaming of the juicy burger you’re going to devour on the way home.

Common Word Analogy Examples

If you’re looking for simple word analogy examples that highlight the association between objects or concepts, consider the following:

  • Green is to color as square is to shape
  • Fridge is to cold as oven is to hot
  • Sheep is to mammal as lizard is to reptile
  • Birds are to cages as animals are to zoos
  • Fingers are to snapping as lips are to whistling
  • Apple is to fruit as cauliflower is to vegetable
  • Den is to bear as house is to person
  • Feet are to kicking as fists are to punching
  • Cat is to kitten as dog is to puppy
  • Mansion is to big as shack is to little
  • Chef is to food as artist is to painting
  • White is to black as cold is to hot

Do You Understand the Analogy Definition?

Analogies are essentially similes and metaphors that have leveled up. Literature, history and popular culture are littered with these colorful ways of enriching an audience’s understanding and laser-focusing your explanation of ideas, feelings and abstractions.

Got any analogies of which you’re especially fond? How about a favorite analogy definition or high school comedy? Make like “Clueless” and Cher — er, I mean share — in the comments below!

Cara Secrist
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