What Is an Analogy? (with Examples)


An analogy is a comparison of two things to highlight their similarities. (Often the things being compared are physically different, but an analogy highlights how they are alike.)

Easy Examples of Analogies

  • Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get. (Forrest Gump)
  • Plan A is like ejecting the pilot to make the plane lighter.

Real-life Examples of Analogies

An analogy is commonly presented as a simile or a metaphor.

Simile. A simile is a figure of speech in which one thing is likened to another. These analogies are all similes:
  • The passengers arrive like molasses in January.
  • Men are like bank accounts. More money equals more interest. (Anon)
Metaphor. A metaphor is a figure of speech that asserts that one thing is something that it literally is not. These analogies are all metaphors:
  • A singer? She's a crow.
  • Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan. (Anon)
Analogy can also be presented in the form of allegory or a parable.

Allegory. Often evident in storytelling, allegory is the use of characters and events that represent things in real life (e.g., using characters who represent famous people or concepts such as good and evil, or writing a storyline that mirrors a historical event). For example, in "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe", Aslan's sacrifice, death and return into the story allegorically refer to Jesus's crucifixion and resurrection. In George Orwell's "Animal Farm", Napoleon (a fierce-looking Berkshire boar) is an allegory of Joseph Stalin. In the Forrest Gump quotation "Life is like a box of chocolates", the word chocolates is an allegoric reference to real-life situations (e.g., poverty, wealth, fame).

Parable. A parable is a short fictional story designed to deliver a moral lesson. "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" and "The Good Samaritan" are well-known examples.

Why Should I Care about Analogies?

There are two good reasons to care about analogies.

(Reason 1) Snatch a few more points in an English exam.

When studying other people's writing (e.g., for an English exam), you will score points for recognising any analogies used and the type of analogy. If you can weave a sentence like "The gang allegorically represents the Third Reich" into your exam answer, you'll bag a few more marks.

(Reason 2) Convey a new idea succinctly.

Using an analogy can be an interesting and succinct way to convey a new idea. Interest will be created because your readers will consider the connections between the elements in your analogy, and succinctness will be achieved because one of the elements in your analogy will be a well-understood concept, removing the need for a long explanation.

Analogies are common in creative writing, but they can also be useful in business writing to simplify ideas and to make a point memorable. Here is an example of an analogy from a business document:
  • The stakeholders' proposal would be the most profitable in the short term, but we'd be building our house on a flood plain.
Don't overuse analogies in business writing, especially similes, which are often witty and therefore inappropriate for a serious business document.
  • A simile must match the tone of its surroundings. Writing a simile that isn't funny on some level is quite hard. (Novelist Ned Beauman)

See Also

What is irony? What is figurative language? What are similes? What are metaphors?