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Analogy: Definition, How It Works and Examples In Writing

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An analogy is one of many literary devices writers use to illustrate their point.

You’ll find it in fiction, non-fiction, persuasive essays, and political speeches.

Understanding how to use analogies can make you a more effective writer and, therefore, a better blogger.

This article will explain what an analogy is, how it works, and the many different ways you can use it.

Then, we’ll explore famous examples of analogies to ensure you understand how to use them.

What Is an Analogy?

An analogy is a form of literary comparison that explains the resemblance between two things that may seem unlike each other.

Also Known As:

  • Comparison
  • Resemblance
  • Parallelism

Simple Definition: How To Explain an Analogy to a Child

If you’re trying to explain an analogy to a child, you might say it’s a way of showing how two things are alike when they might not seem alike.

For example, cows and lizards are very different, but they’re also comparable.

They’re both animals with four legs.

So, in the same way a cow roams, a lizard crawls.

Why Is an Analogy Used?

Many types of writers use analogies in literature and persuasive pieces to make arguments and illustrate their points.  

Types of Analogies

Analogies follow basic patterns, making them relatively easy to spot and understand.

Below, we list some of the most common analogy types.

  • Synonyms: In this form, an analogy will consist of two pairs of similar things. For example, pause is to stay as leave is to go.
  • Antonyms: When using an antonym, the analogy will consist of two pairs of opposites. For example, low is to high as small is to large.
  • Cause and Effect Analogies: In this type of analogy, you’ll see a pair of causes and effects that parallel one another. For example, an earthquake can cause a tsunami, like a candle can cause a house fire.
  • Part to Whole Analogies: This type of analogy starts with something specific and moves to something more general. For example, a hallway is to a house as a street is to a neighborhood.  
  • Characteristic Quality Analogies: These analogies use a pair of things and their most basic characteristics. For example, the day is light as the night is dark.
  • Performer/Object Analogies: In these, the first part of each analogous pair will be the performer and the second the object. For example, a pianist is to a piano as a sculptor is to a rock.
  • Performer/Action Analogies: In this type, the first part of each pair will be the performer, and the second part the performer’s action. For example, a fish swims like a cheetah sprints.

How Do You Identify an Analogy?

Anytime you see a comparison between two seemingly unlike things, you have an analogy.

Often, the writer will go on to explain the analogy so that the reader understands why these things are the same.  

How Do You Use an Analogy in a Sentence?

Writers use analogies in all sorts of content types, from literature to persuasive essays.

Anytime you want to compare two things while making an explanatory point, you should use an analogy.

Typically, you’ll use familiar imagery in the form of a simile or metaphor.

Then, you may go on to explain the point you’re making.  

Analogies are rarely one sentence in length, but you’ll find some of the most effective ones are short and sweet.

Below, we’ll give several examples at varying lengths so that you can see what we mean.

What Is the Most Popular Example of an Analogy?

Perhaps the most popular example of an analogy is from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

Almost everyone has heard this one:

“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.”

Here, Juliet is comparing Romeo to a rose.

With the comparison, she’s explaining that his name doesn’t indicate who he is.

You could call a rose a hamburger, and it would still be a rose.

In the same way, Romeo could not have his family’s name, and he would still be Romeo.

Other Famous Examples of Analogies

Shakespeare isn’t the only analogy master.

There are several classic analogies that you’ve probably heard.

  • When speaking about a task someone believes is futile, they might say it’s “like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.”
  • “Explaining a joke is like dissecting a frog. You understand it better, but the frog dies in the process.” – E.B. White
  • “Raising children is like growing a garden – nurture them and be patient.” – Unknown.

Other Modern Examples of Analogies

Several modern writers excel at analogies.

Here are a few you may have come across.

  • “Life is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get.” – Forrest Gump.
  • “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. This could eventually result, in effect, in demands for unilateral withdrawal.” – Henry Kissinger, in a memo to President Nixon regarding troops in Vietnam
  • “Longbottom, if brains were gold, you’d be poorer than Weasley, and that’s saying something.” – J.K Rowling, Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone.

Examples of Analogies for Kids

When teaching analogies to children, it’s best to keep things simple, using examples they’ll understand.

If possible, you also want to preserve a playful, puzzle-like quality that makes them fun to think about.

  • “If you can speak, you can sing. If you can walk, you can dance.”
  • “Fish are to aquariums as animals are to zoos.”
  • “Marshmallows are squishy like pretzels are crunchy.”

Examples of Analogies for Inductive Reasoning

Writers often use analogies to show their reasoning for a particular argument.

Inductive reasoning is when you argue that perceived similarities between two things infer a further similarity you’ve yet to observe.

Here are a few examples of analogies that demonstrate inductive reasoning:

  • Jennie has a biology test next week. For her last biology test, she studied four hours and got an A. For the next test, she plans to study for four hours again. So, she expects to get an A again.
  • The Dodgers won the world series last year because of their incredible line-up. This year, their line-up is very similar. So, we think they’ll win again.
  • In 1934, a pharmacist named Schaumann observed Demerol had a physical effect on the rats in his lab that was the same as morphine. Like morphine, the compound created an S-shape in the rat’s tails. So, by analogy, he correctly predicted that Demerol might have the same narcotic effects as morphine.

Examples of Analogies for Deductive Reasoning

Deductive reasoning is when you conclude that something true of a general category is also true of its individual members.

This form of reasoning can help writers illustrate an argument and make their point.

Here are a few examples of analogies that demonstrate deductive reasoning:

  • If cities require libraries to serve the common good, it’s also crucial to have books in every home for families to thrive.
  • Humans eating beef is like aliens eating humans. So, the argument would be that eating meat is a violent and brutal practice.
  • A public pool is like a miniature beach. So, a lifeguard should be on duty to keep swimmers safe.

Notable Writers Who Used Analogies

Most writers use analogies in some form, but some are more famous than others.

Below, we explore a few well-known writers and their most effective analogies.

William Shakespeare

As shown in our Romeo and Juliet example, Shakespeare was a master at analogy.

You’ll find many famous analogies in his plays, like Macbeth, As You Like It, and Hamlet.

For example, in Macbeth, Shakespeare writes:

“Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage

And then is heard no more. It is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.”

Like this one, Shakespeare’s analogies usually illustrate a deep truth about humanity, making them relevant even today.

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross was a renowned psychiatrist who wrote the bestseller, On Death and Dying.

In her work, she uses a beautiful and famous analogy comparing humans to stained glass windows.

Using this analogy, she takes what seems like indescribable human characteristics and makes them understandable.

George Orwell

George Orwell is well-known for his books Animal Farm and 1984.

He’s a master at analogy and effectively uses this literary device to invoke ideas and moods.

In his work, A Hanging, he compares a dead man to a caught fish.

In so doing, he creates a sense of the paranormal, giving the idea that the man might come back to life and jump back into the sea.

What Is the Opposite of an Analogy?

The exact opposite of an analogy would be an incongruity or dissimilarity, which is fairly straightforward.

Many writers, though, get confused between analogies and metaphors.

Though not exactly opposites of one another, these two literary devices are different. We discuss why below.

Analogy vs. Metaphor

Analogies compare two things to make an explanatory point.

The comparison is always valid, though it may need a writer’s explanation for the reader to understand.

A metaphor also compares two things.

But, with metaphors, the writer can make a comparison where there might not be one, forcing the reader to create the meaning without an explanation.

For example, saying he is a rose would be a metaphor.

But Juliet’s speech, with its discussion, creates an analogy.

Other Related Literary Devices To Know

When learning how to write a blog post, analogies are important, but there are other similar literary devices worth understanding as well.

  • Paradox: This is a statement that seems self-contradictory or absurd but turns out to be true.
  • Metaphor: This is when a word or phrase applied to an object or action isn’t literally applicable. It can also be a symbol of something abstract.
  • Archetype:This is a recurrent symbol or motif that appears throughout art and literature.
  • Simile:This is a comparison that uses “like” or “as” to invoke a particularly vivid description to a reader.
  • Symbolism: This is the use of symbols to represent or explain ideas.

Writing Tools To Help You Out

Writing an awesome blog post is easier with the right writing tools.

You can take advantage of them to help you become a better writer.

Check out the ones below before you start writing your next post.

  • Writing Helpers: There are all sorts of writing helpers available these days. They can help you organize your thoughts, give tips for writing, and make your message clear. If you’re having trouble creating content, these writing helpers can help you with the writing process.
  • AI Writing Software: AI writing software can be very helpful for bloggers. It can save you time and ensure your writing is optimized for SEO, allowing your site to become more visible in search engines.
  • Grammar Checkers: Grammar can be tricky for even the best writers. So, using a grammar checker when composing your blog is an excellent idea, especially if you want to build credibility among your readers.
  • Content Creators: Finding things to write about is one of the hardest parts of blogging, and keeping your blog full of new content is crucial to success. Content creators can help you find, research, and organize fresh ideas and create content for your blog.

Frequently Asked Questions

Before we go, let’s answer a few frequently asked questions surrounding analogies.

Is a simile an analogy?

A simile in itself isn’t an analogy.

However, analogies often contain similes.

After using a simile, though, the writer will typically go on to explain their point.

What is the main purpose of an analogy?

An analogy draws a comparison between two things to illustrate a broader explanatory point.

Wrapping Up

Whether you write fiction, non-fiction, argumentative essays, or how-to guides, analogies are a helpful literary device.

They can help illustrate points that are hard to grasp.

Through vivid imagery and hard logic, analogies show your readers the sense of your arguments.

To use analogies effectively, stick to imagery and examples your audience is familiar with and aim to inspire as you explain.

Doing so will ensure your analogies communicate your message.

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