Make Your Editor Cry: Analogy vs. Simile vs. Metaphor

Make Your Editor Cry:  Analogy vs. Simile vs. Metaphor

Analogy, Simile, and Metaphor all make comparisons, but do so in different ways.

Analogy is an argument that logically compares things based on particular aspects that each item being compared share in common to help explain both.

An analogy is a type of logical argument used to emphasize a certain point. Analogy is best thought of as a comparison of two things to help explain an idea or concept.

Analogy is usually balanced. The mathematical expression 5 is to 25 as 20 is to 100 is a great use of analogy.

Example (Analogy):

A panda is to bears as an orca is to whales.
A captain is to a platoon as a head coach is to a baseball team.

The first analogy is that both creatures are representative types within a classification of animals. The second analogy is that both leaders direct the operations of a group in an organized manner to execute missions and achieve tactical or strategic objectives.

Simile claims that something is very much alike with something else, and so claims that they share one or more similar traits or aspects.

A simile is a figure of speech, more of a literary device than a logical statement. Simile is a phrase that compares one thing with another thing to make a description more vivid. Similes usually use the words “like” or “as” between the things being compared. With simile, the things being compared often do have some correspondence in kind or quality, or a point of comparison. That is to say, they share some similitude.

Example (Simile):

A panda bear is like a killer whale.
A panda bear is as colorful as an orca.
A platoon leader is like a baseball coach.

Metaphor directly claims that something is, in fact, something else.

Like simile, metaphor is also more of a literary device than a logical statement. Metaphor is a word or phrase that literally takes on the meaning of something else. While a simile would claim “a panda bear is like an orca,” or that “a panda bear is as colorful as an orca” a metaphor claims “the panda bear is an orca,” even though that statement obviously isn’t true. Truthfully speaking, pandas are not orcas.

Metaphor is a figure of speech often employed in poetry. Strictly speaking, most metaphors aren’t actually true and, though the things being compared could share one or more aspects in common, usually the similarity isn’t as concrete or direct as with analogy or simile.

Where simile might say something like “Her gown and lipstick were red like her hair,” metaphor might say something like, “With her gown and lipstick, the redhead was a still river winding through a desert at sunset.”

In literary fiction, metaphor is most often used when comparing concrete things to concepts, because the resulting comparison reads as more poetic than either analogy or simile would.

Examples (Metaphor):

Time is a raging beast.
Life is a journey.
Birth is a miracle.

Remember that metaphors and similes are both figures of speech, while an analogy is a type of logical argument.

A metaphor is something, a simile is like something, and an analogy explains something, specifically how one thing being like another helps explain them both.



Time is like a thief because thieves steal things and time steals moments of our lives.
Joe’s sense of personal hygiene is on the same level as a pig that rolls around in mud all day.
Metaphor and simile are alike in that they are figures of speech that make comparisons.


Time is like a thief.
Joe is as dirty as a pig.
A simile is like a metaphor.


Time is a thief.
Joe is a pig.
A metaphor is a simile.

As you can see all three use comparisons, but they’re not exactly the same.

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