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What Is the Difference between Analogy and Metaphor?

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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 22 August 2016
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While both analogy and metaphor are used in written and verbal expressions to compare two different things to each other, they do so in very different ways. An analogy is typically a fairly long comparison, utilizing certain aspects of each thing being compared to demonstrate similarity between them, and then extending this similarity to other aspects. This type of comparison may utilize metaphorical speech, but is not typically meant to imply that the compared objects or ideas are the same. The difference between metaphor and analogy then lies in the language used, as a metaphor is a rather short expression that directly equates two things.

It is easiest to understand the difference between analogy and metaphor by first understanding what each concept represents. An analogy is a comparison between two different things typically constructed along multiple points that show similarities between certain features or aspects of each thing. For example, an analogy can be drawn between humans and ants by demonstrating that each creature builds elaborate cities and structures, demonstrates hierarchical social behaviors, and utilizes other creatures for labor. This compares the two species to show similarities, but does not contain an argument that states that ants and humans are the same.

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The lack of a direct comparison is one of the major differences between analogy and metaphor. A metaphorical statement typically does utilize a direct comparison between two different things, not through comparing different aspects of each thing to demonstrate similarities, but by saying one thing is another. Metaphorical language does not use the words “like” or “as,” and instead simply says that one thing is another thing to draw a comparison. The phrase, “Men are merely ants scrambling through their sparkling cities of dirt and sand, struggling to survive and obeying the commands of their leaders” is a metaphor.

This demonstrates the major difference between analogy and metaphor, since in the metaphor the humans are literally called ants, while in the analogy comparisons are made to demonstrate similarities. Analogy and metaphor can be used together, however, and metaphors and similes are often used in the construction of an analogy. A simile is much like a metaphor, except the words “like” or “as” are used to compare the two things, rather than directly saying one is the other. “People are like ants” would be a simile, since it indicates that humans and ants are similar, but does not say one is the other.

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Pippinwhite
Post 1

A metaphor says something *is* another thing: "The snow was powdered sugar on the grass."

An analogy draws a comparison between two things: "Food was to Joe like pollen is to bees." It doesn't say Joe is food, or a bee or pollen. It just tries to illustrate how much Joe likes to eat.

Metaphors are usually a little easier to construct than analogies. Constructing a good analogy means the person has to first pick a familiar comparison that will be understood by the reader. Bees like pollen, and most people know this, so that's a familiar comparison. If the writer or speaker's initial comparison isn't readily known to the audience, then it is lost on them. They will not understand why the analogy is so apt unless they understand the first point of comparison.

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