What Is the Difference between Analogy and Simile?

A.E. Freeman

While analogy and simile are both comparisons of two seemingly unrelated things, they are not the same. A simile is a figure of speech, while an analogy is a type of argument; a simile is also a type of metaphor, while an analogy is not. Generally, an analogy is more complex than a simile. Another key difference between the two is that similes in English use either "as" or "like" to make their comparison.

"Her hair shone like the sun" is an example of a simile.
"Her hair shone like the sun" is an example of a simile.

A simile is usually structured in one of two ways. The figure of speech can use the word "like" to compare two items. An example using "like" is, "Her hair shone like the sun." Hair and the sun usually are not considered the same, but the simile describes them as shining in a similar manner. An example of a simile using "as" is, "His teeth were as white as clouds." In that simile, the man's teeth are compared to the color of clouds.

"Her teeth were as white as clouds" is an example of a simile.
"Her teeth were as white as clouds" is an example of a simile.

Analogies are used to make a connection between two objects or ideas to better explain the first object. For example, a short type of analogy is, "Coffee is to caffeine as beer is to alcohol." Coffee and beer are both beverages, and caffeine and alcohol are the drugs they contain. In some instances, it may be difficult to determine the connection between the two items.

"Coffee is to caffeine as beer is to alcohol" is an example of an analogy.
"Coffee is to caffeine as beer is to alcohol" is an example of an analogy.

Another key difference between an analogy and simile is that a simile is a type of metaphor. A metaphor compares one thing to another by stating that the first thing is equal to the second. "Her hair is the sun," is a metaphor, while a simile simply states that her hair shines like the sun.

Analogy and simile also differ in that an analogy can be far more complex than a simile. A writer can craft an entire story as an analogy, while a simile is simply the language the author uses when crafting a story or other piece of writing. An analogy can be more difficult to discern than a simile, as it doesn't have the required "like" or "as."

Analogy and simile further differ in that an analogy can be used to convince someone of something. A person can compare two items when making an argument to prove his point. In some cases, the connection between the two items can be very thin, resulting in a weak analogy. For example, a person may attempt to argue that eating ice cream is the same as drinking milk, as both are dairy products. The analogy ignores the fact that ice cream is higher in fat and contains more sugar than milk.

"His love is like a red rose," is an example of a simile.
"His love is like a red rose," is an example of a simile.

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Discussion Comments


Similes can't be "figures of speech." One thing is indeed "like" another. The metaphor is figurative because it says what isn't something is that something. Similes aren't figurative.

If what "the post" defines a simile as, they aren't different from analogies because they do make a logical argument.


@indigomoth - I can spot a simile a mile away but I still feel like I'm guessing a little when it comes to analogies.

I do love them in literature and films though. They just add a whole new dimension to something if you can spot them.

I think that's why I'm so fond of the book and film Life of Pi. The analogies in there were very subtle but at the same time the author basically explains them to some extent at the end so that you can examine them properly.


@clintflint - I guess an analogy can use similes in the description though, so the distinction isn't always that clear. I mean, if you take the example of the Narnia books the author might have written something like "The voice of the lion was like the voice of God" and that would be a simile as well as being part of the analogy comparing Aslan to Jesus.

At the same time, the intention of a sentence like that might just be to show how loud or authoritative the lion's voice was, rather than to actually draw a direct comparison between the two figures. So I guess with a little bit of thinking you can see the difference between a metaphor, a simile and an analogy.


Really, the easiest way to tell if something is a simile is if it uses "like" or "as" to compare two different things. There are plenty of metaphor and simile examples out there and they are fairly easy to distinguish, even if they tend to be used so easily that people might not notice them.

Analogy is much more complex and can be more difficult to understand. It might be more subtle as well. An entire book could be constructed as an analogy, but if it is a decent book then it can be read and enjoyed without any knowledge of that extra dimension.

For example, the Narnia series is often read and enjoyed by children who don't understand or notice the biblical analogies that permeate the story-lines. If anything, I've heard lots of people say they felt betrayed by the revelation that Mr. Lewis was using his books to preach a certain message.

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