Analogy: Understanding Definition, Examples & Applications
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 6 min read


  1. What is an analogy?
  2. Examples of analogies
  3. Types of analogies
  4. How to use analogies
  5. Applications of analogies

Imagine you're trying to explain the concept of a sunrise to a child. You might say, "A sunrise is like when you slowly turn on a light in a dark room. At first, it's just a little bit of light, but as you keep turning the knob, the room gets brighter and brighter." Congratulations, you've just used an analogy! Now, let's dig a little deeper into the definition of analogy, some examples, and how you can use them in your everyday life.

What is an analogy?

So, what exactly is an analogy? In simple terms, an analogy is a comparison between two things that are somewhat alike but not exactly the same. It's a way to make sense of something new or complex by relating it to something familiar.

Analogy in Language

When we use analogies in language, we often use them to explain or illustrate an idea. For example, you might say, "Reading a book is like taking a journey. You start at one place, travel through the pages (or miles), and end up somewhere new." This analogy helps to convey the experience of reading in a vivid and relatable way. It's not exactly like going on a trip, but it's similar enough to help you understand the concept.

Definition of Analogy: A Comparison

At its core, the definition of analogy is a comparison. It's like saying, "This is to that as this other thing is to that other thing." For instance, "A kitten is to a cat as a puppy is to a dog." Here, the relationships between a kitten and a cat and a puppy and a dog are similar—they are both younger versions growing into an older version. This analogy helps to highlight that similarity.

Analogy vs Metaphor vs Simile

Now, you might be wondering how an analogy differs from a metaphor or a simile. A simile is a direct comparison, using words like "like" or "as"—"She's as busy as a bee." A metaphor is an implied comparison—"She's a busy bee." An analogy, on the other hand, compares two sets of things that have the same relationship. It's a bit more complex, but it can also paint a richer picture.

In the end, an analogy is a powerful tool for explaining, illustrating, and understanding. It's like a bridge that helps you cross from the known to the unknown. So, next time you're faced with a tricky concept or a new idea, try using an analogy. It might just make everything a little clearer.

Examples of analogies

Now that we've got a good grasp on the definition of analogy, let's move on to some real-life examples. Analogies are everywhere—used in literature, science, daily conversation, and even music. They're like the salt of language, adding flavor and clarity to our communication.

Analogies in Literature

Authors love using analogies to make their descriptions more vivid and relatable. For example, in George Orwell's "1984," he writes, "War is to a nation what exercise is to a body." Here, Orwell isn't saying that war is a form of exercise. Instead, he's comparing the effects of war on a nation to the effects of exercise on a body—both can be strengthening, but also exhausting and damaging in excess.

Analogies in Science

Science is another field where analogies are widely used. For instance, you've probably heard of the "lock and key" model to explain how enzymes work in the body. This analogy suggests that just as a key fits into a specific lock, an enzyme can only bind to a specific molecule.

Everyday Analogies

And of course, we use analogies in our everyday conversations without even realizing it. Remember the last time you said, "That's like comparing apples to oranges"? Well, that's an analogy! You're comparing the act of comparing two very different things to the act of comparing apples and oranges—both are fruit, but they're very different kinds of fruit. Analogies like these help to drive our points home and make our conversations more colorful.

So, whether you're reading a novel, learning about enzymes, or just chatting with a friend, keep an eye out for analogies. They're like hidden treasures, enriching our understanding and making communication more effective.

Types of analogies

Just like there are different flavors of ice cream, there are also different types of analogies. Each type serves a unique purpose and brings a distinct flavor to our language. Let's dive into a few specific types.

Metaphorical Analogies

Ever heard the phrase, "Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get"? This is a metaphorical analogy, where two different things are compared based on a shared abstract concept—in this case, the unpredictability of life and a box of chocolates.

Proportional Analogies

Consider the statement, "A kitten is to a cat as a puppy is to a dog." Here, the relationship between a kitten and a cat is compared to the relationship between a puppy and a dog. This type of analogy is known as a proportional analogy.

Functional Analogies

A functional analogy focuses on the function or role of objects or ideas. For instance, "The heart is like a pump." Here, the function of the heart (to pump blood) is compared to the function of a pump (to move fluid).

These are just a few examples of the different types of analogies. So, next time you stumble upon an analogy, take a moment to identify what type it is—it's like solving a mini puzzle!

How to use analogies

Now that you have a clear definition of analogy and know about its diverse types, let's explore how to use analogies effectively. Consider an analogy as a tool in your communication toolbox. When used correctly, it can make your sentences more vibrant and your ideas more relatable.

Know Your Audience

First and foremost, consider who you're talking to. If you're explaining the solar system to a child, you might say, "Think of the sun as a big, bright beach ball, and the planets as tiny marbles spinning around it."

Keep it Simple

Keep your analogies simple and straightforward. Remember, the goal is to clarify, not to confuse. For instance, saying, "A good book is like a friend that never lets you down" is much more effective than a complex, convoluted comparison.

Be Consistent

Consistency is key when using analogies. Once you've established a comparison, stick with it throughout your conversation or piece of writing. It helps keep the imagery clear and the understanding deep.

Use Analogies Sparingly

While analogies can be powerful, they can also be overwhelming if overused. It's like adding salt to your food: a little enhances the flavor, but too much can ruin the dish.

So, next time you're finding it hard to explain a complex concept, draw an analogy. It's like painting a picture with words—colorful, expressive, and deeply meaningful.

Applications of analogies

Analogies are not just limited to storytelling or casual conversations. They hold a significant place in various fields and professions. Let's take a look at where you'll see the definition of analogy come to life.

Educational Settings

Teachers often use analogies to make complex lessons easier to grasp. For example, an English teacher might explain a metaphor by comparing it to a mask, saying, "Just like a mask, a metaphor disguises the literal meaning of words and reveals a deeper understanding."

Scientific Research

In the realm of science, analogies help simplify complex theories. For example, you might have heard of the "lock and key" analogy used to explain how enzymes work in our bodies. This analogy makes the complex biochemical process more understandable.

In legal arguments, analogies can make a point more compelling. Lawyers often use analogies to compare a current case to a past precedent. It's like saying, "This lawsuit is as clear as the Johnson case. Just as they were liable then, so should our defendant be now."

Advertising and Marketing

Advertisers and marketers use analogies to connect with their audience on an emotional level. For example, a car commercial might liken their latest model to 'freedom' or 'adventure', creating a powerful and appealing image in the viewers' minds.

Therapeutic and Counseling Settings

Last but not least, therapists and counselors often use analogies to help clients understand their feelings or behaviors. For example, comparing negative thoughts to clouds in the sky—they're temporary and, with time, they'll pass.

From classrooms to courtrooms, from labs to counseling rooms, the applications of analogies are as diverse as they are impactful. So, whether you're a teacher, scientist, lawyer, marketer, or therapist, an apt analogy can often be the key to unlocking deeper understanding.

If you enjoyed exploring the concept of analogy in this blog post and want to see how it can be applied in the world of illustration, check out the workshop 'An Analog & Digital Mix: Customising Your Tools As An Illustrator' by Florencia Fuertes. This workshop will teach you how to combine analog and digital tools in your creative process, opening up new possibilities for your illustrations and helping you develop your own unique style.