Metaphor vs. simile vs. analogy

The difference between metaphors, similes, and analogies is how an author uses each figure of speech to make a comparison. While all three are methods of comparison, each serves a different function.

The ability to define and identify examples of each can help in determining their function. In general, the three types of figurative language differ in the following ways:

Differences between simile, metaphor, and analogy
Metaphor Simile Analogy
Definition Comparison between two dissimilar things that have some underlying connection Using "like" or "as" to compare two contrasting things that are connected in some way Comparing two unrelated things to explain or clarify rather than to show
Function Presents ideas that are well understood to help readers/listeners comprehend a new idea through vivid imagery; showing instead of telling. Uses "like" or "as" to provide an obvious comparison between two items. Explains abstract and complex ideas, allowing for a clearer understanding.
Example Love is a battlefield. Love is like a battlefield. Love is like a battlefield – you have to avoid the mines to find the right path.

Simile vs. metaphor vs. analogy differences

Metaphor definition and examples

A metaphor is a literary device that compares two unlike items or ideas that contain some fundamental connection. Their use allows authors/speakers to show the audience their ideas rather than tell them. By incorporating vivid imagery to develop the metaphor, an audience is better able to comprehend its meaning.

Definition of metaphor with example

The English language is full of common examples of metaphors, including:

  • Blanket of snow
  • Better half
  • Slippery slope
  • Roller coaster of emotions
  • Heart of gold
  • Couch potato
  • Melting pot
  • Late bloomer

Common metaphor examples

These metaphors are in well-known literary works:

“The sun in the west was a drop of burning gold that slid near and nearer the sill of the world.” — Lord of the Flies by William Golding.
“But soft, what light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun!” —Romeo & Juliet by William Shakespeare.
“The sun was a toddler insistently refusing to go to bed: It was past eight-thirty and still light.” — The Fault in our Stars by John Green.
There are several types of metaphors, including mixed metaphors, extended metaphors, and implied metaphors.

Simile definition and examples

A simile is a type of metaphor that includes "like" or "as," providing a much more direct obvious comparison.

Definition of simile with example

Everyday examples of similes include:

  • Cute as a button
  • Runs like the wind
  • Happy as a clam
  • Swims like a dolphin
  • Slept like a baby
  • Tough as nails
  • Grows like a weed
  • Sweet as sugar
  • Fought like cats and dogs
  • White as a ghost

Common simile examples

The following similes are in well-known literary works:

"And life is too much like a pathless wood Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs" – "Birches" by Robert Frost
"They were both in white and their dresses were rippling and fluttering as if they had just been blown back in after a short flight around the house." – The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
"The other was fair, as fair as can be, with great masses of golden hair and eyes like pale sapphires." – Dracula by Bram Stoker

A famous example of a simile in popular culture is from the movie Forrest Gump. Forrest says...

My mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.

Analogy definition and examples

An analogy is a comparison authors/speakers use that explains or clarifies an abstraction, making the idea easier to understand. Analogies help develop a mental image of a complex concept in the reader’s mind.

Analogy definition and function

The following literary examples contain analogies:

“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.” – Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
“The animals looked from man to pig and from pig to man, and once again yet it was not possible to tell which was which.” – Animal Farm by George Orwell
"A nation wearing atomic armor is like a knight whose armor has grown so heavy he is immobilized; he can hardly walk, hardly sit his horse, hardly think, hardly breathe. The H-bomb is an extremely effective deterrent to war, but it has little virtue as a weapon of war, because it would leave the world uninhabitable." – Sootfall and Fallout by E.B. White

What you learned:

After working your way through this lesson and video, you have learned:

  • The difference between simile, metaphor, and analogy
  • What a metaphor is and how it is used.
  • The definition of a simile and how it is used.
  • What an analogy is and it's uses in English
Instructor: Malcolm M.
Malcolm has a Master's Degree in education and holds four teaching certificates. He has been a public school teacher for 27 years, including 15 years as a mathematics teacher.

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