Analogy vs Metaphor vs Simile


  1. Allegory: A fictional symbolic representation of truths about human existence.
  2. Analogy: A resemblance in some particulars between things otherwise unlike.
  3. Conceit: a. fanciful idea b. an elaborate or strained metaphor.
  4. Figurative: expressing one thing in terms normally denoting another with which it may be regarded as analogous.
  5. Literal: b. adhering to fact or to the ordinary construction or primary meaning of a term or expression: ACTUAL c. free from exaggeration or embellishment d. characterized by a concern mainly for facts.
  6. Metaphor: a figure of speech in which a word or phrase literally denotes one kind of object or idea is used in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them (as in drowning in money): broadly, figurative language, compare simile.
  7. Simile: A figure of speech comparing two unlike things that is often introduced by like or as (cheeks like roses).

Comparing Analogy Metaphor Simile

A metaphor is a type of speech or writing. A metaphor is an indirect comparison between two disparate things. A simile is a pointed, direct and explicit metaphor that makes a comparison between two disparate things. In essence, a simile is a literal declaration of a non-literal relationship between two concepts, entities or domains. A conceit is a type of metaphor that is unrealistic. Figurative is an adjective that describes parts of speech or the written word. Metaphorical writing is a category of writing and it is synonymous with figurative writing. Poetry, typically, is highly metaphorical writing. In contrast, legal briefs are logical, literal and to the point.

Analogy is a broader term that encompasses the written word, mathematics and symbolic logic. "Analogy" is a cognitive process that links two disparate entities by common particulars. It can be written, verbal, mathematical (A/B=C/D) or perhaps a style of thinking. One possible phrasing is that a metaphor is implicit analogy and a simile is explicit analogy.

Analogy can also used to make an extended argument that one thing is like another. In this passage from Writing Well by Donald Hall, the author states:

"We use this third term[analogy], besides simile and metaphor, for a comparison that makes or illustrates a point, and usually takes longer to say than a metaphor or simile. An analogy can be extended into a whole essay; minsters' sermons are sometime analogies-life is like the hundred-yard dash; birth is the starting gun, the tape is death, God is the judge. A whole book, or system of thought, can be based on analogy. Oswald Spengler, in The Decline of the West, at the beginning states an analogy, that a civilization is an organism, is born, grows old, and dies; then he writes a long book to make a factual case for his analogy."

Definitions' Source: Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 10th edition

 venn diagram analogy vs metaphor literal thinking conceit simile
METANet: The Metaphor Repository and Identification Pipeline

Green Venn Diagram

METAMIA is a free database of analogy and metaphor. Anyone can contribute or search. The subject matter can be anything. Science is popular, but poetry is encouraged. The goal is to integrate our fluid muses with the stark literalism of a relational database. Metamia is like a girdle for your muses, a cognitive girdle.