Difference Between Metaphor vs Analogy

Difference Between Metaphor vs Analogy

This article is all about determining the difference between analogy and metaphor as many people get the two confused when they attempt to use them as part of written and spoken language. In truth, they are actually very different from one another.

By the time you have read through to the end of this post, you will have a full understanding of the different definitions of each word in conjunction with examples of how you would use either form of expressive language effectively. We have also included a quick reference table to help you highlight their contrasting areas with a quick glance.

Definition of Metaphor

The definition of a metaphor is an expressive form of language where one completely unrelated object, action, or item is used to replace another to help offer a fuller understanding of a circumstance, person, or situation.

When comparing metaphor vs analogy, we are actually observing two very similar mechanisms of speech or language albeit with one key difference that significantly separates the two. With a metaphor, one object or action directly replaces another whereas with an analogy an object is instead used as a means of comparing one thing to another.

With a metaphor, you are essentially trying to offer an alternative perspective on something by making reference to something else that can help to make it easier to understand the underlying message you are trying to convey. For example, consider the following metaphor: “Tom’s eyes were ice as he glared.”

In this example, you are directly taking the human eye and replacing it with ice in order to make the reader understand that this person’s gaze is very cold and harsh. Rather than comparing the eye to ice, you are instead directly saying that it is in fact ice to make it easier to comprehend its appearance.

We do not see this direct replacement of one element with another when using an analogy. Instead, we simply make reference to two completely different items or actions to help project our intended message.

Definition of Analogy

The definition of an analogy is an expressive form of speech or written language where one item, circumstance, or action is compared to another in order to aid in gaining a deeper understanding of a situation, action, or object.

As you are aware by now, the difference between metaphor and analogy all comes down to the means by which we compare two actions or objects. With a metaphor, we are directly replacing one element with another, but with an analogy, we are simply making reference to one unrelated item or object to help someone gain a better understanding of another.

If we take the previous metaphor example and turn it into an analogy, it would instead be structured as follows: “Tom’s eyes looked like ice as he glared.”

When this sentence was a metaphor, we directly stated that the individual’s eyes were in fact ice. As an analogy, we simply state that the individual’s eyes looked like ice. This is ultimately the key difference that sets these two forms of expression apart.

Main Differences Between Metaphor vs Analogy

The key variations between analogy vs metaphor can be found in the table below.

Basis of ComparisonAnalogyMetaphor
Nature of comparisonCompares one item or action to anotherDirectly replaces one item or action with another
LengthTypically longer and more elaborateTypically shorter in length
Use of connecting wordsThe words “like” and “as” are regularly usedThe words “as” and “like” are not typically featured
InterconnectivityCan consist of metaphor and simileAnalogies require metaphors to exist
Examples“His face looked like thunder”“His face was thunder”

Difference Between Metaphor and Analogy: Conclusion

We hope that you now feel confident enough to be able to summarize these two integral forms of expressive language going forward thanks to the information we have provided you with today.

Although this comparison can be somewhat confusing at first, you should now finally understand the different intricacies that go into forming the structure of each.

Just remember that in summary a metaphor requires the direct replacement of one thing with another whereas an analogy simply makes a comparison between two elements. Come back to our quick reference table anytime you find yourself lost about this subject again in the future.