What Does Analogy Mean? A Look at the Types of Analogies with Examples

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Analogies 101

Analogies are word relationships which compare a pair of words – fast to slow for example and two pairs of words – fast is to slow as apex is to foundation. If you are unaware of one of the terms in the analogy, the relationship between one of the pairs of words cues you into the relationship of the other pair of words. In the example, fast and slow are opposites, as are apex and foundation. Analogies are not only antanoym relationships. They can be synonyms, worker and tool used, tool and object its used upon, worker and object he creates, cause and effect or effect and cause. Other word relationships used in writing analogies are material used and end product, function of a tool, part to whole, masculine and feminine, age, person and adjective describing that person, symbol and what it stands for, measurement, classification and type and degree of intensity, according to Diana Dell of Teaching and Learning with Technology.1

Synonyms and Antonyms

One of the most common examples of analogies uses synonyms or antonyms. Opposite relationships, or antonyms, are clear to understand. Some examples are crying is to laughing as artificial is to genuine. Synonym analogies describe similar word relationships – finish is to end as posterior is to backside.

Cause and Effect or Effect and Cause

Cause and effect or effect and cause are basically the same word relationships simply listed in a different order. An example of a cause and effect analogy is lightning is to forest fire as hurricane is to tsunami. In this analogy, the relationship helps you understand each effect was a direct result of the cause. To write am effect to cause relationship, reverse the order of the words.

Workers, Tools and Products

Carpenter is to hammer as dentist is to drill is an example of a worker to tool analogy. Lumber is to house as flour is to cake shows how to write an analogy which shows a material and its end product. An analogy which explains the function of a tool helps you understand tools which may be unfamiliar to you. For instance, saw is to cut as rasp is to file, explains the connection between the items.

Part to Whole

Part to whole relationship analogies are simple to understand. An example of this type of relationship is leaf is to tree as cushion is to couch.

Masculine to Feminine

Some occupations have a name that varies depending on the sex of the person in the job. Word analogies can be written describing the relationships of masculine and feminine jobs – host is to hostess as actor is to actress. When using analogies, make sure the words are in the correct order. For instance, host is to hostess as actress is to actor, is not a correct comparison of the terms because of the order of the words. Bride is to groom as madame is to mister is another illustration which differentiates gender, not in an occupation necessarily, but in the role played.

Comparing Ages

An analogy can be written which compares the ages of things. An example for this word relationship is baby is to adult as pullet is to hen. If you are unfamiliar with one of the terms, like pullet, you can infer it is a baby female chicken by using the clues in the analogy.

Titles and Adjectives

Another word relationship that can be written as an analogy contains a title and an adjective to describe that person. For instance, teacher is to patient as surfer is to agile. The adjective could also be one which least describes that person, teacher is to stupid as surfer is to lazy.


Heart is to love as flag is to pride is an example of a symbol to what it stands for analogy. Another illustration of this type of analogy is four-leaf clover is to luck as rose is to love.

Memory Study Game

To further understand and study analogies, make analogy flash cards. On the cards write a pair of words that share an obvious relationship. Write a card which matches that type of analogy – hot to cold is written on one card and send to receive is on another card. Make a stack of 18 cards. Some of the matches can explain the type of relationship – write part to whole on one card and wheel to car on another as matches. Turn the cards face down in an organized grid. Play a memory matching game with the cards by taking turns with a partner. Each partner tries to find analogy matches. Once a match is found, the player keeps that pair of cards. As a bonus for finding a match, the player gets another turn. The person with the most matched pairs at the end of the game wins.

Helping with Comprehension and Vocabulary

Understanding the meaning of analogies and learning how to use them to understand vocabulary words or unknown words in your reading is a tool to stretch comprehension. Take the clues from any of the different types of analogies to decipher an unknown word. In the end, your comprehension level and word acquisition will improve immensely.