Analogy vs. Simile: What’s the Difference?

Analogy vs. simile: what’s the difference? Have you ever heard someone say “a square is a rectangle but a rectangle isn’t a square”? A similar (and just as confusing) idea applies to analogies and similes: a simile can be an analogy but an analogy can’t be a simile. By the end of this article, you’ll understand why and also be able to tell the difference between a simile and an analogy!

Similes and Analogies Make Comparisons

One big similarity between similes and analogies is what they do. That’s probably what makes it so easy to confuse the two! They both offer comparisons. Similes compare things using like or as but analogies don’t always use the words “like” or “as” to make comparisons.

Analogies and Similes Have Different Purposes

Analogies are a type of argument and similes are a figure of speech. What does that mean? It means that they have different purposes!

Let’s imagine “simile” and “analogy” as people. Simile would be happily painting away in an art studio while analogy would be on the debate stage, arguing their point! Similes are figures of speech. This means that their purpose is to create an effect. Usually, that effect is to help you visualize something or cause you to feel an emotion. The purpose of an analogy, on the other hand, is to prove a point. Often times, analogies are used as a type of argument.

A Simile Can Be An Analogy But An Analogy Is Not A Simile

Now that you have some background, let’s take on that confusing concept that a simile can be an analogy but an analogy is not a simile!

An argument can use a figure of speech to make a point. For example, in Forrest Gump, Forest says “Life is like a box of chocolates”. This is a simile! You can tell because it is a comparison that uses the word “like”.

But it’s also an analogy!

“Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.”

This analogy explains the point that you never know what life will bring you, just like you’ll never know what kind of chocolate you’ll pull out of a chocolate box—maybe a caramel but maybe a cherry cordial— who knows! This is a great example of analogy vs. simile and how they can not only work on their own, but also work in a sentence together!

So a simile can be an analogy… but why doesn’t it work the other way around?

If I say “the glacier sparkled like a diamond,” you know it’s a simile because I am comparing the words “glacier” and “diamond” with the word “like.” However, because there is no point or argument being made, it is not an analogy. The only purpose of this comparison is to get you to imagine how beautiful the glacier is!

Let’s Practice! 

Let’s try a few out! Decide if the following is a simile, an analogy or both:

“Finding my missing sock is like trying to find a needle in a haystack”

Well, it uses the word “like” in the comparison so we know it’s a simile.

Does it prove a point? And if so, what is the point it is trying to prove?

It does! The point is that the sock is very difficult to find (just like it would be hard to find a needle in a haystack!)

What about this one?

“The leaves were as red as a stop sign”

It uses the word “as” to compare two things (a stop sign and the leaves) so we know it’s a simile. What about an analogy? Does it prove a point?

Nope! This one is just a simile — it helps you imagine the color of the leaves!

Last one:

“Telling the difference between analogies and similes is like counting to three, so easy I could do it in my sleep!”

Analogy or simile? Let us know in the comments which one and why!

Hopefully this article was helpful in teaching you about the difference between an analogy vs. simile!

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