Guide to Literary Terms

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What is the difference between an analogy, a metaphor and a simile? Please provide examples and brief explanation.  Many thanks.

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All three of these terms describe different literary ways things can be compared.

Simile and metaphor are both examples of figurative language.  When two unalike things are compared figuratively (not literally), either a simile or metaphor is used.  I'm sure you remember that the difference between them is a simile uses the words "like" or "as" in the comparison and a metaphor does not.  It directly compares.

An example of a simile is "My next door neighbor's house is yellow like lemonade."  The same comparison using a metaphor would say, "My neighbor lives in the lemonade house next door."  Perhaps someone who is particularly good at a sport might be described as a "beast" on the field (metaphor).  It could also be said that he defeats his opponent like a beast (simile).

Analogies are similar to metaphors and similes in that they often use language that is figurative, but they are not actually considered figurative language.  Analogies are usually used to explain something complex by comparing it to something very similar on a smaller scale.  You've often heard that the heart muscle is like a pump.  This is not figurative.  The heart actually does work like a pump for the blood.  In math, we look at equations like scales.  Each side of the equals sign must be balanced and the "scale" is balanced.  Again, though an equation is not a scale, it balances on both sides in the same way.  Just as analogies are used to explain complex ideas, compared to similes and metaphors, analogies are more complex.

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