Metaphor, simile, and analogy — all of them use comparisons, but have you thought about the differences?

Analogy traces back by way of Latin to a Greek word meaning “proportionate.” That word has a root in the Greek word logos, meaning “reason.” It compares two things to help explain an idea or concept. 

Simile comes from the Latin word similis (meaning “similar, like”).  It’s a phrase (usually using the word “like” or “as”) that compares one thing with another thing to make a description more vivid. 

Metaphor is a word or phrase that takes on the meaning of something else.  The word comes from Greek, combining ‘meta’ (beyond) and ‘phero’ (to carry).  Metaphors carry meaning across from one thing to another. 

Here are some examples from William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet (1597).

  • Analogy: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other word would smell as sweet. So Romeo would, were he not Romeo called.
  • Simile: “Is love a tender thing? It is too rough, / too rude, too boisterous, and it pricks like thorn. 
  • Metaphor: “But soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is the East, and Juliet is the sun! 

Intriguing, isn’t it?  Next time pay an attention to how your words help your audience visualize your story!