What is an Analogy?

Analogies are ​comparisons between two things which emphasize the similarities between those things​, inferring that one is similar to the other based on common characteristics. Analogies are verbal tools that develop critical thinking and vocabulary skills and are generally considered an indicator of intelligence. They are frequently found on academic tests and generally used in logical, scientific, mathematical and philosophical applications.


Analogies are indicated by a colon between the words that form a relationship, with a double colon between the two relationships being compared.

Here are 5 different types of analogies:

Semantic Analogies

Scholastic aptitude and achievement tests such as the SAT, MAT or GRE examinations frequently ask analogy questions based on vocabulary categories. Semantic analogies are word usage analogies that emphasize the similarity or difference of word definitions.

Example of a synonym analogy:

Peace: harmony

Meaning that peace is similar to harmony.

Example of an antonym analogy:

Straight: curved

Emphasizing that straight is the opposite of curved.

Classification Analogies

Classification analogies are based on whether examples are members of the same group or category. “Part to whole” are examples of this type of analogy.


A ring: jewelry :: finger: hand analogy means that a ring is a type of jewelry just as a finger is a part of a hand.

Association Analogies

Association analogies point out cause-and-effect, functional and sequential order relationships.

Example of a cause-and-effect analogy:

A fire: smoke analogy shows the relationship that a fire is the cause of smoke.

Example of a functional analogy:

A functional analogy could be keyboard: type demonstrating that a keyboard is used for typing.

Example of a sequential order analogy:

Sequential order would be demonstrated by first: second :: fourth: fifth.

Mathematical Analogies

Mathematical analogies test similarities of equality or proportions of numbers.

For example:

Examples of mathematical analogies could include .75: ¾, meaning they are equal figures. Or if a=5 and b= 6, then a+b: 12 :: 4: 5, meaning they represent unequal values.

Logical Analogies

Non-semantic logical analogies are those that compare letter patterns and phonetics.

For example:

For instance, gum: dumb :: tap: lap shows that gum rhymes with dumb just as tap rhymes with lap. A letter pattern analogy might show that the compared words have similar letters in them, such as the ato in anatomy: atoll.

Other Applications for Analogies

There are many applications for analogies. Analogies can be used between places and location such as Detroit: Michigan, showing that Detroit is a city in Michigan. An action to object analogy might be write: pen where writing is accomplished with a pen. Or an analogy emphasizing characteristics might be ruby: red, with ruby being a type of red color. Analogies are often used in law to resolve issues where there is no previous ruling and similar cases are considered to be analogous to a case. Analogies are also commonly used in evolutionary biology to compare functions and appendages of different animals. The most recognizable usages of analogies is in proverbs such as “turned up like the proverbial bad penny” and idioms, such as “to have a chip on one’s shoulder.”