allegory

noun
al·​le·​go·​ry | \ ˈa-lə-ˌgȯr-ē How to pronounce allegory (audio) \
plural allegories

Definition of allegory

1 : the expression by means of symbolic fictional figures and actions of truths or generalizations about human existence a writer known for his use of allegory also : an instance (as in a story or painting) of such expression The poem is an allegory of love and jealousy.
2 : a symbolic representation : emblem sense 2

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Synonyms for allegory

Synonyms

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Frequently Asked Questions About allegory

What is the difference between an allegory and a metaphor?

Allegory is the expression of truths or generalizations about human existence by means of symbolic fictional figures and their actions. It encompasses such forms as fable and parable. A metaphor, broadly, is figurative language; specifically, it is a figure of speech in which a word or phrase literally denoting one kind of object or idea is used in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them. Aesop’s Fables are an example of allegory; "the ship plows the seas" is an example of metaphor.

What are different types of allegory?

Personification allegory is a type of allegory in which a fictional character represents a concept or a type. The character Everyman in the medieval play of that name and the Lover in The Romance of the Rose are figures of personification allegory. Symbolic allegory is one in which a character or material thing is not merely a transparent vehicle for an idea, but also has a recognizable identity or a narrative autonomy apart from the message it conveys. The poet Virgil in Dante's Inferno, a historical figure representing human reason within the poem, is an example of a symbolic allegorical figure.

What is the difference between allegory and simile?

A simile is a figure of speech in which two unlike things are compared, often introduced by like or as ("he had eyes like agates"). Allegory is a more or less symbolic fictional narrative that conveys a secondary meaning (or meanings) not explicitly set forth in the literal narrative. Parables, myths, and fables are all considered types of allegories.

Examples of allegory in a Sentence

Luther dismissed this mystical reading of the creative act as mere "allegory." But for Augustine the six days are not just a rhetorical trope. They are unlike the figurative language of the curse on the snake. To say that Christ is a shepherd is a metaphor; but to say that he is light is literal, since physical light is a "shadow" of the real light spoken of in Genesis. — Garry Wills, Under God, 1990 The Scarlet Letter is his masterpiece, because of the simplicity of its allegory and the grandeur of its colonial, Jacobean setting—and because of its shocking subject so nervously handled. Hester and Dimmesdale are sacred and profane love, subjects for Titian, yet conventionally clothed. — Robert Lowell, Collected Prose, 1987 He saw thousands of Buddhas lined up in trays in the tourist shops … some in lead, some in wood, some carved in stone and dressed in a little knitted caps and capes. He came to see in this ubiquitous phenomenon the Buddha's godlike propensity for self-division, the endless fractioning of himself into every perceivable aspect, an allegory made by the people of Japan from the cellular process of life. — E. L. Doctorow, Loon Lake, 1979
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Recent Examples on the Web Von Trier has said the film is an allegory for his depression, something that can come out of nowhere like an apocalyptic event. Brian Tallerico, Vulture, "The 100 Best Movies on Hulu Right Now," 9 Jan. 2021 Some have discerned in this an allegory for the unearned grace of Christian redemption, but Mays and Arden suggest a more relevant interpretation. New York Times, "Review: A Ham’s ‘Christmas Carol,’ Without the Honey Glaze," 30 Nov. 2020 Since then, poets and writers have used it as an allegory for love, duty, conflict and accomplishment. Jenny Adams, The Conversation, "In ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ and beyond, chess holds up a mirror to life," 8 Dec. 2020 Works in this style use scale, drama, allegory and figuration to engage emphatically and directly with a wide audience — usually on themes pertinent to national identity, grievance or ambition. Washington Post, "America needs an epic narrative right now. Painters are working on it.," 28 Nov. 2020 That's why Belgium's De Croo spun his dark allegory of empty chairs from his legislative pulpit. NBC News, "Europe's Christmas dilemma: risk empty chairs next year?," 27 Nov. 2020 Even so: Sorkin’s entertaining, balderdash-y version of events operates as a kind of pandemic allegory. Michael Phillips, chicagotribune.com, "In this holiday season of streaming options, it’s confinement vs. escapism. Plus courtroom drama.," 18 Nov. 2020 In transforming Beowulf into an allegory of twenty-first-century American toxic masculinity, Headley suppresses some of the complexity of early medieval manhood. Irina Dumitrescu, The New York Review of Books, "Dudes Without Heirs," 17 Nov. 2020 The results are powerful and often feel like an allegory of the success and demise of the auto industry in Detroit. Ryan Patrick Hooper, Detroit Free Press, "Glossy vs. gritty: 2 new DIA exhibits celebrate auto design, blue-collar life in Michigan," 14 Nov. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'allegory.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of allegory

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for allegory

Middle English allegorie, from Latin allegoria, from Greek allēgoria, from allēgorein to speak figuratively, from allos other + -ēgorein to speak publicly, from agora assembly — more at else, agora

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Time Traveler for allegory

Time Traveler

The first known use of allegory was in the 14th century

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Statistics for allegory

Last Updated

18 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Allegory.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/allegory. Accessed 6 Mar. 2021.

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More Definitions for allegory

allegory

noun

English Language Learners Definition of allegory

: a story in which the characters and events are symbols that stand for ideas about human life or for a political or historical situation

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