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 But Be Water also traps Lee in allegory, occasionally diluting his personal narrative in favor of symbolic weight. Danny Chau, The Atlantic, "What It Means to Understand Bruce Lee," 22 June 2020 Even so, the story seems like a small allegory of Longfellow’s disappearance from American culture. James Marcus, The New Yorker, "What Is There to Love About Longfellow?," 1 June 2020 Next Monday, The Plot Against America will debut on HBO, and last week, PBS’s Amanpour and Company promoted the show’s allegories to America under Trump. Paul Bedard, Washington Examiner, "Liberal Media Scream: HBO and CNN reporter link Trump to 1940s anti-Semitism," 9 Mar. 2020 Vincere’s bold derangement of perspectives — both Italy’s national hopes and Ida Dalser’s private longings — presents an allegory for what has unmistakably led to the self-justifying immorality of modern progressives. Armond White, National Review, "The Traitor Reimagines the Gangster Film and Modern Morality," 31 Jan. 2020 Clunky dialogue simultaneously explains too much while not explaining enough, and the initial standoff between the spacemen and the cryptic machine-defenders goes on too long for the allegory Blood Machines clearly is. Peter Opaskar, Ars Technica, "At the end of time and space are phat beats: Blood Machines movie review," 20 May 2020 Although cities and local governments can use the bankruptcy courts, the only allegory for a state bankruptcy is Puerto Rico. Mary Williams Walsh, New York Times, "As Virus Ravages Budgets, States Cut and Borrow for Balance," 14 May 2020 The auteurs of Herz’s generation made audacious films that mix absurdism and the grotesque in oblique allegories of life under totalitarianism. Jeremy Lybarger, The New York Review of Books, "The Mordant Fables of Juraj Herz," 20 Apr. 2020 This being an allegory, Death has a physical manifestation, in this instance in the person of the ever-capable Nancy Robinette. Peter Marks, Washington Post, "For ‘Everybody,’ it’s not. This riff on ‘Everyman’ has archness all over it.," 22 Oct. 2019

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

4 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Allegory.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/allegory. Accessed 8 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for allegory

allegory

noun
How to pronounce allegory (audio)

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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