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

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
Recent Examples on the Web The story becomes a sharp allegory of the treatment of women. Mark Olsen, Los Angeles Times, 3 June 2022 Their house’s architecture is an allegory for their social relations; its different floors either welcome or are out of bounds for some members of the family (especially the women). Farah Abdessamad, The Atlantic, 12 Apr. 2022 The ur-text of every trip is the search for love, for which traveling itself is only an allegory. Adam Gopnik, Town & Country, 17 June 2022 The novel was Camus’s allegory for the resistance to fascism. New York Times, 29 June 2022 And there are actual jokes about grooming, which sound a bit defensive and successfully make the grooming allegory more explicit. Darren Franich, EW.com, 11 May 2022 The engrossing allegory delivers a powerful emotional punch, along with keen political and social commentary. Monitor Reviewers, The Christian Science Monitor, 17 Mar. 2022 Underneath the brutality, a gothic sensibility informs this allegory gone awry. Hanif Abdurraqib, BostonGlobe.com, 10 June 2022 The Oscar winners anchor the Amazon Prime Video drama, which drowns a heartfelt allegory in sci-fi silliness. Kristen Baldwin, EW.com, 16 May 2022 See More

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.

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

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Dictionary Entries Near allegory

allegorize

allegory

allegretto

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Last Updated

10 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Allegory.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/allegory. Accessed 14 Aug. 2022.

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More from Merriam-Webster on allegory

Nglish: Translation of allegory for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of allegory for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about allegory

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