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 The dish is a microcosm of what Californios is about: surprise, nostalgia and allegory. Soleil Ho, San Francisco Chronicle, 4 June 2021 The allegory drives the film, constantly burbling with questions about purpose, destiny and identity, as well as apt comparisons to modern political movements and authoritarianism. Tribune News Service, cleveland, 9 Apr. 2021 The Purge series went from nifty home-invasion flick premise to blunt political allegory to perfect metaphor for our rapidly-circling-the-drain nation seemingly overnight. Alison Willmore, Vulture, 24 May 2021 This dangerous proclivity for abstraction and allegory was, according to Coleridge, a disastrous but inevitable reaction on the part of the masses to the rich’s exclusive concern for their own particular interests. Cameron Hilditch, National Review, 23 Apr. 2021 The first is that the novel is uneven, a clash of naturalistic writing and allegory. Colin Asher, The New Republic, 19 Apr. 2021 It is meant not just as a reflection on the experience of individual soldiers but as an allegory of the United States’ arrival on the world stage through participation in what was known then as the Great War. Washington Post, 30 Apr. 2021 All joking aside, the film is an interesting, if blunt, political allegory, using the space ship, and the young people aboard, who were conceived as test tube babies and raised in isolation, as a way to examine social dynamics among human beings. Tribune News Service, cleveland, 9 Apr. 2021 The characterizations are vague enough for the movie to be interpreted as an allegory, possibly about toxic masculinity or fascism or, given how beautiful and fit everyone is, body shaming. Chris Hewitt, Star Tribune, 8 Apr. 2021

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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Learn More About allegory

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

11 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Allegory.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/allegory. Accessed 20 Jun. 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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