anal·​o·​gy ə-ˈna-lə-jē How to pronounce analogy (audio)
plural analogies
: a comparison of two otherwise unlike things based on resemblance of a particular aspect
: resemblance in some particulars between things otherwise unlike : similarity
: inference that if two or more things agree with one another in some respects they will probably agree in others
: correspondence between the members of pairs or sets of linguistic forms that serves as a basis for the creation of another form
evolutionary biology : correspondence or similarity in form or function between parts (such as the wings of birds and insects) of unrelated or distantly related species that is the result of convergent evolution compare homology, homoplasy

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Digging Into the Most Common Meaning of Analogy

In its most common use, analogy has to do with comparison of things based on those things being alike in some way. For example, one can make or draw an analogy between the seasons of the year and the stages of life. People also reason by way of analogy, asserting, for example, that abandoning a project is like leaving a house partway built. Although an analogy can be summarized quickly, as in these examples, an analogy actually encompasses the comparison or inference itself, and is therefore different from figures of speech, like metaphors and similes, which are forms of expression.

Some tests ask you to identify analogies, finding the second of a pair that has the same relationship as a completed pair. Analogy tests often look like this:

ice : cold :: steel : ____

a. hard b. loud c. fresh d. small

Because the relationship between ice and cold is that coldness is a quality of ice, the word that goes with steel is hard, since hardness is a quality of steel.

The word analogy (which comes from analogous) traces back by way of Latin to a Greek word meaning "proportionate." That word has a root in the Greek word logos, meaning "reason."

Choose the Right Synonym for analogy

likeness, similarity, resemblance, similitude, analogy mean agreement or correspondence in details.

likeness implies a closer correspondence than similarity which often implies that things are merely somewhat alike.

a remarkable likeness to his late father
some similarity between the two cases

resemblance implies similarity chiefly in appearance or external qualities.

statements that bear little resemblance to the truth

similitude applies chiefly to correspondence between abstractions.

two schools of social thought showing points of similitude

analogy implies likeness or parallelism in relations rather than in appearance or qualities.

pointed out analogies to past wars

Examples of analogy in a Sentence

He does, though, suffer from the occupational deformation of international relations specialists: an enthusiasm for ransacking the past in search of precedents, analogies, patterns, and cycles that might explain the present and forecast the future. Tony Judt, New York Book Review, 10 Apr. 2003
People who do this call themselves "white-hat" hackers—good people who show other people their vulnerabilities. Take the following analogy: I've designed a great new lock pick, and I'm going to give this great new gadget away to show everyone that the typical door lock is ineffective against my new pick. John C. Dvorak, PC Magazine, 4 Apr. 2000
It has often been said that movie stars are the royalty of America. (The better analogy, really, is that the royals are the movie stars of Britain.) Neal Gabler, Life: The Movie, 1998
Parts of the far-infrared sky look like colonies of spiders gone mad. The fine structure seen there is called cirrus, by analogy with filamentary clouds on Earth. Virginia Trimble et al., Sky & Telescope, January 1995
Recent Examples on the Web Berger uses the analogy of a stress test for heart disease. Avery Hurt, Discover Magazine, 22 Sep. 2023 More texture, whether of humor or any other kind of human strangeness, would help complicate the relatively straightforward political analogy going on. In Swing State, Vulture, 17 Sep. 2023 There are illuminating historical and contemporary analogies. Shay Khatiri, National Review, 12 Sep. 2023 Smith uses the analogy of a shovel—which increased the power of able-bodied workers—versus a steam shovel—which did the work for them. Alan Murray, Fortune, 11 Sep. 2023 Even with an early knack for his now-signature flow, an eccentric bravado rich with pop culture references and colorful analogies, Tripp admits his love for music was only a hobby next to his first true love: Basketball. Nick Kasmik, USA TODAY, 22 Aug. 2023 Its remit has encouraged analogies to a combined CIA and FBI, but is far more secretive about its work – without even a public website describing its activities. Nectar Gan, CNN, 11 Aug. 2023 An analogy is made in the film to the aforementioned Algonquin table, albeit maybe an Algonquin table with lots of cocaine. Chris Willman, Variety, 31 Aug. 2023 For me, a better analogy than Kubrick lies elsewhere. Christopher Knight, Los Angeles Times, 29 Aug. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'analogy.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English analogie, borrowed from Middle French & Latin; Middle French, borrowed from Latin analogia "ratio, proportion, correspondence in the inflection and derivation of words, the use of this correspondence in word derivation," borrowed from Greek analogía "proportion, relation, correspondence in the inflection and derivation of words," from análogos "proportionate, conformable, analogous" + -ia -y entry 2

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of analogy was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near analogy

Cite this Entry

“Analogy.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Oct. 2023.

Kids Definition


anal·​o·​gy ə-ˈnal-ə-jē How to pronounce analogy (audio)
plural analogies
: resemblance in some details between things otherwise unlike : similarity
: comparison based on such resemblance
: similarity in function between bodily parts of different structure and origin

Medical Definition


anal·​o·​gy ə-ˈnal-ə-jē How to pronounce analogy (audio)
plural analogies
: functional similarity between anatomical parts without similarity of structure and origin compare homology sense 1
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