Learn when you're using an analogy vs. metaphor vs. simile with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.
If you have trouble with understanding the difference between an analogy, metaphor, and simile, don't worry: They're easy to mix up. But we're going to work to untangle these terms like a tangled up water hose.
Analogy vs. Metaphor vs. Simile
Analogy is a comparison of two things to help explain an idea or concept. A good example is that a penguin is to birds as a panda is to bears (in that both are a representative type within a classification of animals). Or a coach is to a football team as a manager is to a business (in that both direct the operations of a team to execute a plan).
Metaphor is a word or phrase that takes on the meaning of something else. For instance, a person may say that a penguin is a panda, or that a football coach is a business manager (even though neither statement is true). It's a figure of speech often employed in poetry.
Simile is a phrase (that usually uses the word "like" or "as") that compares one thing with another thing to make a description more vivid. While a metaphor claims "a penguin is a panda," a simile would claim "a penguin is like a panda," or that "a penguin is as colorful as a panda."
Here are a few examples:
Metaphor: Time is a thief.
Simile: Time is like a thief.
Analogy: Time is like a thief in that thieves steal physical objects and time steals moments of our lives.
Metaphor: Joe is a pig.
Simile: Joe is as dirty as a pig.
Analogy: Joe's sense of personal hygiene is on the same level as a pig that rolls around in dirt and mud all day.
All three use comparisons, but they're not exactly the same. One point to remember is that metaphors and similes are figures of speech, while an analogy is a type of argument. A metaphor is something, a simile is like something, and an analogy explains how one thing being like another helps explain them both.