Characteristic Analogies: Definition & Types

Instructor: Kaitlin Oglesby
Let's face it: at some point you're going to have to solve analogies, and characteristic analogies are among the most common. After this lesson, they'll also be among the easiest.

What is a Characteristic Analogy?

Analogies are a common method that people use to see if a relationship is thoroughly understood. Characteristic analogies are those analogies that check for understanding about a characteristic that forms the relationship between two words.

For example, a characteristic analogy may be something like

  • Bird: Air:: Fish: Water

The analogy works because birds live in the air while fish live in the sea. From tests to mind-teasers, characteristic analogies have a way of popping up in everyday life, and it is important to know how to solve them.

How to Solve Them

The first step in being able to solve a characteristic analogy is to establish what the characteristic is that is being tested. To do this, we look to the completed side of the analogy. From there, we examine the relationship between the two words that are mentioned.

For example, in the previous example, the relationship between the first two words is that birds live in the air and in the third and fourth words that fish live in water. Therefore, whatever word will complete the analogy must be able to complete that sentence. In fact, it is often helpful to write a sentence that describes the relationship that exists between the completed terms of the analogy.

From there, we must then return to the problem side of the analogy, or the side that is missing a term. Here we establish what part of the analogy is missing. Almost always it will be the one that is symmetrical to the other side. So if the first term is missing, it will be that term that has a similar relationship to the second term as the third term has to the fourth term.

In other words, if we have the analogy:

  • _____: Air:: Fish: Water

The blank will play a similar role in the problem-side sentence as the word fish does in the completed sentence. At this point we simply put in the word that completes the relationship.


Let's take a look at a couple of examples that have blanks in both the first and second positions to make sure we understand this concept.

First, let's look at an analogy that is missing the first term:

  • _____: Turtle:: Mane: Horse.

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