What Are Analogies? - Definition & Types

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  • 0:03 What Is an Analogy?
  • 1:44 Part to Whole & Cause…
  • 2:44 Source to Product
  • 3:20 Example to Category &…
  • 4:17 Object to Function &…
  • 5:05 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Angela Janovsky

Angela has taught middle and high school English, Business English and Speech for nine years. She has a bachelor's degree in psychology and has earned her teaching license.

Analogy. The word itself is sometimes enough to intimidate the most confident of students. This lesson will explain the analogy and describe the most common types of analogies.

What Is an Analogy?

You're sitting in English class. The word analogy is written up on the board. Your day just took a terrible turn, right? Wrong! Students do not need to fear analogies.

In simple terms, an analogy describes or clarifies an idea by making a comparison between two things. However, analogies have a specific structure that will indicate a certain relationship between the two things. The setup of the analogy will indicate that relationship. When students struggle with analogies, it is because the relationship is difficult to understand.

For example, imagine you're given this analogy:

  • Branch : tree :: arm : man

How do you even read that with so many colons? It must be a typo…but it's not! The colons are a part of the structure of an analogy. Instead of serving a grammatical purpose, the colons stand in for other words.

This is how that analogy would be verbalized:

  • Branch is to tree as arm is to man.

The single colons mean 'is to,' and the double colon means 'as.' The analogy has two pairs of words that are connected. Your job is to discover the relationship that connects them. In this case, a branch is a part of a tree, just like an arm is a part of a man.

There are many different types of analogies. The fundamental aspect of all of them is always the relationship between the paired words.

So then, how are analogies divided into types? The rest of this lesson details some of the common relationships seen in analogies. Each one is a specific type of analogy.

Part to Whole & Cause to Effect

The first type of analogy is part to whole, which contains the part, or section of something larger, and the whole, or the entire entity. The example you've already seen shows a part to whole relationship:

  • Branch : tree :: arm : man

So what is the part and what is the whole? For the first pair, the branch is the part and the tree is the whole. The second pair maintains this relationship, as an arm is a part of a man.

Cause to Effect

The second type of analogy is cause to effect. This analogy contains one word that is the cause, or the source of some action or condition, and another word that is the effect, or the result or consequence.

Here is an example:

  • Earthquake : tsunami :: cavity : toothache

What caused the tsunami? The earthquake! And what caused the toothache? The cavity, of course! Thus, each pair has one word representing a cause paired with the resulting effect.

Source to Product

Source to product is a type of analogy in which the first word contains the source, or the person, place, or thing, from which something comes. The product is the substance or object that is manufactured or created.

Here's an example of a source to product analogy:

  • Wood : baseball bat :: oranges : orange juice

Both these pairs show the source from which the product is created. A baseball bat is made from wood, and orange juice is squeezed from oranges. The wood and oranges are the sources, and the bat and juice are the products.

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