Pop quiz:

Quack is to Duck as Meow is to ________.

Anyone preparing for a standardized test is familiar with analogy questions, which require the taker to fill in one missing word out of a pair that will reflect the same relationship as a given example. The missing word in the example above is "Cat."

Confused? Don't be. Analogies are actually much simpler than you think, and you probably use them all the time.

What is an analogy?

An analogy is a similarity between like features of two (otherwise dissimilar) things, on which a comparison may be based.

Examples of analogies

The number of possible analogies is endless, and some analogies have become very familiar.

You've probably heard the analogy between viral infection and the spread of ideas, which is why we call the rapid sharing of Internet memes "viral."

It's helpful to know that "analogy" comes from a Greek word meaning "proportionate," because analogies are usually made about things that are similar only in a certain limited number of features or details¬.

A YouTube video is like a virus because of how it can spread, but not in most other ways (except for maybe the comments section, which can definitely make one sick).

Similarly, a computer can be said to be analogous to a human brain, because both are processors of information, but there are, of course, many differences.

Someone once said that "any analogy will start to limp if you make it walk far enough."

What are some of the best analogies you've ever heard? What are the worst?

Complete English Grammar Rules is available for purchase as Paperback and Kindle eBook.
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