Analogy is a rhetorical device that says one idea is similar to another idea, and then goes on to explain it. They’re often used by writers and speakers to explain a complex idea in terms of another idea that is simpler and more popularly known.
This post contains more than 75 examples of analogies, some of which have been taken from current events to give you a flavor of how they’re used in real-world writing, some from sayings of famous people, and some are my own creation. They’ve been categorized into two types:
- Analogies with proportionate relationship
- Other analogies
To get the most of these examples, notice how unlike the two things being compared are and, in the second type, how the explanation goes.
(Note: Comments that go with examples are in square brackets.)
More resources on analogy:
- What is analogy and how to write its three types?
- People often confuse analogy with metaphor and simile. Learn how metaphor, simile, and analogy differ
1. Analogies with proportionate relationship
1. What past is to rear-view mirror, future is to windshield.
2. What Colorado is in the canyon, Jack is in exams. Both run through the stretch quickly.
3. What Honda Accord is to cars in 2021, Internet Explorer is to web browsers in 2021. Microsoft did well to finally pull the plug on its browser.
4. What Monday morning is to me, regular vaccines is to my dog. We both don’t look forward to them.
5. I’m as uncomfortable in taking a swim as a lion is in taking a climb to a tree.
6. What dredging machine is to small earthwork, sledgehammer is to cracking walnuts.
7. I’m as jittery facing a potentially hostile audience as an old man facing a snowstorm.
8. My father is attracted to jazz as much as iron filings are attracted to magnet. Come what may, he’ll find a way to attend a performance in the town.
9. Loan sharks are feasting on poor villagers by extracting exorbitant interest rates, in much the same way as vultures feast on carcass.
10. Famished, we patiently waited for the freshly baked pizza and, when it arrived, pounced on it like grizzly bears pounce on salmons.
Here are few analogies by famous writers and public figures:
11. As smoking is to the lungs, so is resentment to the soul; even one puff is bad for you. Elizabeth Gilbert
12. MTV is to music as KFC is to chicken. Lewis Black
13. He is to acting what Liberace was to pumping iron. Rex Reed on Sylvester Stallone
14. Armstrong is to music what Einstein is to physics and the Wright Brothers are to travel. Ken Burns
15. Super Bowl Sunday is to the compulsive gambler what New Year’s Eve is to the alcoholic. Arnie Wexler
16. He was to ordinary male chauvinist pigs what Moby Dick was to whales. Robert Hughes on Pablo Picasso
17. College football is a sport that bears the same relation to education that bullfighting does to agriculture. Elbert Hubbard
18. Football is to baseball as blackjack is to bridge. One is the quick jolt; the other the deliberate, slow-paced game of skill. Vin Scully
19. It has been said that baseball is to the United States what revolutions are to Latin America, a safety valve for letting off steam. George Will
20. The sound byte is to politics what the aphorism is to exposition: the art of saying much with little. Charles Krauthammer
21. Ricardo Montalban is to improvisational acting what Mount Rushmore is to animation. John Cassavetes
22. To be an American and unable to play baseball is comparable to being a Polynesian and unable to swim. John Cheever
23. Freedom of the press is to the machinery of the state what the safety valve is to the steam engine. Arthur Schopenhauer
24. The Christian Coalition has no more to do with Christianity than the Elks Club has to do with large animals with antlers. Garrison Keillor
25. If facts are the seeds that later produce knowledge and wisdom, then the emotions and impressions of the senses are the fertile soil in which the seed must grow. Rachel Carson
26. The president of the United States bears about as much relationship to the real business of running America as does Colonel Sanders to the business of frying chicken. J. G. Ballard
2. Other analogies
27. More books and tuitions don’t translate into more learning just as a fire hose in place of water dispenser doesn’t translate into more drinking capacity.
28. Although online trolling is rampant, few thoughtful and well-meaning comments also get posted. How to go about responding to them? Propagate helpful comments by retweeting, liking, or leaving your reply. Ignore the trolls. This is quite similar to how we fan or extinguish a fire. Pour gasoline, and it’ll propagate. Starve it of oxygen, and it’ll die.
29. Entrepreneurs who are working on projects such as generating energy through fusion reaction, the method that powers our sun, and inter-planetary travel are furrowing a new path. That’s like driving on an alien terrain full of surprises with no taillight to follow.
30. It’s not easy building a business from scratch. That’s why most entrepreneurs after exiting their first company rather invest in other ventures. It’s easier to pour gasoline on a fire than starting a new fire.
31. Do you want to work on the fringes, do odd jobs? Or do you want to join an organization and make impact? You can remain a pirate or join a navy. Choice is yours.
32. When the leak in the pipe was repaired, I was surprised at the high flow of water. It meant that the pipe was leaking for months and got detected only when it burst, stopping the flow completely. In much the same way, bad habits creep into our lives almost imperceptibly, with us hardly noticing it till they culminate in a mishap.
33. Depression is like the common cold. You don’t realize how underappreciated breathing is until you have a cold, and your nose is stuffed, and all you want to do is be able to take a deep breath. That’s what it feels like to have depression. I just want to be able to breathe again. I just want to feel okay. Source
34. When I think about the effect of software, I equate it to water. Both are basic necessities. Both defy borders and generally go where they want to go. Both need to be protected and both need to be understood. They are critical resources that will always be central to success, and it is readily apparent when either is absent. We easily understand what it is like to be thirsty, and many are finding out what it is like to be digitally unaware. Both are extremely uncomfortable. Source
35. The vaccine situation in India is like arranged marriage. First, you’re not ready, then you don’t like any, and then u don’t get any. Those who got are unhappy thinking may be the other one would have been better. Those who did not get any are willing to get anyone. Source
36. Money is like manure. If you spread it around, it’s useful, and everything around you starts greening. If you leave it lying in a pile, it starts stinking quite quickly. Source
37. Time for negotiations and beating around the bush is over; we need to take hard steps now. It’s time to give up scalpel and bring in hammer.
38. We all want precise, quick, actionable solutions to solve the challenges life throws at us. However, answers to life’s challenges don’t come in bullet points. Such answers are hazy and often come in paragraphs.
39. Ever had gum stuck on your hair. Icky, isn’t it. That’s what sight of a centipede or an earthworm does to me.
40. While reading, a reader needs to slow down somewhat to comprehend a sentence that lacks parallel structure. Don’t we slow down when we encounter a speed bump on an otherwise smooth road? [Comment: I’ve used this and the next analogy in my post on parallelism. If you can think of a compelling thing to compare with, analogies aren’t difficult to pull off.]
41. Just as you need two straight lines to even consider the concept of parallel lines, you need two elements in a sentence to even consider the concept of parallelism in a sentence.
42. While their mother was away, the two leopard cubs escaped wild dogs by remaining standstill, camouflaging perfectly with the rocks in the background. Clearly, the two cubs, barely two months old, had been learning only what matters in the real world – escaping predators and hunting. In contrast, we humans learn myriad of subjects in school and college, of which only a tiny portion matters in the real world.
43. Like the deadly fog that envelopes the region, affecting normal life for many days, global warming has emerged as the envelope of the entire planet, wreaking untold harm on the earth’s inhabitants.
44. People gain wisdom little by little through experience, but that’s highly inefficient. You can gain wisdom much faster by learning from others’ mistakes, by receiving advice from mentors, and by reading books which have documented every possible human success and failure. Isn’t that akin to filling a bucket by a dripping tap when you can fill it much faster by opening the tap fully.
45. You may have the required qualification and skills for a job, you may have mentors to guide you every step of the way, and you may have the best colleagues. But all this means nothing if you’re in the wrong job. It’s like having the best vehicle for a journey and friendliest co-passengers, but heading in a direction different from your destination.
46. Government has invested so much of taxpayer’s money into the state-owned airline but to no avail. It hasn’t shown profits in nearly ten years. Is it any different from spraying fertilizer on weeds and deadwood?
47. Trying ten pilot projects to zero in on our new product is quite resource heavy. Instead, we should try maximum 2-3 pilots based on a strong hypothesis. We can’t waste bullets through shotgun fire; we need sniper fire.
48. None of your business ideas have worked so far because you haven’t thoroughly tested key assumptions in your business model. You’re in a way constantly shooting in the dark, hoping to find the target.
49. You should stay in this project for few more weeks and complete it. Otherwise, your successor might get the credit for the completed project even though you’ve done bulk of the work. You’ll lay the eggs that others will hatch.
50. With his skills, he’ll be better suited in marketing than in sales. You can’t put a square peg in a round hole.
51. The fish asked the two passing subadult fish, “How’s the water?” The two subadult fish quizzically ask each other, “What’s water?” Like the fish don’t know what water is because it’s such an indistinguishable part of their life, we don’t see our frailties because they’re such an indistinguishable part of our lives.
52. In the division of business empire between the feuding siblings, the sister got the steady cash-generator of a company. The others landed less attractive assets. That was like the sister skimming the cream and leaving double-toned milk for the brothers.
53. He performed so well in the interview that he topped the exam despite poor performance in the written test. Imagine Usain Bolt winning 100-meter dash despite starting the race ten meters behind others.
54. Industries such as online retail have such thin margins that an odd adverse event may turn a quarter from profit to loss. Life in the wild for predators is no different. A timely kill, or lack of it, can be the difference between fasting and feasting.
55. By the time court ordered a stay on demolition order of the municipal body, the building was razed down. That was like conducting a successful organ transplant but failing to save the patient.
56. Our program helping students boost their brain power didn’t take off. Our program helping struggling students did much better though. Isn’t it easier to sell aspirin than vitamin?
57. When the leak in the pipe was repaired, I was surprised at the high flow of water. It meant that the pipe was leaking for months and got detected only when it burst, stopping the flow completely. In much the same way, bad habits creep into our lives almost imperceptibly, with us hardly noticing it till they culminate in a mishap.
58. Public companies can find it challenging to reinvent themselves and make breakthrough progress because of constant pressure to keep short-term results clean. That’s why sometimes companies go private, Dell being an example, to discover their mojo away from the pressures a public company faces. I did something similar as an individual. For a year, I retreated from most time-wasters and social activities, tried multiple things, and found the career path I wanted to take.
59. The marketing head proposed six marketing channels to pursue to increase brand awareness, possibly playing safe. Throw enough spaghetti against the wall and some of it will stick.
60. When the company decided to disband the post because of inadequate work, the person-to-be-effected justified its continuance, citing the important functions the post served. Ask a man whose job is to shoo flies about the importance of his job, and he’ll say that he is saving humanity. We all think ours is the most important job.
61. People underestimate how quickly they can become an expert in a field if they keep on improving and keep putting in the hours on their skill. It’s like how fast money multiplies when it accrues interest in a bank.
62. If your content features on the second page of search result on Google, no one is going to find it. That’s like a murderer hiding a dead body at a place where no one can detect it.
63. Just like one should cross a stream where it is shallowest, a company should enter that segment of a market where it has some advantage or where competition is less.
64. Just as people don’t heed to health warning prominently displayed on cigarette packets and smoke, people don’t learn basic workplace skills despite knowing that lack of these skills affect their chance of landing a good job.
65. The businessman, who hoodwinked several unsuspecting people with his suave manners and forged pedigree, was finally arrested. What many thought to be a promissory note turned out to be a dud cheque.
Here are few analogies by famous writers and public figures:
66. Just as a cautious businessman avoids investing all his capital in one concern, so wisdom would probably admonish us also not to anticipate all our happiness from one quarter alone. Sigmund Freud
67. Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things. Winston Churchill
68. It is with books as with men; a very small number play a great part; the rest are lost in the multitude. Voltaire
69. A truly great book should be read in youth, again in maturity, and once more in old age, as a fine building should be seen by morning light, at noon, and by moonlight. Robertson Davies
70. It is with narrow-souled people as with narrow-necked bottles: the less they have in them, the more noise they make in pouring it out. Jonathan Swift
71. Adversity has the same effect on a man that severe training has on the pugilist: it reduces him to his fighting weight. Josh Billings
72. The lights of stars that were extinguished ages ago still reach us. So it is with great men who died centuries ago, but still reach us with the radiations of their personalities. Kahlil Gibran
73. As the internal-combustion engine runs on gasoline, so the person runs on self-esteem: if he is full of it, he is good for the long run; if he is partly filled, he will soon need to be refueled; and if he is empty, he will come to a stop. Thomas Szasz
74. I don’t like nature. It’s big plants eating little plants, small fish being eaten by big fish, big animals eating each other. It’s like an enormous restaurant. Woody Allen
75. The human mind treats a new idea the same way the body treats a strange protein; it rejects it. Peter B. Medawar
76. I go to books and to nature as a bee goes to the flower, for a nectar that I can make into my own honey. John Burroughs
77. Trickle-down theory – the less than elegant metaphor that if one feeds the horse enough oats, some will pass through to the road for the sparrows. John Kenneth Galbraith
78. A man should live with his superiors as he does with his fire; not too near, lest he burn; not too far off, lest he freeze. Diogenes
79. We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. The old skin has to be shed before the new one can come. Joseph Campbell
80. Relationships are hard. It’s like a full-time job, and we should treat it like one. If your boyfriend or girlfriend wants to leave you, they should give you two weeks’ notice. There should be severance pay, and before they leave you, they should have to find you a temp. Bob Ettinger