What’s the difference between a metaphor, a simile, an idiom, and allegory?

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Write.com explains:

Metaphors, Similes and Idioms

What do they do?

Metaphors, similes, and idioms are all types of figurative language used to create imagery.

These figures of speech are not taken for their literal meanings; instead, you use them

to create more vivid and life-like qualities in your words. All three are used in many

forms of writing, but they work extremely well in any type of descriptive writing.

Metaphors and similes are used frequently in literature and poetry. All three of these

ways to use figurative language make describing or personifying actions, events,

feelings, inanimate objects, and ideas easier to do in colorful, expressive, and

descriptive language.


Metaphors link two unrelated things that are not normally linked. This linking does

not create an open, or simple, comparison. Instead, it creates a hidden one where

you are saying something is equal to something else, even though the two are

clearly not the same thing. Consider the following example:

Example: Her presence is the shining rays of the summer sunshine caressing my face.


Like metaphors, similes connect two unrelated things. Unlike metaphors, a simile

connection is not the equivalent of an equal sign. Instead, it is meant to highlight

a similarity and suggest that one thing is like another. This connection is an open,

simple one. Similes are normally identified by the word “like” or “as.” . . .

Example 1: Her father is like a bear with his fierce protectiveness.

Example 2: Life is like a box of chocolates. (So says Forrest Gump.)


Idioms have no defining rules. They are, however, phrases that mean something

other than the words that create them. Phrases that are common in everyday

language and have figurative meanings that are widely understood are idioms.

The literal meanings make no sense. Many idioms are also considered cliches

because they are used so frequently. If you are using idioms in a written piece,

try to avoid those that are overused unless you feel one is absolutely necessary

to the purpose of your words. Consider the following example:

Example: She wants to play it by ear. (The idiom is “play it by ear,” and the

figurative meaning is to improvise instead of making set plans.)

* * *

Okay, so what is an allegory?


Examples of allegory abound in literature. In fact, you no doubt have already

read many. Below we will look at some examples of allegory you may be

familiar with, and why they are allegories.

One of the first examples of allegory that most people read and understand

as an allegory is the collection of short stories knows as Aesop’s Fables.

(click to enlarge)

Screen Shot 2015-02-05 at 9.41.48 AMfrom storylit



The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse (one of Aesop’s Fables):

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Screen Shot 2015-02-05 at 9.08.55 AMfrom Speakaboos