What's an Analogy?

Updated June 26, 2020 | Infoplease Staff
by Ann Reckner

An analogy is a type of word problem that often appears on standardized tests. It is made up of two word pairs, like this:

GRACEFUL : CLUMSY :: late : _______

Your goal in solving an analogy is to find a word that correctly completes the second pair. At first glance the words in an analogy may seem to have nothing to do with each other, but the words are always logically related. Both pairs of words have the same kind of relationship. To solve the analogy you need to find that relationship. Read the analogy like this:

"Graceful is to clumsy as late is to 'blank.'"

Ask yourself: What is the relationship between graceful and clumsy? They are antonyms—words that have opposite meanings. The second pair of words must also be antonyms. Fill in the blank with a word that means the opposite of late, and you've solved the analogy. Early is the best answer.

Besides antonyms, the word pairs in an analogy could have one of these types of relationships:

  • synonyms, or words that have the same or similar meanings, as in WORK : LABOR
  • descriptive, in which one word describes the other word, as in BLUE : SKY
  • part to whole, in which one word is a part or piece of the other, as in ARM : BODY
  • item to category, in which one word names something that falls into the group named by the other word, as in MILK : BEVERAGE

Here's another example:

PUPPY : DOG :: kitten : _______

The analogy is read "Puppy is to dog as kitten is to 'blank.'" The first pair of words is not related in any of the ways listed above. Try reading the analogy as a sentence that expresses the relationships between the words: "A puppy is a young dog, like a kitten is a young . . ."? Cat is the best answer.

Sources +