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Vocabulary Building with Analogies

Updated on June 29, 2015

Word Play for Mental Strength

Analogies are a great way to sharpen the mind because they require logical thinking to solve. Besides knowing the meanings of the words, you must also understand the relationship expressed in the analogy. For this reason, analogies are perfect for vocabulary development. Analogies can encompass science, history, math or any other area.

The Importance of Analogies

Understanding analogous relationships is important for grasping many types of figurative language used in literature and poetry such as metaphors, similes, satire, and personification. In turn, an ability to craft analogies will help students express themselves vividly and maturely in their compositions. So analogies are important for language arts.

People who are good at solving analogies are usually good problem solvers in real life too. (See research.)They can look at a new problem and see the similarities to previous situations which they already know how to solve.

When analogies include subject area vocabulary and concepts, those disciplines are reinforced as well. There is no limit to the fields that analogies can touch -- geography, art, music, technology, journalism, and so on.

A is to B as C is to ___.

In solving an analogy, you must first understand the words given in the analogy as well as all of the potential answers. Your next step is to determine the relationship between the first two words in the analogy. Based on that relationship you can choose the answer for the second half of the analogy.

In solving analogies, it is best to mentally create a sentence expressing the relationships among the ideas. Just choosing an answer that seems to fit often will not work. Wrong answers (the distractors) are deliberately tricky.

Example Analogy

projectile : trajectory :: automobile : _________

a. path c. combustion

b. route d. cartography

For this analogy, I would seek to understand the relationship between projectile and trajectory. I make a sentence to explain that relationship such as, "A projectile moves along its trajectory." Then I use that same type of sentence to solve the blank, "An automobile moves along its ____." The answer must be route. Path is a good distractor, but route is the best answer.

After your children have a good grasp of solving analogies, let them create their own. Crafting a good analogy, complete with tricky distractors, is more difficult than it seems. Be sure to allow your children access to reference books such as a dictionary, thesaurus, or encyclopedia.

The Miller Analogies Test

The MAT is a test used for entrance to many graduate schools. It is made up entirely of analogies.

Common Analogy Relationships

When teaching analogies, it is often helpful to introduce them by relationship. After becoming familiar with the part to whole relationship, flip it to whole to part. Then move on to tool and use or some other relationship. Most workbooks follow a similar pattern.

  1. part to whole

    rim : mug

  2. object and its use

    spade : dig

  3. synonyms

    gleeful : joyous

  4. antonyms

    irate : fuming

  5. object and its characteristic

    denim: durable

  6. an item and its category

    cellist : musician

An Analogy Workbook - for Grades 5-8

Mental Exercise

Research confirms that performance on analogies is one of the best measures of verbal comprehension and analytical thinking.


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    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Great site! Structure of Intellect had many collections for thinking skills, analogies was just one...wonderful to see this format for helping kids and parents think... I also like the Zoombini programs from MIT!

    • karen550 lm profile image

      karen550 lm 

      7 years ago

      Teaching kids to use analogies is a great writing strategy. Thanks for a nice lens. It will be helpful to me as I try to move my 7th grade English Language Arts class forward.

    • PedroMorales1 profile image


      8 years ago

      such an important activity as learning new words can have use of any practical method, and this is a good one.

    • Teddi14 LM profile image

      Teddi14 LM 

      8 years ago

      Love this lens. Great job! I added it to

    • SpellOutloud profile image


      9 years ago

      I over-think analogies. :) Great info. in this lens.

    • Barb McCoy profile image

      Barb McCoy 

      9 years ago

      I am for an analogy free world. I don't like teaching my kids to make them and I hate watching my boys struggle with them. Ask them what a word means or to write it in a sentence and they do fine...give them an analogy and they struggle. I think it is a VSP learning thing...they think so differently and have a hard time manipulating words and their meanings in their head. My daughter on the other hand, the linguistic learner, loves a good analogy.

      Nice lens with great information. Very rich.

    • DianaHarper LM profile image

      DianaHarper LM 

      9 years ago

      I like the idea of using analogies to enhance vocabulary training. Blessings!


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