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Vocabulary Building with Analogies


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.

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

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Online Analogies Practice

Analogy Freebies

  • Understanding Analogies
    This PDF explains how to solve analogies and gives many examples.
  • Types of Analogies Practice
    Instead of solving the analogy, in this exercise you determine the type of analogy or the relationship expressed. This is a good introductory activity.
  • Holt, Rinehart, and Winston Worksheets
    Another basic PDF set that explains what analogies are, lists examples, and includes sample multiple choice questions to solve.
  • Analogies Sampler for K-12
    These sample pages from a teaching resource run the gamut of simple, diagram style analogies to more complex ones.
  • Vocabulary and Spelling Practice Book
    This is a real find for high school worksheets! A complete Prentice-Hall workbook filled with prefix, suffix, and other vocabulary activities. See pages 22-24 for analogies practice.
  • Samples from Perfection Learning Analogies Book C
    These excerpts from an analogies workbook are quite nice. They include tips for solving analogies and some practice problems.
  • Analogy Pocket Game
    This blog post shares an idea for "pocket games" -- analogies on index cards. Free printable templates are included in the post.

An Analogy Workbook - for Grades 5-8

An Analogy Workbook - For Grades 4-8


anonymous on November 22, 2012:

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 on June 18, 2012:

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 on September 12, 2011:

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

Teddi14 LM on June 16, 2011:

Love this lens. Great job! I added it to

SpellOutloud on May 30, 2011:

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

Barb McCoy on May 30, 2011:

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 on May 27, 2011:

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

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