What is the difference between a 'metaphor' and an 'allegory'? Their dictionary meanings are too close to distinguish. Explanation with examples will be useful.

The definitions I've come across defines an 'allegory' as a story, poem or picture which can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning. On the other hand, a 'metaphor' is something very similar. It is defined as a thing regarded as symbolic of something else.

Please also explain whether an allegory can be a metaphor or vice-versa.

  • 4
    As you yourself say, "Explanation with examples will be useful": please share what dictionary definitions you have encountered, and elaborate a little on what puzzles you. (Arguably every allegory is metaphorical, even those on the banks of the Nile, but by no means all metaphors are allegorical.) Jul 12, 2017 at 14:57

2 Answers 2


An allegory is an extended metaphor. A metaphor might have one point of commonality between the story and reality; the allegory might have many.

Allegory and metaphor are figures of speeches often seen in literature and art. Metaphor is a phrasal expression, which is used to make a comparison of unrelated objects and actions. Allegory can be said to be an extended metaphor. Allegory is a comparison on a deeper note. - Differences Between Allegory and Metaphor

Here are a couple of examples, as requested:

  • The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan is an example of an allegory. It is a story about a man called Christian who meets various people under various scenarios, each of which is named after situations or significant events one might encounter in real life. The life of the protagonist is written as an allegory of the life of a Christian person.

  • The camel's nose is a metaphor for a situation where the permitting of a small, seemingly innocuous act will open the door for larger, clearly undesirable actions. - wikipedia

The camel's nose story is told to make one point and only one point. There isn't any particular significance to other body parts of the camel, to the tent, or to any alternate housing for the camel.

Pushing a metaphor beyond its intended point tends to miss the point of the metaphor altogether. Allegories, however, are intended to be mined for the rich mappings to their real-life analogues.


An allegory is the picturing of an idea, for example death as a skeleton. A Metaphor is a deepening of meaning or colouring the text by exchanging // inserting a phrase, like in german, "desert ship" is a metaphor for camel.

  • 3
    Welcome to Literature! Could you expand on this answer some more, e.g. by editing it to include some citations or further explanation?
    – Rand al'Thor
    Aug 11, 2017 at 13:48

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.