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Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English
▪ "Animal Farm' is an allegory in which the animals represent the Russian people and Farmer Jones the old Tsarist regime.
▪ The film was a dark, powerful allegory of life in post-war America.
▪ An allegory may depart from everyday life into a make-believe world.
▪ As in medieval allegory, multiple layers of meaning correspond to the novel's multiple languages.
▪ I painted the fire once as an allegory.
▪ It was like living in an allegory.
▪ Perhaps the author is being satirical, employing irony, allegory, or ambiguity.
▪ They look like Brueghel allegories of human suffering.
The Collaborative International Dictionary

Allegory \Al"le*go*ry\, n.; pl. Allegories. [L. allegoria, Gr. ?, description of one thing under the image of another; ? other + ? to speak in the assembly, harangue, ? place of assembly, fr. ? to assemble: cf. F. all['e]gorie.]

  1. A figurative sentence or discourse, in which the principal subject is described by another subject resembling it in its properties and circumstances. The real subject is thus kept out of view, and we are left to collect the intentions of the writer or speaker by the resemblance of the secondary to the primary subject.

  2. Anything which represents by suggestive resemblance; an emblem.

  3. (Paint. & Sculpt.) A figure representation which has a meaning beyond notion directly conveyed by the object painted or sculptured.

    Syn: Metaphor; fable.

    Usage: Allegory, Parable. ``An allegory differs both from fable and parable, in that the properties of persons are fictitiously represented as attached to things, to which they are as it were transferred. . . . A figure of Peace and Victory crowning some historical personage is an allegory. ``I am the Vine, ye are the branches'' [
    --John xv. 1-6] is a spoken allegory. In the parable there is no transference of properties. The parable of the sower [
    --Matt. xiii. 3-23] represents all things as according to their proper nature. In the allegory quoted above the properties of the vine and the relation of the branches are transferred to the person of Christ and His apostles and disciples.''
    --C. J. Smith.

    Note: An allegory is a prolonged metaphor. Bunyan's ``Pilgrim's Progress'' and Spenser's ``Fa["e]rie Queene'' are celebrated examples of the allegory. [1913 Webster] ||

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

late 14c., from Old French allegorie (12c.), from Latin allegoria, from Greek allegoria "figurative language, description of one thing under the image of another," literally "a speaking about something else," from allos "another, different" (see alias (adv.)) + agoreuein "speak openly, speak in the assembly," from agora "assembly" (see agora).


n. 1 The representation of abstract principles by characters or figures. 2 A picture, book, or other form of communication using such representation. 3 A symbolic representation which can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning, usually a moral or political one.

  1. n. a short moral story (often with animal characters) [syn: fable, parable, apologue]

  2. a visible symbol representing an abstract idea [syn: emblem]

  3. an expressive style that uses fictional characters and events to describe some subject by suggestive resemblances; an extended metaphor


As a literary device, an allegory in its most general sense is an extended metaphor. Allegory has been used widely throughout history in all forms of art, largely because it can readily illustrate complex ideas and concepts in ways that are comprehensible or striking to its viewers, readers, or listeners.

Writers or speakers typically use allegories as literary devices or as rhetorical devices that convey hidden meanings through symbolic figures, actions, imagery, and/or events, which together create the moral, spiritual, or political meaning the author wishes to convey.

One of the best-known examples of allegory, Plato's Allegory of the Cave, forms a part of his larger work The Republic. In this allegory, Plato describes a group of people who have lived chained in a cave all of their lives, facing a blank wall (514a–b). The people watch shadows projected on the wall by things passing in front of a fire behind them and begin to ascribe forms to these shadows, using language to identify their world (514c–515a). According to the allegory, the shadows are as close as the prisoners get to viewing reality, until one of them finds his way into the outside world where he sees the actual objects that produced the shadows. He tries to tell the people in the cave of his discovery, but they do not believe him and vehemently resist his efforts to free them so they can see for themselves (516e–518a). This allegory is, on a basic level, about a philosopher who upon finding greater knowledge outside the cave of human understanding, seeks to share it as is his duty, and the foolishness of those who would ignore him because they think themselves educated enough.

Allegory (Filippino Lippi)

Allegory is a painting by the Italian Renaissance master Filippino Lippi, executed around 1498. It is now housed in the Uffizi Gallery of Florence.

The work had been variously assigned, from Leonardo da Vinci to an unknown 15th century painter.

Allegory (category theory)

In the mathematical field category theory, an allegory is a category that has some of the structure of the category of sets and binary relations between them. Allegories can be used as an abstraction of categories of relations, and in this sense the theory of allegories is a generalization of relation algebra to relations between different sorts. Allegories are also useful in defining and investigating certain constructions in category theory, such as exact completions.

In this article we adopt the convention that morphisms compose from right to left, so RS means "first do S, then do R".

Usage examples of "allegory".

It will not forget that noble allegory of Curtius leaping, all in armor, into the great yawning gulf that opened to swallow Rome.

Heaven were reproduced on earth, until a web of fiction and allegory was woven, partly by art and partly by the ignorance of error, which the wit of man, with his limited means of explanation, will never unravel.

That is a sad and true allegory which represents the companions of Ulysses changed by the enchantments of Circe into swine.

The Hebrew allegory of the Fall of Man, which is but a special variation of a universal legend, symbolizes one of the grandest and most universal allegories of science.

This secret is the Royalty of the Sages, the Crown of the Initiate whom we see redescend victorious from the summit of Trials, in the fine allegory of Cebes.

If the sacerdotal laws allowed the reservation of judgments and the allegory of words, I would accept the proposed dignity on condition that I might be a philosopher at home, and abroad a narrator of apologues and parables.

Whether the legend and history of this Degree are historically true, or but an allegory, containing in itself a deeper truth and a profounder meaning, we shall not now debate.

When despotism and superstition, twin-powers of evil and darkness, reigned everywhere and seemed invincible and immortal, it invented, to avoid persecution, the mysteries, that is to say, the allegory, the symbol, and the emblem, and transmitted its doctrines by the secret mode of initiation.

Even if destitute of any formal or official enunciation of those important truths, which even in a cultivated age it was often found inexpedient to assert except under a veil of allegory, and which moreover lose their dignity and value in proportion as they are learned mechanically as dogmas, the shows of the Mysteries certainly contained suggestions if not lessons, which in the opinion not of one competent witness only, but of many, were adapted to elevate the character of the spectators, enabling them to augur something of the purposes of existence, as well as of the means of improving it, to live better and to die happier.

They admitted that they concealed the highest truths under the veil of allegory, the more to excite the curiosity of men, and to urge them to investigation.

Pythagoras taught as an allegory, and those who came after him received literally.

It being taught in the Mysteries, either by way of allegory, the meaning of which was not made known except to a select few, or, perhaps only at a later day, as an actual reality, that the souls of the vicious dead passed into the bodies of those animals to whose nature their vices had most affinity, it was also taught that the soul could avoid these transmigrations, often successive and numerous, by the practice of virtue, which would acquit it of them, free it from the circle of successive generations, and restore it at once to its source.

The misfortunes and tragical death of this God were an allegory relating to the Sun.

The Sun is neither born, dies, nor is raised to life: and the recital of these events was but an allegory, veiling a higher truth.

In all, as we learn from Julius Firmicus, they represented by allegory the phenomena of nature, and the succession of physical facts, under the veil of a marvellous history.