Figure Name allegory
Source Ad Herennium 4.34.46 ("permutatio"); Quintilian 8.6.44-58; Bede 615-618; Susenbrotus (1540) 12-14 ("allegoria," "inversio," "permutatio"); Sherry (1550) 45; Peacham (1577) D1r; Putt. (1589) 197 ("allegoria," "the figure of false semblant"); Day 1599 79; Hoskins 1599 9; Silva Rhetoricae (; JG Smith (1665) ("allegoria"); Ad Herennium (345-347); Garrett Epp (1994) ("permutatio," "allegory"); Gibbons (1767) 54 ("allegory"); Hart (1874) 159-161; Vinsauf (1967) ("allegory (permutatio)"); Holmes (1806) ("allegory," "aliegoria"); Macbeth (1876); Bain (1867) 37 ("allegory"); De Mille (1882); Hill (1883); (Waddy) (1889); Demetrius (1902) 143; Jamieson (1844) 168; Blount (1653) 2; Raub (1888) 204; Blackwall (1718); Bullinger (1898) ("allegory; or, continued metaphor and hypocatastasis"); Johnson (1903) ("allegory"); Norwood (1742) ("an allegory"); Kellog (1880) ("allegories")
Earliest Source None
Synonyms allegoria, permutatio, the figure of false semblant, continued metaphor, aliegoria, continued metaphor and hypocatastasis, series of metaphors
Etymology Gk. eirein, "to speak"
Type Trope
Linguistic Domain Semantic

1. A sustained metaphor continued through whole sentences or even through a whole discourse. (Silva Rhetoricae)

2. Inversion or Changing: a Trope whereby a sentence must be understood otherwise then the literal interpretation shews.; Allegoria, Inversio, permutatio, inversion or changing; It is an inversion when one thing is propounded in the words, and another in the sense, the word is derived from [allegoreo] aliis verbis allegoricè significo, to a signifie a thing allegorically under other words.Observe, that in a Metaphor there is a translation of one word only; in an Allegory, of many; and for that cause an Allegory is called a continued Metaphor. And as a Metaphor may be compared to a star in respect of beauty, brightnesse and direction; so an Allegory may be likened to a constellation, or a company of many stars. An Allegory is a sentence that must be understood otherwise then the literal interpretation shewes. It is the continuation of Tropes in divers words, as a Metalepsis is the continuation of a Trope in one word through the succession of significations; and these are sometimes confused or distinct; or, It is the continual prosecution of a Metaphor and that proportionably through the whole sentence, or through divers sentences, or as others say, It is the continuation of a Trope, and of the same Allusion in the same discourse; and is, when one kinde of Trope is so continued, as look with what kinde of matter it be begun, with the same it be ended.(JG Smith)

3. Allegory is a manner of speech denoting one thing by the letter of the words, but another by their meaning. It assumes three aspects : comparison, argument, and contrast. It operates through a comparison when a number of metaphors originating in a similarity in the mode of expression are set together. (Ad Herennium)

4. Denoting one thing literally, but meaning another. This figure normally includes not only allegorical fictions as a whole (including dream visions such as Chaucer's HF and PF), and more isolated personified abstractions (such as Shakespeare's Time in WT or Rumour in 2H4), but also any extended metaphor, irony, sarcasm, and other local effects. As a figure or trope, allegory should be distinguished from what is often termed allegoresis, or allegorical interpretation of a text such as the Bible. (Garrett Epp)

5. "...a chain or continuation of Tropes, and more generally of Metaphors; and differs from a single trope in the same manner as a cluster on the vine does from only one or two grapes." (Gibbons)

6. An Allegory is a sort of continued Metaphor. It is a
description of one thing under the image of another. First, it is carried out into a great variety of particulars, making usually a complete and connected story. Secondly, it suppresses all mention of the principal subject leaving us to infer the writer's intention from the resemblanoe of the narrative, or of the description to the principal subject. (Hart)

7. ... I may transpose a proper noun for another reason: that the likeness suggested may be not a true one, but by contrast a kind of ridicule, as when I call a man deformed in body a Paris, or one cruel in heart an Aeneas, one of slight strength a Pyrrhus, one rude in speech a Cicero, or one who is wanton Hippolytus. Altered meaning of this kind gives new vitality to a word. (Vinsauf)

8. An Allegory Tropes continues still, Which with new graces every sentence fill. (Holmes)

9. Allegory is a continued metaphor, kept up through a whole piece. The principal subject is not mentioned by name in the allegory itself, but is described by another subject resembling it. The allegory is thus made up of continued allusion; so that, while professedly a description of one subject, it has an obvious resemblance to another, to which every part of it may be applied. (Macbeth)

10. "When, with a view to some moral or instruction, subjects remote from one another are brought into a comparison sustained throughout the details, the result is an Allegory." (Bain)

11. 112. ALLEGORY.
Allegory is closely associated with metaphor. It has been called "a prolonged metaphor," and may be defined as a narrative with a figurative meaning, designed to convey instruction of a moral character. (De Mille)

12. 1. The Nature of Allegory.
Allegory is commonly defined as "a continued metaphor," or a metaphor developed so as to include a number of details. This definition does not express the whole truth, since it takes a speoie8 for a genus. An allegory may consist of a single metaphor expanded, or of several cognate metaphors. (Hill)

12. 3. Laws of Allegory.
As the allegory is composed of metaphors, the principles laid down as governing them separately, apply when they are used in combination. Two principles need to be more carefully observed.
(1) Development of the Radical Metaphor.- The radical metaphor must be strictly developed, without any blending of plain and figurative expressions, or mixing of metaphors. (Hill)

12. (2). The Analogy Evident.-It is not less important that the analogy be evident. Since the resemblance is one of rations, if the radical metaphor is obscure, its development will render it more so, and interpreting power will not be economized. The allegory and the enigma differ only in degree; the difference being, that in an enigma the meaning of the metaphorical terms is so obscure as to the unintelligible. An allegorical writer may easily become a Sphinx. (Hill)

13. Allegory is a form of expression in which the words are symbolical of something. The allegory is a continued metaphor or a narrative representing objects and events that are intended to be symbolic of other objects and events having usually a moral or spiritual character. (Waddy)

15. "a species of writing, in which one thing is expressed, and another thing is understood. The analogy is intended to be so obvious, that the reader cannot miss the application, but he is left to draw the proper conclusion for his own use." (Jamieson)

16. "An Allegory is the continuall prosecuting of a Metaphor, (which before I defined to be, a translation of one word,) and that proportionably through the whole sentence, or through many sentences" (Blount)

17. "Allegory is an extended metaphor, in which the figure runs through the entire work. By some it is claimed to consist of a number of cognate metaphors." (Raub)

18. Allegory is a Continuation of several Metaphors all thro' the same Sentence or Discourse, when one thing is said, and something different is understood. (Blackwall)

19. Continued Comparison by Representation or Implication... Few figures have been the subject of greater controversy than Allegory; or, have been more variously defined. One class of Rhetoricians declare that it is a continued metaphor: and another class declare that it is not. But, as is often the case under such circumstances, neither is quite correct, because both have a part of the truth and put it for the whole. Neither of the contending parties takes into consideration the existence of Hypocatastasis. And this fact accounts for the confusion, not only with regard to Allegory, but also with regard Metaphor. (Bullinger, 740).

20. Allegory.-An allegory has been described as a continuous metaphor, or series of metaphors, telling a story... The ordinary fable might be classed as an allegory if the application of the story, instead of being expressed in a paragraph beginning "This fable teaches," were left to the reader's imagination. It is easy to construct a poor allegory, and difficult to write a good one that shall be vivid and life like and yet show its significance, without comment, to the ordinary reader... An extended allegory is liable to become elaborate in its construction and obscure in its meaning. (Johnson, 13)

21. AN ALLEGORY. An Allegory is the continuatIon of a Metaphor, and as that consisteth, in the translation of one word, from the proper signification of it; so the Allegory translates many terms, from their native sense and meaning; this figure must not be interpreted according to the strict and literal signification, but with respect to a metaphorical sense eminently contained in it. (Norwood, 30)

22. ALLEGORIES are a species of fiction in which virtues, vices, and difficulties are personified, and great moral duties inculcated. They are less frequently written now than formerly. There are a few in classic English literature. (Kellog, 213)


1. The most obvious use of allegory is work-length narratives such as the medieval Everyman or Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. (Silva Rhetoricae)

1. Quintilian labels allegory what is elsewhere called a "conceit": an extended metaphor:
The ship of state has sailed through rougher storms than the tempest of these lobbyists. (Silva Rhetoricae)

1. Allegory also occurs when an allusion is made with no introductory explanation and the speaker trusts the audience to make the connection, as in the following example, where reference is made to the historic landing of a craft on the moon, but no direct connection is made to the more mundane application of this allusion:
Well, the Eagle has landed. I thought you'd never make partner in the firm. (Silva Rhetoricae)

2. Rub not the scar, lest you open again the wound that is healed, and so cause it to bleed afresh. -Though this be sense and a reall truth in the letter, yet it hath an Allegorical signification, (i. e.) Renew not by rehearsal that sorrow which time hath buried in the grave of oblivion, or made forgot. (JG Smith)

3. " For when dogs act the part of wolves, to what guardian, pray, are we going to entrust our herds of cattle? " (Ad Herennium)

3. " What says this king — our Agamemnon, or rather, such is his cruelty, our Atreus ? " (Ad Herennium)

6. "God brought a vine out of Egypt, and planted it in Palestine." -eightieth Psalm (Hart)

8. Venus grows cold without Ceres and Bacchus, i.e. Love grows cold without Bread and Wine. (Holmes)

10. "The Pilgrim's Progress is a well-known example. In it the spiritual life or progress of the Christian is represented at length by the story of a pilgrim in search of a distant country, which he reaches after many struggles and difficulties." (Bain)

11. It was in this form that Spenser wrote his Faerie Queene, which is the noblest example of allegory in English verse. (De Mille)

13. In allegory, the principal subject and the formal comparison are both dropped; the secondary subject is described, leaving the application entirely to the imagination of the reader, but so obviously that he can not miss it; as,
"My well beloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill: and he fenced it, and gathered out the stones and thereof, and planted it with the choices vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes." (Waddy)

14. 'Razor-fish, and oysters sweet, The widow-woman's dainty meat.' (Demetrius)

15. "A finer and more correct allegory is not to be found than the following, in which a vineyard is made to represent God's people, the Jews. 'Thou hast brought a vine out of Egpt; thous hast cast out the heathen, and planted it. Thou preparedst room before it, and didst cause it to take deep root, and it filled the land. The hills were covered with the shadow of it, and the boughs thereof were like the goodly cedars. She sent out her boughs unto the sea, and her branches unto the river. Why hast thou then broken down her hedges, so that all they which pass by the way do pluck her? The boar out of the wood doth waste it, and the wild beast of the field doth devour it. Return, we beseech thee, O God of hosts; look down from heaven, and behold and visit this vine; and the vineyard which thy right hand hath planted, and the branch that thou madest so strong for thyself.'" (Jamieson)

16. "But when she had once his Ensign in her mind, then followed whole squadrons of longings, that so it might be with a main battle of mislikings and repinings against their Creation" (Blount)

17. "[from Longfellow's 'Launch of the Ship']Thou, too, sail on, O ship of State, / Sal on, O Union, strong and great! / Humanity, with all its fears, / With all its hopes of future years, / Is hanging breathless on thy fate! / We know what master laid thy keel, / What workmen wrought thy ribs of steel…. " (Raub)

18. Did I but purpose to embark with thee,
On the smooth Surface of a Summer's Sea,
While gentle Zephyrs play with prosp'rous Gales,
And Fortune's Favour fills the swelling Sails;
But wou'd forsake the Ship and make the Shoar,
When the Winds whistle, and the Tempests roar? (Blackwall)

19. Gen. 49. -"The prophetical blessing of Jacob is mixed. Part of it is Simile (verse 4). Some is Metaphor (verse 9). In some parts the Metaphors are repeated, in which case we have Allegory. (Bullinger, 742)

20. The most extended allegories in our language are Spenser's Faerie Queene and Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. Dryden's Hind and Panther also is an allegory... Bunyan's work owes its popularity not alone to the fact that it deals with religion, but even more perhaps to its perfect lucidity. (Johnson, 13)

21. Matt. 3. 12. Whose fan is in his hand and he will throughly purge his flour, and gather the wheat into his garnary, but he "will burn up the chaff with unquenchable
fire: this is an spoken in allusion to the righteous and to the wicked, who are here
termed the wheat and the chaff: and the figure explains what a discrimination and
difference, God will at the last day make between them, upon his impartial distribution of rewards and punishments. (Norwood, 30)

Kind Of Similarity
Part Of
Related Figures metaphor, simile, conceit, catachresis, parabola, figures of obscuring, fable, parable
Notes Rule from Hart: The principal, almost the only rule, in regard to Allegory, is to avoid mingling the literal signification with the figurative. Can this be semantic without being lexicographic? (Answer: good question, yes I think it can. Semantics deals with meaning at the discourse level, whereas a lexicographic analysis would look at word meanings in and of themselves)
Confidence Unconfident
Last Editor Ioanna Malton
Confidence Unconfident
Editorial Notes
Reviewed No