Analog vs. Analogue: What’s The Difference?

One of the most interesting things about English is its choice of silent letters. The English language often borrows from other languages and changes the spelling of the word. The exact reasons for this are unknown to us, but they are widely accepted as the norm.  Words that may have originally had a silent “ue” are modified and shortened to fit the Americanized English vocabulary. Sometimes words in English have multiple spellings and multiple meanings as well. Let’s explore the word analogue, and its counterpart, analog. 

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Definition of Analog

To gain a better understanding of a word, you must first look at its definition. According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, analog is defined as, “of, relating to, or being a mechanism or device in which information is represented by continuously variable physical quantities”. Analog is usually referred to as the opposite of a digital electronic, most commonly a clock. An analog clock or an analog watch has numbers and two hands that physically point to what time it is, whereas a digital clock only displays the correct time in numbers on a screen. Believe it or not, there even used to be analog computers and other analog electronic devices that have fallen out of use now that analog vs. digital isn’t a real debate these days. 

The more technical definition is something that has a similar output and input, usually in reference to voltage, sound waves, or signal processing. 

History and Origin of Analog

Another way to gain more knowledge about a word is to look at where it came from, and its usage throughout history. According to the etymology of the word analog, it originated from the French word “analogue”, the Latin neuter word “analogous”, and the Greek análogon or analogos. The Greek definition was, “proportionate, according to due proportion”. It was used in English in the Greek form during the 1800s and then in a computing sense in the mid-1900s. 

The word traces back to the Greek word “logos” meaning “ratio”, which is also where the world analogy comes from.

Is Analogue Different?

The original spelling of analog was analogue. Both versions are still used today, but one is chiefly used in American spellings (analog). Oftentimes, analog refers to electronics and analogue is used when discussing something that bears analogy to something else. The definition of analogue is, “something that is similar or comparable to something else either in general or in some specific detail. 

Confusingly, the adjective form of the word analog can be used to describe something analogous or to describe an analog clock. The noun form of the word analog is often used when referring to chemical compounds. 

There are many other examples of words that came from British English which have silent “ue” endings. Some of these include monologue, dialogue, and plaque. The difference with these words is that the English version kept the silent letters.

Somewhere along the line when constructing the American English language, American writers decided to simplify the spellings of many words. Since a lot of these words came from Greek or Latin, they brought with them certain quirks in spelling.

Example Sentences of the Word In Context

Another great way to learn how to use a word is to explore the word being used correctly.  Either by reading the word in its proper context or hearing someone else use it in conversation.  Here are some common examples of the word analog being used:

  • The analog clock showed the big hand on the number twelve. 
  • Televisions used to utilize analog signals to transmit video and audio.
  • No model can ever be a perfect analogue of nature itself.
  • Cherries are an analogue of apples because they are both red and sweet.

Synonyms of Analog

Finally, to really solidify a word into your vocabulary, it is useful to explore words with similar or same definitions.  The more words you know that can fit into a specific context, the easier it will be to remember which ones to use.  Here are some synonyms for the word analogue.

  • Parallel: “A point which two or more things share in common.”
  • Counterpart: “One that is equal to another in status, achievement, or value.”
  • Replica: “Something or someone that strongly resembles another.”

As for the adjective analog, there are not really any synonyms because of its specific definition. 

What Is an Analogy?

The noun analogue has a lot in common with the word analogy, which is not by coincidence. They share a very similar etymology. An analogy is a comparison of two unlike things based on the resemblance of a particular aspect.

Analogies are different from forms of expression like metaphors because an analogy encompasses the comparison or inference itself. An example of an analogy would be comparing the seasons of the year to the different stages in life. 

In Summary

It can be difficult for grammarists to keep track of all the variations of the word analog when it has multiple definitions and multiple spellings. Learning languages can often pose several challenges due to the fact that languages often do not follow their own rules.  Anyone who has ever studied a second or even third language can attest to the fact that grammatical rules can be the most difficult part to learn.  From complicated verb tenses to noun declensions that cover both singular, plural, gender, and case, to the lists of pronouns that older languages like Latin supply…in short, grammar is difficult.

At the end of the day, the words analog and analogue are interchangeable and is more of a region-based dialog preference. So you can’t really mess this one up when using it in any form of written communication. Neither is considered to be more correct than the other.

By reaching the end of this article, you should be prepared to use the word analog in any context, written or spoken.  If you need further clarification in any sort of academic environment, just reach out to your teacher or professor.