Take the phrase "X Corp has a turnover greater than some small countries". A pedant will want to know the criteria for "small" country, are they developing or industrialised countries, what's the GDP . . . and many other such questions which will actually make the comparison less vague and more useful.

Look at this "Monster" XKCD cartoon that plays with this idea

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Do these vague "I'm giving you an impression here but no useful data" comparisons have a name?


3 Answers 3


A non-rigorous comparison is sometimes called a casual comparison (related to definitions like: not formal; relaxed in style or manner).

But your examples would also be an analogy (a similarity between like features of two things, on which a comparison may be based).

Or perhaps a mataphor (a figure of speech in which a term or phrase is applied to something to which it is not literally applicable in order to suggest a resemblance).


Hand-waving is the typical term for a vague comparison.

Hand-waving noun The use of gestures and insubstantial language meant to impress or convince. ‘Scientists tend to be sticklers for substance over hand-waving.’ - ODO

  • 1
    Is it? I thought 'hand-waving' was when management made sympathetic noises about a problem but did nothing else, like they wave it away. Do you have some sources to support your answer? You should include them to help make your answer the useful sort which the ELU looks for. Have a look at the help centre advice on writing good answers. english.stackexchange.com/help/how-to-answer
    – Spagirl
    Feb 23, 2017 at 11:28
  • Hand-waving describes a form of deceit. It does not require vague comparisons.
    – MetaEd
    Feb 23, 2017 at 14:32
  • Hello and welcome. I'm not sure why your answer received two down-votes. I think your suggestion works (+1). This site encourages answers to be definitive - e.g. by citing authoritative references or by logical argument. I've added a relevant dictionary entry for you. Feel free to roll it back or to further edit your answer.
    – Lawrence
    Feb 23, 2017 at 14:39
  • This may not be the best answer, but I do think it fits. Vague comparisons can be a form of hand-waving, in which important details are ignored or glossed over. In my experience, hand-waving is anything that presents a conclusion without the details needed to reach that conclusion. Vague comparisons are one of many ways to do that. Feb 23, 2017 at 14:44
  • @Matt While I see that my original take on hand-waving was off (I might have been thinking of 'hand-wringing') I still don't think this is a good fit for the question. Hand-waving can take the form of vague comparisons, but hand-waving far from being the default usage of them. Nor are the vague comparisons apparently being used as hand-waving in the examples in the question. (NB I've not voted this answer down).
    – Spagirl
    Feb 24, 2017 at 11:18

Faulty comparison (or bad comparison, false comparison, incomplete comparison, inconsistent comparison) -- Logically Fallacious

Comparing one thing to another that is really not related, in order to make one thing look more or less desirable than it really is.

Read more, detailed examples from the source.

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