The following is adapted from Episode 32 of the Word of the Day Podcast.
Akin, an adjective, means “like or similar to,” and is perfectly suited for making comparisons between things.
The etymology is pretty interesting. Akin contains within it the word “kin,” which means, “family or relatives.” If this reminds you of the word “clan,” then you have the right idea: Clan, in Gaelic, means children or offspring. So if someone is in your clan, they’re family. In a way, saying one thing is akin to another is kind of like saying the two are cousins—they’re related in some fashion.
They could be related literally—like how an apple is akin to an orange, in that they’re both fruits—or metaphorically, to say that reading a good novel is akin to transporting yourself into the world where the book’s events take place.
Example #1—Baseball today is somewhat akin to its early form as played in the 19th century, but many improvements have been made. Gloves, for example, didn’t pop up until 1875, and when they did, those who first adopted them were looked down upon as soft and wimpy types.
Example #2—Getting your shoes and socks super wet is akin to walking around in your own personal puddle all day.
Example #3 is from A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens: “She did not greatly alter in appearance. The plain dark dresses, akin to mourning dresses, which she and her child wore, were as neat and as well attended to as the brighter clothes of happy days.”