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Imitation vs. Mimicry: What's the Difference?

Edited by Harlon Moss || By Janet White || Published on November 28, 2023
Imitation is the act of copying behavior or appearance, often to learn or fit in, while Mimicry is replicating another's appearance or behavior for survival or advantage.

Key Differences

Imitation often signifies a deliberate act of copying, possibly to learn a skill, emulate success, or fit into a group. On the other hand, Mimicry, particularly in the natural world, often revolves around survival. Some animals employ Mimicry as a strategy to deceive predators or prey.
In the context of human behavior, Imitation can be seen when someone adopts the mannerisms, style, or even speech patterns of another, sometimes out of admiration or as a form of flattery. Mimicry, however, may not always have a flattering intent. It can be used to mock or ridicule another's behavior or attributes.
Products and arts provide another dimension to differentiate Imitation from Mimicry. An Imitation product might resemble a branded or renowned product but doesn't claim to be the original. In contrast, Mimicry in this context might entail passing off as the original, potentially deceiving the consumer.
Moreover, Imitation can be a conscious decision, such as when learning a new skill by observing a master. Mimicry, especially in the animal kingdom, is more instinctual and evolved over time as a survival mechanism. For instance, certain insects mimic the appearance of more dangerous species to deter predators.

Comparison Chart


Often for learning, emulating success, or fitting in.
Primarily for survival or gaining an advantage.


Can be a conscious decision.
Often instinctual, especially in nature.

In Products

Resembles another but doesn't claim to be original.
May deceive by passing off as the original.

In Human Behavior

Might adopt out of admiration or flattery.
Can be used to mock or ridicule.


Can be a personal choice or societal influence.
Evolved as a survival strategy or to gain advantage.

Imitation and Mimicry Definitions


Producing a likeness or semblance.
The sculpture was a remarkable Imitation of the human form.


Adopting another's appearance or behavior for survival.
The butterfly's Mimicry of a toxic species keeps predators away.


Reproducing someone's behavior or actions.
Children often learn through Imitation of adults.


Replicating sounds, gestures, or mannerisms.
His Mimicry of the politician had everyone laughing.


Emulating an appearance or style.
The jewelry was an Imitation of a famous designer piece.


Copying for the sake of mockery or ridicule.
Her Mimicry of the celebrity was both amusing and critical.


The act or an instance of imitating
Gave us his imitation of a famous actor.


Deceptively resembling another.
The plant's Mimicry tricks insects into pollination.


Something derived or copied from an original, often in an inferior way
An undrinkable imitation of real lemonade.


The act, practice, or art of mimicking.


Repetition of a phrase or melody often with variations in key, rhythm, and voice.


An instance of mimicking.


Repetition of a theme in another voice such that each part continues polyphonously.


(Biology) The resemblance of one organism to another or to an object in its surroundings for concealment and protection from predators.


Made to resemble another, usually superior material
Imitation fur.


An act or ability to simulate or effect the appearance of someone or something else.
They say that mimicry is the sincerest form of flattery, but I still think I'm being mocked when he acts just like me.
When animal mimicry goes really wrong they don't just look like something that a predator would ignore, they look like lunch.


The act of imitating.


The act or practice of one who mimics; ludicrous imitation for sport or ridicule.


A copy or simulation; something that is not the real thing.
Imitation leather


Protective resemblance; the resemblance which certain animals and plants exhibit to other animals and plants or to the natural objects among which they live, - a characteristic which serves as their chief means of protection against enemies; imitation; mimesis; mimetism.


The act of imitating.
Poesy is an art of imitation, . . . that is to say, a representing, counterfeiting, or figuring forth.


The act of mimicking; imitative behavior


That which is made or produced as a copy; that which is made to resemble something else, whether for laudable or for fraudulent purposes; likeness; resemblance.
Both these arts are not only true imitations of nature, but of the best nature.


The resemblance of an animal species to another species or to natural objects; provides concealment and protection from predators


One of the principal means of securing unity and consistency in polyphonic composition; the repetition of essentially the same melodic theme, phrase, or motive, on different degrees of pitch, by one or more of the other parts of voises. Cf. Canon.


Imitating for a strategic advantage.
Some brands use Mimicry of popular products to boost sales.


The doctrine that representations of nature or human behavior should be accurate imitations


A copy that is represented as the original


Copying (or trying to copy) the actions of someone else


A representation of a person that is exaggerated for comic effect


Not genuine or real; being an imitation of the genuine article;
It isn't fake anything; it's real synthetic fur
Faux pearls
False teeth
Decorated with imitation palm leaves
A purse of simulated alligator hide


Copying to learn or master a skill.
Through Imitation, he mastered the guitar techniques of his idol.


Replicating another's method or approach.
Many startups sought Imitation of the successful business model.


Why do animals use Mimicry?

Animals use Mimicry primarily for survival, either to deceive predators or to lure prey.

Is Imitation always flattering?

Not always; Imitation can be admiration-based or result from a desire to fit in, but it can also be used for deceit.

Why do children engage in Imitation?

Children often use Imitation as a learning mechanism, copying adults to learn behaviors and skills.

Can Imitation be harmful?

In certain contexts, like counterfeiting products, Imitation can be deceptive and harmful.

What does Imitation mean?

Imitation means copying or reproducing someone's behavior, actions, or appearance.

Is Imitation always conscious?

While often deliberate, some forms of Imitation can be subconscious, especially in social settings.

Can Mimicry be harmful to the mimic?

If recognized as a mimic, it can sometimes backfire, especially if the deception is discovered.

Is Mimicry exclusive to the animal kingdom?

No, humans can also employ Mimicry, often in speech, behaviors, or for comedic effect.

How does Mimicry aid in plant survival?

Some plants use Mimicry to attract pollinators or deter herbivores.

How is Imitation used in learning?

Imitation is often employed to replicate successful methods, behaviors, or techniques for mastery.

Can Mimicry be humorous?

Yes, in human contexts, Mimicry can be used for comedic effect, especially in impersonations.

Why is Imitation seen as a form of flattery?

It suggests the original is worth copying, indicating its value or success.

Is Imitation art genuine?

Imitation art replicates the style or content of original pieces but doesn't claim to be the original.

Does Mimicry always offer an advantage?

In nature, Mimicry often offers survival advantages, but in other contexts, its benefits can vary.

How do industries combat product Imitation?

Brands use trademarks, patents, and legal actions to combat counterfeit or Imitation products.

Are all forms of Mimicry deceptive?

While many forms of Mimicry have a deceptive element, especially in nature, not all are intended to deceive.

Is Mimicry always instinctual?

In animals, it's often instinctual, but in humans, it can be both instinctual and learned.

What is the primary purpose of Mimicry in nature?

It mainly serves as a survival strategy, either deterring predators or attracting prey.

How do cultures view Imitation?

Views vary, but Imitation can be seen as respect, a learning method, or sometimes as unoriginality.

Are there risks in relying on Mimicry?

Yes, over-reliance can stifle innovation, and in nature, being identified as a mimic can be detrimental.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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