Model, example, pattern, exemplar, ideal, standard, beau ideal, mirror are comparable when they denote something set or held before one for guidance or imitation in conduct or endeavor.
Model applies to a person or thing set before one for imitation by oneself or another; the term may suggest nothing more. Often the term applies to a person or thing that is eminently or even preeminently worthy of imitation.
Example applies chiefly to a person (or his acts or conduct) that is or may be imitated by others; the term usually implies that the person, or the act, or the conduct, for some good reason is one that is likely to be imitated, whether good or bad, right or wrong.
Sometimes, however, example applies to what is not intended to be imitated, but rather to serve as a warning. Example is also used in a highly abstract sense in antithesis to precept, then implying the setting of an example, usually but not necessarily a good example.
Pattern applies either to the divine archetype of a thing or to a carefully worked out design or plan (as an architect’s drawing) to be followed in fashioning a thing.
In a more general sense (see also FIGURE 3 ) pattern applies to what merits or seems to merit imitation; it often differs from model in suggesting a more clearly worked out design, or a fuller presentation of details, or in connoting fixity or compelling power.
Exemplar often comes closer to pattern than to example because it usually applies to something set before one as worthy of imitation and, therefore, inherently good.
Sometimes, however, exemplar is specifically applied to a person or thing that exhibits a quality, or sums up all the characteristics that distinguish a type, whether that quality or type be in itself good or bad.
Ideal may specifically imply existence not in the actual world but in the mind and therefore may suggest a remoteness from reality and especially perfection exceeding what is possible in reality.
But ideal also may apply to a real person or thing that is held before one as embodying or representing the perfection one hopes to realize or attain.
Frequently ideal is almost indistinguishable from standard when it applies not to a person or object that serves as a pattern or exemplar, but to something (as a rule, a practice, an aim, or an established level of excellence) by which one seeks to maintain a high quality in a product or of performance.
But standard (see also STANDARD 2 ) is interchangeable with ideal only when it applies to what is the test of perfection or of human perfection.
Beau ideal applies to one and especially a person felt to be a fit model or ideal because of high excellence.
Mirror applies to something so exemplary of its kind that it may serve as a model.