Personification vs anthropomorphism

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Personification and anthropomorphism are two literary devices that are somewhat similar, but with a subtle difference. A literary device is a tool used by speakers and writers in order to produce a certain effect by manipulating words and using them in unique and unexpected ways. We will examine the definitions of the terms personification and anthropomorphism, their etymology and some examples of their use in sentences.

Personification is a literary device that ascribes human attributes to abstract ideas or inanimate objects. The attribution of human characteristics to non-human items through personification is a method of using figurative language to create imagery. Personification may attribute human traits and human qualities to an abstraction. For instance, a blindfolded woman holding balancing scales and a sword is a personification of justice. To describe a delicious dessert as “a piece of chocolate cake calling your name” is personification. The cake has no mouth or vocal chords and can not literally call someone’s name. Poets use the figurative language of personification when constructing a metaphor. “The pen danced across the page” is personification. Personification may also be used to describe something or someone who is the quintessential example of something. For instance, Audrey Hepburn is the personification of grace. Describing someone or something with personification is a method of appealing to emotions, and is not to be taken in a literal sense. The word personification is derived from the French word personnifier which means to represent. Related words are the verbs  personify, personifies, personified, personifying.

Anthropomorphism is a literary device that ascribes human actions and attributes to animals or other objects. Anthropomorphism is used simply to make an animal or object behave as if it were a human being. For example, Winnie the Pooh and all of his friends are examples of anthropomorphism. All of the characters in the Disney movie Beauty and the Beast are examples of anthropomorphism. Talking animals are often depicted in a story such as a fable or a fairy tale, which is often told as an allegory. Ascribing human actions, qualities and attributes to a deity is also known as anthropomorphism. Greek and Roman philosophers in particular were known to ascribe human characteristics and traits to their non-human gods. The word anthropomorphism is derived from the Latin word anthropomorphus, which means having a human form. Related words are anthropomorphic, anthropomorphize, anthropomorphized, anthropomorphizes, anthropomorphizing, anthropomorphous.


Tracks such as “Sam,” which is about good ol’ Uncle Sam — the personification of the American tax system — showcase 2 Chainz’s economic growth. (The Daily Emerald)

The lyrics are the personification of encouragement, and Nelson delivers them gently, a reassuring presence alongside the chords of the piano. (Substream Magazine)

This kind of anthropomorphism isn’t new of course – some of the oldest known deities combine human and beast – but it has only been since Charles Darwin’s description of joy and love among animals that the debate has evolved on whether humans hold exclusivity over certain traits. (The Guardian)

Its marriage of dialogue and body language is exhilarating and its impeccably choreographed and edited action sequences are seriously thrilling with a reality that goes beyond anthropomorphism to give you a genuine sense of nature’s power. (The Sydney Morning Herald)