What is the definition of kenning?

The definition of kenning is a metaphorical compound phrase that stands in for a noun.

Kenning

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Last Updated on February 25, 2021, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 99

Kennings are compound phrases that can replace a noun. Kennings have to have a figurative or metaphorical component—in fact, they are sometimes referred to as compressed metaphors. They are most often found in Old English and Old Norse literary works.

Correct example:

  • “Battle-sweat”
  • This is a kenning from Beowulf that...

(The entire section contains 99 words.)

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Kennings are compound phrases that can replace a noun. Kennings have to have a figurative or metaphorical component—in fact, they are sometimes referred to as compressed metaphors. They are most often found in Old English and Old Norse literary works.

Correct example:

  • “Battle-sweat”
  • This is a kenning from Beowulf that refers to blood.

Incorrect example:

  • “Son of Ecgtheow”
  • It’s important to avoid misidentifying simple epithets as kennings. When the Beowulf poet uses “Son of Ecgtheow” to refer to Beowulf, this is not a kenning, as there is no figurative or metaphorical component.

 

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