Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Updated on March 17, 2020, 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.

Illustration of PDF document

Download Guide to Literary Terms Study Guide

Subscribe Now

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.


Explore all literary terms.

Unlock This Study Guide Now

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-hour free trial