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noun (1)

ken·​ning ˈke-niŋ How to pronounce kenning (audio)
chiefly Scotland
: a perceptible but small amount


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noun (2)

: a metaphorical compound word or phrase (such as swan-road for ocean) used especially in Old English and Old Norse poetry

Examples of kenning in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web
My favorite parts of the book are those where there's a new kenning. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, 14 Apr. 2023 Most of the writers attempting to imitate Tolkien weren’t steeped in the rhythm of Old English kennings, or the spiritual yearning of chivalric romance. Matthew Gavin Frank, Harper's Magazine, 2 June 2023 Weinersmith has successfully captured the spirit of this timeless story, weaving in generous amounts of alliteration and his version of Old English kennings, a compound figure of speech that replaces a common noun with two or more words that make for a more figurative than literal description. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, 14 Apr. 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'kenning.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Noun (1)

Middle English, sight, view, from gerund of kennen

Noun (2)

Old Norse, from kenna

First Known Use

Noun (1)

1786, in the meaning defined above

Noun (2)

1883, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of kenning was in 1786

Dictionary Entries Near kenning

Cite this Entry

“Kenning.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Feb. 2024.

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