per·​son·​i·​fi·​ca·​tion | \ pər-ˌsä-nə-fə-ˈkā-shən How to pronounce personification (audio) \

Definition of personification

1 : attribution of personal qualities especially : representation of a thing or abstraction as a person or by the human form
2 : a divinity or imaginary being representing a thing or abstraction

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The Art of Personification

It was long common in the visual arts to use human figures to represent a range of natural phenomena, personal qualities, abstract conceptions, and so on. The Greeks and Romans showed us how. Many of their gods and goddesses themselves represented a single thing, be it dawn (Eos, Aurora), wisdom (Athena, Minerva), or war (Ares, Mars); when depicted in idealized human form (as, say, a stately woman holding a scales), each became a personification of that phenomenon or quality or concept (in this case, Justice). Inspired by classical art, Renaissance painters and sculptors likewise began producing thousands of artistic personifications--of Time, or Folly, or France, or Vice, or Poetry, or the Americas. And in the 18th century English-speakers began using the word itself. Today artists are less inclined to such depictions, and the word gets used more often to describe actual individuals; when we call someone the personification of style, or greed, or loyalty, we mean the ideal or epitome or embodiment of that quality.

Examples of personification in a Sentence

the use of personification in a story a personification of justice as a woman with her eyes covered
Recent Examples on the Web In the ad, Satan matches with a woman who happens to be the human personification of the year 2020. Abby Gardner, Glamour, "Taylor Swift Fans Think There’s a Scooter Braun Diss in a New Ad Featuring ‘Love Story’ 2.0," 3 Dec. 2020 The country is called to choose between a very effective executive whose behavioral foibles are sometimes outlandish and the dual personification of weakness and vacuity. Conrad Black, National Review, "Hell, Yes," 28 Oct. 2020 The personification of Ben came from the Jason Isbell inspiration. Matt Wake |, al, "This Alabama musician’s best song is actually a book," 12 Oct. 2020 Plus: Mark Zuckerberg’s own words, the personification of the internet, and Burger King’s whopper of an ask. Steven Levy, Wired, "Facebook Finally Slowed Down—When We Needed It to Move Fast," 2 Oct. 2020 The Kansas State defense is the personification of feast or famine. Brice Paterik, Dallas News, "5 things Texas Tech fans need to know about Kansas State, including a newly improved QB," 30 Sep. 2020 Soleimani lives on as the personification of Iranian regional ambitions. Amir Ahmadi Arian, The New York Review of Books, "The Martyrdom of Soleimani in the Propaganda Art of Iran," 30 Sep. 2020 The teacher told them to write down the definitions of a metaphor and personification and create their own. The Salt Lake Tribune, "Salt Lake City schools finally started. Here’s how the first day went for this sixth grader.," 15 Sep. 2020 Della, who quietly and confoundingly persists in loving Jack’s soul despite his sorry trappings and upsetting behavior, appears to be a personification of Christian grace. Jordan Kisner, The Atlantic, "Marilynne Robinson’s Lonely Souls," 11 Sep. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'personification.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of personification

1728, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Time Traveler for personification

Time Traveler

The first known use of personification was in 1728

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Statistics for personification

Last Updated

8 Dec 2020

Cite this Entry

“Personification.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Jan. 2021.

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How to pronounce personification (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of personification

: a person who has a lot of a particular quality and who is the perfect example of someone who has that quality
: an imaginary person that represents a thing or idea
: the practice of representing a thing or idea as a person in art, literature, etc.

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