personification

noun
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

The contrast in the candidates could not be [starker]: Mr. Cruz is the personification of Tea Party Republican activism, and Mr. O’Rourke is running as an unabashed progressive. Fox News, "Video from 2011 creates headaches for Sinema," 12 Oct. 2018 In addition to Elvira Hancock and other disco darlings, Phillipe cited party girls of a more recent era, particularly Paris Hilton and Lil’ Kim, who walked in the show, as personifications of this archetype. Ian Malone, Vogue, "Disco Was Not Dead at The Blonds’s After-Party," 13 Feb. 2019 Harry’s nemesis, the Dark Lord, the personification of all that is evil. Laura Collins-hughes, New York Times, "So You Know Nothing About ‘Harry Potter’? Let’s Catch You Up," 15 Feb. 2018 JooE, in particular, is Momoland's personification of cotton candy. Devon Abelman, Allure, "K-Pop Group Momoland Shares the Weirdest Parts of Their Beauty Routines," 24 Aug. 2018 Her astonishing business skills earn her a reputation for being able to spin silver into gold — and thereby catches the eye of the king of the Staryk, the elvish personification of winter in the story’s Lithuanian-analogue fantasy world. Constance Grady, Vox, "With Spinning Silver, Naomi Novik cements her status as one of the great YA fantasy authors," 20 July 2018 The name Columbia was chosen to honor the District of Columbia, as well as acknowledge Columbia, the feminine personification of the United States of America. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "The U.S. Navy's Next Missile Sub Is Called USS Columbia," 15 Dec. 2016 But if 2017 was a year of extreme belligerence from the North Korean leader, the first six months of 2018 have been the personification of the Pyongyang charm offensive. Jamie Tarabay, CNN, "How Trump and Kim made it to 'hello'," 9 June 2018 The dark figure in the doorway may be a personification of Death at the door, standing over the future President’s shoulder, about to shut the door on the light. Victoria Dalkey, sacbee, "This artist's works will blow you away in Sacramento exhibit | The Sacramento Bee," 20 Apr. 2018

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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Statistics for personification

Last Updated

6 May 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for personification

The first known use of personification was in 1728

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More Definitions for personification

personification

noun

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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