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

Essential Meaning of personification

1 : a person who has a lot of a particular quality and who is the perfect example of someone who has that quality
2 : an imaginary person that represents a thing or idea
3 : the practice of representing a thing or idea as a person in art, literature, etc. the use of personification in a story a personification of justice as a woman with her eyes covered

Full 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

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 Through it all, Richard emerged as the personification of both francophone oppression and pride. New York Times, 26 Nov. 2021 Christensen said, sounding not unproud. Theta — the eighth letter of the Greek alphabet — is short for Thanatos, in Greek mythology the personification of death. Globe Staff,, 6 Dec. 2021 In his political campaigns, Russell was cast as the shaper of noble, small-town virtues and Mr. Dole as their personification. New York Times, 5 Dec. 2021 All Elite Wrestling character is the personification of darkness. Jay Reddick,, 20 Oct. 2021 The new president, Ebrahim Raisi, is the personification of the new elite—cruel, dogmatic and indifferent to Western sensibilities. Reuel Marc Gerecht And Ray Takeyh, WSJ, 19 Oct. 2021 The personification of the multi-billion-dollar investment in these Games and one of the primary reasons that there was no way in hell the network was going to allow the COVID Olympics to be canceled. Think that’s some pressure? Ann Killion, San Francisco Chronicle, 27 July 2021 The lithograph features Columbia, the female personification of our country, bestowing a sword on a kneeling soldier. Maggie Menderski, The Courier-Journal, 23 Aug. 2021 The couple are a personification of the veritable sweet spot for every major entertainment-producing company in North America today. Los Angeles Times, 13 June 2021

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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The first known use of personification was in 1728

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Last Updated

7 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Personification.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Jan. 2022.

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