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 Emily escapes her home, one night, to snuggle with the personification of Death—played by an extremely high-looking Wiz Khalifa—in a carriage pulled by ghost horses. Judy Berman, Time, "What to Watch—and What to Skip—on Apple TV+," 28 Oct. 2019 Between all the partying, lesbianism, hallucinations about the personification of Death (played by Wiz Khalifa), and crossdressing in the new Dickinson trailer, Hailee Steinfeld‘s Emily Dickinson is truly ahead of her time. Nick Romano,, "Hailee Steinfeld's Emily Dickinson is a poetic wild child in new Apple TV+ trailer," 18 Oct. 2019 Jay's entire personification was an open book, ready to add you as a character in the chapters of his life. Jeanne Houck,, "Westwood man shot dead was father of three, 'incredibly likable' 3CDC employee," 13 Jan. 2020 The mission of the food bank, Hulett said, is to unite the community in the fight against hunger, and the holiday food drive is the personification of that mission. Jamie Swinnerton, Houston Chronicle, "Montgomery County Food Bank wraps up its holiday drive," 9 Dec. 2019 Slater, who perfected his personification of SpongeBob over six years, spends the entire show dressed in a gingham yellow shirt, skinny red tie and brown plaid pants. Tribune News Service, oregonlive, "‘SpongeBob SquarePants’ musical heads to TV as part of show’s 20th anniversary celebration," 3 Dec. 2019 What if Thanos had been motivated by courting the human personification of Death like in the comics?, "5 moments we'd love Marvel's What If…? show to tackle," 2 Oct. 2019 Through one door, fresh off the elevator into an office lobby, stepped celebrated R&B songwriter and producer Jimmy Jam, the personification of hip. Randy Lewis,, "SiriusXM unveils new L.A. headquarters, as competition with streamers heats up," 1 July 2019 Some are personifications of national identity like Lady Hibernia who represents Northern Ireland on currency issued by the Bank of Ireland. Amanda Shendruk, Quartz, "There are only 59 named women on the most common banknotes," 19 Nov. 2019

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

20 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Personification.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Feb. 2020.

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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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