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

Mulaney’s casting comes after the news on Friday that Wiz Khalifa will guest star as the personification of Death on the series. Rachel Yang,, "John Mulaney will play Henry David Thoreau in Apple TV+'s Dickinson," 15 Sep. 2019 In 2019, there’s a newfound anxiety about the influence of social media, and Borderlands 3’s villains, known as the Calypso Twins, are the personification of those fears. Adi Robertson, The Verge, "Borderlands 3 has a billion guns, and its most dangerous weapon is vlogging," 14 Aug. 2019 By the end of the section, the bully named Smurf seems less like a real person and more like a spectre: the personification of old racist ideas, come to life in the imagination of a fretful future scholar in Queens. Kelefa Sanneh, The New Yorker, "The Fight to Redefine Racism," 12 Aug. 2019 While the mental health treatment system does foster a victim mentality among many consumers, some of us have defied that personification. Jack Bragen, The Mercury News, "Opinion: Those of us with psychiatric illness deserve opportunity," 11 July 2019 As the series progresses, other aspects of its subject’s personality—including a hype-man character tied to his love of pro wrestling—emerge and get their own actorly personifications. Judy Berman, Time, "Showtime's Extremely Authorized Rick Rubin Docuseries Shangri-La Is Flawed But Sublime," 9 July 2019 The series follows Morpheus (also known as Dream), the personification of dreams, who had been imprisoned by occultists in 1906 and eventually escaped decades later in the 1980s. Andrew Liptak, The Verge, "Netflix is reportedly adapting Neil Gaiman’s Sandman," 1 July 2019 But bass-baritone Davón Tines and soprano Karen Slack supply rich tones and ardent personifications as Charles and Billie. Scott Cantrell, Dallas News, "Coming-of-age story packs an emotional wallop with its premiere at opera festival," 18 June 2019 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

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

18 Sep 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



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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Comments on personification

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to make a temporary encampment

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