The Anglo-Saxon and Old norseman traditions have a word for a compound expression with a metaphorical meaning: kenning. Just put, in poetry, a kenning is once you take 2 words and combine them together a gentle translation or metaphor for something else.

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So, as you’re sitting by the fire one night, enjoy it an anthology that Scandinavian poetry, you can come throughout poem around five brave males aboard a wave-floater (a ship). Kennings were often used to define everyday people, animals, and also objects.

To no surprise, castle were provided to brighten increase an author’s prose. Why speak “a ship” as soon as you have the right to use something more illustrious prefer “wave floater”? Let’s enjoy further of kenning.

boy reading a publication - bookworm

Modern instances of Kennings

Similar to how we combine similes and also metaphors in our prose, kennings can provide an included layer the intrigue and also beauty. Let’s take it a look at some modern expressions that have actually their roots in kennings.

Ankle biter = a really young childBean counter = a bookkeeper or accountantBookworm = someone who reads a lotBrown noser = a human being who does anything to obtain approvalFender bender = a vehicle accidentFirst Lady - the wife of the presidentFour-eyes = someone that wears glassesHead twister = an owlHot potato = something nobody wantsMind reader = a human who to know what you are thinkingMotor mouth = a person who talks a lot and/or quicklyPencil pusher = a human with a clerical jobPigskin = a footballPostman chaser = a dogRugrat = a toddler or crawling babyShowstopper = a performance receiving lengthy applauseTree hugger = an environmentalistTree swinger = a monkeyTummy slider = a penguin

Kennings in Poetry

The following time she calling your small niece or nephew one “ankle biter,” recognize you have actually something in usual with the Vikings of long ago. Provided its origins in poetry, let’s take a look at two poetic samples that kennings in action.

Children’s Poetry

Anytime we produce a two-word construct for a singular noun, we’re approaching kenning territory. Take it a look in ~ this sample children’s city from Bic Kids, made practically entirely the kennings:

a worm-eater

a nest-maker

a cushion-filler

a seed-muncher

a fish-guzzler

a fast-flier

a cat-escaper

a tree-liver

an acrobatic-glider

an adventurous-swooper

a tweeting-singer

Put this together,

I’m a bird!


Now, onto the classics. The epic city Beowulf is chock full of kennings. That penned by one unknown author, although us do know it has its beginnings in Anglo-Saxon literature. One of the most influential scenes details Beowulf’s fight versus the monster Grendel. Perhaps to totally illuminate it, the writer leaned greatly on kennings to repaint a graphic picture. Below are some kennings traction from the fight scene, and also the remainder of the epos poem:

Battle-adornèd = armed and also armored (for battle)“Go to the bench now, battle-adorned.”Battle-gear = armor“‘Mid the battle-gear he observed a blade triumphant, old-sword the Eotens, with edge the proof, warriors’ heirloom, weapon unmatched.”Battle sweat = blood“That war-sword then every burned, glowing blade, once the blood gushes o’er it, battle-sweat hot; yet the hilt ns brought back from my foes.”Giver-of-rings = king“Ne’er heard i of hold in haughtier throng an ext graciously gathered round giver-of-rings!”Light-of-battle = sword“But the warrior uncovered the light-of-battle was loath come bite, to difficult the heart.”Shepherd-of-evils = Grendel“Soon then saw that shepherd-of-evils that never ever he met in this middle-world, in the methods of earth, another wight with heavier hand-gripe.”Heaven’s candle = the sun“Then blazed soon light. ‘Twas bright in ~ as when from the skies there shines unclouded heaven’s candle.”Whale-path = sea or ocean“For that waxed under welkin, in riches he throve, till before him the folk, both far and near, who residence by the whale-path, heard his mandate, gave him gifts: a good king he!”

Kennings pertained to Nature

Nature and also poetry have been lovers since the dawn the time. As such, you won’t be surprised to discover there are many kennings i m sorry relate come nature.

Ancestor"s watch = a rock circleBane of wood = fireBoreas"s burning = snow blindnessBranches that fjord, Wave-swine = shipDragon"s bile = poisonFeather"s fall = fall snowFrozen road = ice-covered riverGreen clearing = a shaman"s gathering placeNorthern kiss = cold windRibs that Ull = skisSerpent"s lair = goldShip the night = the moonSky"s black cloak = nightfallSky candle = the sunThor"s laughter = thunderWeather the wolves = harsh winterWhite death = killed by one avalancheWind racers = horsesWinter"s blanket = snowWinter spear = icicle

Kennings regarded Battle

The author of beo wolf turned to kennings for good reason. He wanted to describe the horrible loss that life and torturous scars of fight with bright imagery. Simple language would never do to explain the horrors that war. As such, here are some battle kennings that can strike up a bolder image.

Battle metal = weaponsBlack song = battle cryBlood ember = axeDew of slaughter = bloodFeeding the eagle = death enemiesMind"s worth = honorTraveling the Hell road = dyingWar needles = arrowsWeather the weapons = large-scale battle

Kennings concerned People

People are, perhaps, the most baffling that all. The next time you trying to explain a facility character in your brief story or poem consider creating a kenning. Here’s some impetus to kick things off:

Bear shirt = norse warriorBringer the rings = chieftain or kingChildren the battle = soldiersFeller of life-webs = slayerFeeder that eagles/ravens = warriorLord that laughter = composer, poetRing rich = a generous personRune caller = wizardSlayer that giants = ThorWolf"s joint = wrist

Abstract Kennings

Then, that course, there are all the abstract contents of life. We have our thoughts, emotions, fears, and also wonderings that can’t be viewed or touched. Still, that doesn’t preclude them native a clever kenning or two.

Draught the giants = sudden realizationForseti"s failure = unjust decisionsMimir"s warning = prophecy that doomUncut thread = destiny to it is in fulfilledWind of troll wives = thought

Cunning Kenning Creations

Go because that it! it is in bold and add a clever kenning or 2 to your following body of work. It would certainly be complicated to brand a distinctive kenning a cliché. So, have some fun and also insert one or 2 in your next piece of literature or poem.

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For some inspiration, reap these of complimentary verse poems. Then, let your hair under while girlfriend dip your latest poem in clever kennings from the past.