The Anglo-Saxon and also Old vikings traditions have a word because that a link expression v a metaphorical meaning: kenning. Simply put, in poetry, a kenning is when you take two words and combine them as a mild translation or an allegory for other else.

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

To no surprise, lock were provided to brighten up an author’s prose. Why say “a ship” once you can use something much more illustrious choose “wave floater”? Let’s reap further instances of kenning.


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boy reading a book - bookworm

Modern instances of Kennings

Similar to how we combine similes and metaphors in ours prose, kennings can administer an added layer of intrigue and also beauty. Let’s take a look at some contemporary expressions that have their root in kennings.

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

Kennings in Poetry

The following time you calling your little niece or nephew one “ankle biter,” know you have something in common with the Vikings of long ago. Given its beginnings in poetry, let’s take it a look at 2 poetic samples the kennings in action.


Children’s Poetry

Anytime we create a two-word build for a singular noun, we’re pull close kenning territory. Take it a look in ~ this sample children’s poem from Bic Kids, made nearly 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!


Beowulf

Now, top top the classics. The epic poem Beowulf is chock complete of kennings. That penned by an unknown author, although us do understand it has actually its beginnings in Anglo-Saxon literature. Among the most prominent scenes details Beowulf’s fight against the monster Grendel. Probably to fully illuminate it, the author leaned heavily on kennings to repaint a graphic picture. Below are part kennings pulled from the fight scene, as well as the rest of the epos poem:

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

Kennings regarded Nature

Nature and poetry have actually been lovers because the dawn that time. Together such, you i will not ~ be surprised to learn there are plenty of kennings i m sorry relate come nature.

Ancestor"s watch = a stone circleBane that wood = fireBoreas"s burning = eye blindnessBranches that fjord, Wave-swine = shipDragon"s bile = poisonFeather"s fall = fallout’s snowFrozen road = ice-covered riverGreen clearing = a shaman"s collection 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 = eliminated by one avalancheWind racers = horsesWinter"s blanket = snowWinter spear = icicle

Kennings concerned Battle

The author of beo wolf turned to kennings for good reason. He want to describe the terrible loss the life and torturous scars of battle with glowing imagery. Basic language would never do to define the horrors the war. As such, right here are some battle kennings that can strike up a bolder image.

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

Kennings regarded People

People are, perhaps, the many baffling the all. The next time she trying to define a complex character in your brief story or poem consider creating a kenning. Here’s some catalyst to kick things off:

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

Abstract Kennings

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

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

Cunning Kenning Creations

Go for it! be bold and include a clever kenning or 2 to your next body of work. It would be an overwhelming to label a unique kenning a cliché. So, have actually some fun and also insert one or 2 in your next piece of literary works or poem.

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For part inspiration, reap these instances of complimentary verse poems. Then, let her hair down while girlfriend dip her latest city in clever kennings from the past.