Personification Definition: Personification is a literary device that gives humanlike characteristics to non-human entities. Personification is a type of figurative language.
What Does Personification Mean?
What is the definition of personification? Personification occurs when a writer makes a non-human thing have human behavior. Hence, the writer personifies that object.
Figurative language is any word or phrase that is not to be taken literally but is used in writing for effect.
- The wind danced in the trees.
This example uses personification to provide imagery for the wind’s effect on the tree. The wind cannot literally dance, as a human can. Therefore, the phrase is figurative and the wind is personified.
- The ocean sang a mesmerizing song.
This example uses personification to provide sensory language for the sound the ocean makes. The ocean cannot literally sing, as a human can. Therefore, the phrase is figurative and the ocean is personified.
- The windows trembled with fear.
This example uses personification to provide mood and imagery for the movement and sound the windows make. The windows cannot literally tremble, as a human can. Therefore, the phrase is figurative and the windows are personified.
Modern Examples of Personification
Personification Examples in Everyday Language
- New York is the city that never sleeps.
This example uses personification to imply that New York is constantly a bustling city. The city cannot literally sleep, nor can the city be awake, like a human can. However, this common phrase is accepted to mean that New York is a lively, energetic city, day or night.
Personification Examples in Music
- “Time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go” from “Good Riddance” by Green Day
This example uses personification to imply that time can grab you, pull you, and direct you. Time is not a human but is personified to act like a human in these lyrics.
Personification Examples in News Stories
You see examples of personification in financial settings and news stories quite often. “Stocks hurt today,” “The market fought to secure its gain,” etc. Here is a common example from Market Watch using oil prices,
- Crude oil prices struggled on Monday, at times rising on hopes that a fall in U.S. oil rigs would ease excess supply while stronger consumer spending in that country would spark demand for oil. –Market Watch
The Importance and Function of Personification
Writers utilize personification for effect. Applying human characteristics to non-human things gives those things particular qualities that they would otherwise lack.
Personification makes literature and writing more engaging and more interesting. In many cases, it brings life to abstract object or ideas. For example, in the above example, time is given human qualities and, therefore, brings this abstract concept to life.
Personification is used to enhance writing and to emphasize a point. It is much more powerful to say,
- The wind danced in the trees
than it is to say,
- The wind moved through the trees and made the leaves move around softly.
Like all literary devices, writers use personification with purpose and meaning.
Examples of Personification in Literature
Perhaps one of the most well-knows uses of personification in literature includes Emily Dickinson’s poem, “Because I could not stop for Death”. Below is an excerpt.
Personification Examples in Poetry
Because I could not stop for Death—
He kindly stopped for me—
The Carriage held but just Ourselves—
We slowly drove—He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For His Civility.
This poem refers to “Death” as if he were a person, able to function as a human. Dickinson utilized personification to communicate the speaker’s feelings and emotions surrounding the idea of death.
What Does Personified Mean?
Personified Definition: Personified is the action of thinking or representing inanimate objects or abstraction as having personality, thought, or qualities of living, human beings.
Something that is personified is an example of personification. Personified is nothing more than the verb form of personification.
What is personification? Personification is an effective literary device used to enhance writing.
When a writer personifies an object, he gives it figurative, humanlike qualities in order to create a particular effect.