The Anglo-Saxon and Old norseman traditions have a word because that a link expression v a metaphorical meaning: kenning. Merely put, in poetry, a kenning is as soon as you take 2 words and also combine them as a gentle translation or metaphor for something else.

You are watching: Kenning in beowulf with line numbers

So, together you’re sitting by the fire one night, enjoying an anthology of Scandinavian poetry, you can come throughout poem around five brave men aboard a wave-floater (a ship). Kennings were regularly used to explain everyday people, animals, and objects.

To no surprise, lock were provided to brighten increase an author’s prose. Why speak “a ship” when you can use something much more illustrious favor “wave floater”? Let’s enjoy further instances of kenning.

boy analysis a book - bookworm

Modern of Kennings

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

Ankle biter = a very young childBean counter = a bookkeeper or accountantBookworm = someone who reads a lotBrown noser = a human who does anything to gain approvalFender bender = a auto accidentFirst Lady - the wife of the presidentFour-eyes = someone that wears glassesHead twister = one owlHot potato = something no one wantsMind reader = a human being who to know what you room thinkingMotor mouth = a human who speak a many and/or quicklyPencil pusher = a human with a clerical jobPigskin = a footballPostman chaser = a dogRugrat = a toddler or crawling babyShowstopper = a power receiving long applauseTree hugger = an environmentalistTree swinger = a monkeyTummy slider = a penguin

Kennings in Poetry

The next time she calling your tiny niece or nephew one “ankle biter,” understand you have actually something in usual with the Vikings of long ago. Offered its beginnings in poetry, let’s take a watch at two poetic samples that kennings in action.

Children’s Poetry

Anytime we develop a two-word build for a singular noun, we’re draw close kenning territory. Take a look in ~ this sample children’s city from Bic Kids, made practically entirely of 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 these together,

I’m a bird!


Now, ~ above the classics. The epic poem Beowulf is chock complete of kennings. The penned by one unknown author, although us do know it has its origins in Anglo-Saxon literature. One of the most significant scenes details Beowulf’s fight against the monster Grendel. Possibly to completely illuminate it, the author leaned greatly on kennings to paint a graphic picture. Here are some kennings traction from that fight scene, and also the rest of the epos poem:

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

Kennings regarded Nature

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

Ancestor"s watch = a stone circleBane that wood = fireBoreas"s burning = eye blindnessBranches the 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 of Ull = skisSerpent"s lair = goldShip that night = the moonSky"s black cloak = nightfallSky candle = the sunThor"s laughter = thunderWeather of wolves = harsh winterWhite death = killed by an avalancheWind racers = horsesWinter"s blanket = snowWinter spear = icicle

Kennings regarded Battle

The author of beo wolf turned to kennings for good reason. He want to explain the terrible loss the life and torturous scars of fight with glowing imagery. Simple language would never ever do to define the horrors of war. Together such, below are some battle kennings that might strike increase a bolder image.

Battle metal = weaponsBlack song = war cryBlood ember = axeDew that slaughter = bloodFeeding the eagle = death enemiesMind"s worth = honorTraveling the Hell road = dyingWar needles = arrowsWeather that weapons = massive battle

Kennings pertained to People

People are, perhaps, the most baffling of all. The next time you’re trying to explain a facility character in your quick story or poem think about creating a kenning. Here’s some impetus to kick points off:

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

Abstract Kennings

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

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

Cunning Kenning Creations

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

See more: How Do Snakes Poop And Pee ? (Frequency, Smell + Appearance)

For part inspiration, gain these of totally free verse poems. Then, let your hair down while girlfriend dip her latest city in clever kennings indigenous the past.