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Word of the Day
Thursday, April 06, 2017

Definitions for kenning

  1. a conventional poetic phrase used for or in addition to the usual name of a person or thing, especially in Icelandic and Anglo-Saxon verse, as “a wave traveler” for “a boat.”

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Citations for kenning
The most admired kennings were derived from Norse myth and literature. For example, a kenning for gold was "Sif's hair," referring to a myth in which Loki cut off Sif's hair as a cruel joke, and the dwarves made her new hair out of gold. Graeme Davis, Thor: Viking God of Thunder, 2013
"Word meadow is a kenning for tongue," she explains. "And I suppose now you'll want to know what a kenning is....A kenning is a different name for a thing. Instead of calling the sun the sun, you call it a day-star." Christina Sunley, The Tricking of Freya, 2009
Origin of kenning
1880-1885
Kenning, an Old Norse (more properly, Old Icelandic) technical term in poetic composition, means “poetic periphrasis, descriptive compound.” The term seems to have been first used by Snorri Sturluson (1179-1241), Iceland’s most distinguished man of letters. Students of Old English and Old Norse poetry are very familiar with kennings, e.g., these four kennings for ship: in Beowulf, sǽgenga “sea-goer,” ýthlida “wave-crosser”; in Icelandic poetry, branda elgr “elk of beaks” (i.e., a ship with its two ends projecting out like an elk’s horns) or báru fákr “wave-horse.” Kenning in this sense entered English in the 19th century.
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