A kenning, in literature, is a word or phrase that is a metaphor for something simpler. Calling a ship a "sea-steed," for example, is a kenning.

You're most likely to hear the term kenning in a literature class, especially if you happen to be studying Old Norse or Old English poetry. It's part of both literary traditions to use figurative language — often in the form of a compound word or a phrase — to represent a simple word. In Old Norse, a typical kenning is "sun of the houses" for "fire." The root is the Old Norse kenna, "know, recognize, or perceive."

Definitions of kenning

n conventional metaphoric name for something, used especially in Old English and Old Norse poetry

Type of:
figure, figure of speech, image, trope
language used in a figurative or nonliteral sense

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