Figure Name personification
Source Quintilian 9.2.36; Peacham (1577) O3r ("prosopeia"); Putt. (1589) 246 ("prosopopeia," "the counterfait in personation"); Day 1599 90 ("prosopopoeia"); Ad Herennium (399-401); Vinsauf (1967) ("personification"); Hart (1874) 167-169; Macbeth (1876) ("personification," "prosopopeia"); Bain (1867) 34 ("personification"); De Mille (1882); Hill (1883); (Waddy) (1889); Jamieson (1844) 162; Raub (1888) 201; Bullinger (1898) ("prosopopoeia; or, personification"); Kellog (1880) ("personification")
Earliest Source
Synonyms the counterfait in personation, prosopopeia. somatopoeia
Etymology Gr. from prosopon "face" or "person" and poiein "to make"
Type Chroma
Linguistic Domain Semantic

1. Reference to abstractions or inanimate objects as though they had human qualities or abilities. The English term for prosopopeia or ethopoeia. (Silva Rhetoricae)

2. Personification consists in representing an
absent person as present, or in making a mute thing or one lacking form articulate, and attributing to it a definite form and a language or a certain behaviour appropriate to its character. (Ad Herennium)

3. Fifth aid, personification, come forward to lengthen our route yet further. Give power of speech to that which has in itself no such power - let poetic license confer a tongue. So the earth, feeling Phaeton's heat, complained to Jove; so Rome, with dishevelled hair, bewailed in tearful voice the death of Caesar. (Vinsauf)

4. Personification consists in attributing life to things inanimate. (Hart)

5. Personification, or Prosopopeia, the ascribing of life and personality to abstract qualities, such as Hatred or Revenge, or to objects without life. (Macbeth)

6. "consists in attributing life and mind to inanimate things." (Bain)

Personification is that figure by which life is attributed to inanimate objections. It is a trope, and is closely identical with metaphor; for in Quintilian's classification the fourth class is merely the lower kind of personification. (De Mille)

8. 1. The Nature and Origin of Personification.
Personification consists in attributing personality, or some of the attributes of personality, to an inanimate object, because of a fancied resemblance to a living being. (Hill)

8. 2. Personification Natural to Man.
This poetic instinct of the earliest men has not wholly died out in the human breast. A spark still survives, and as the feelings are aroused,
"And as imagination bodies forth
The form of things unknown,"
it touches abstractions with its Promethean fire, and breaths into their nostrils the breath of life. (Hill)

8. 3. Personification in Oratory.
But not in poetry alone is personification a natural form of expression. It vivifies the grandest oratory. (Hill)

9. Personification is a figure of language which represents the lower animals and inanimate objects as endowed with powers of being above their own. The figure is of three grades: (1) that in which inanimate objects are raised to the rank of brutes, (2) that in which brutes are raised to the rank of man, and (3) that in which inanimate objects are raised to the rank of man. (Waddy)

10. "Personification, or prosopopeia, is a figure which consists in ascribing life and action to inanimate objects. It has its origin in the influence that imagination and passion have upon our perceptions and opinions." (Jamieson)

11. "Personification is that figure in which the attributes of living beings are ascribed to things inanimate. This may be--(1) Where animals are raised to the rank of man; (2) where inanimate things are raised to the rank of animals; and (3) where inanimate things are raised to the rank of man. Personification may exist in two forms… a. by the use of an Adjective… b. by the use of a verb." (Raub)

12. Things represented as Person... A figure by which things are represented or spoken of as persons; or, be which we attribute intelligence, by words or actions, to inanimate objects or abstract ideas...
The figure of Personification may be divided into the following six classes or groups:-
I. The members of the Human body.
II. Animals.
III. The products of the earth.
IV. Inanimate things.
V. Kingdoms, countries, and states.
VI. Human actions, etc., attributed to things, etc. (Bullinger, 845)

13. A personification is a figure of speech in which things are raised to a plane of being above their own. This figure is, as you see, of three grades-(1) that in which inanimate things are raised to the rank of mere animals, (2) that in which mere animals are raised to the rank of man, (3) that in which inanimate things are raised to the rank of man. Of these the (2) is the least common, and the (3), in which things are raised the farthest, is the most noticeable, and hence the most forcible. (Kellog, 121-122)


1. O beware, my lord, of jealousy!
It is the green-ey'd monster which doth mock
The meat it feeds on.
—Iago in Shakespeare's Othello 3.3.165-67 (Silva Rhetoricae)

1. The insatiable hunger for imagination preys upon human life
—Samuel Johnson (Silva Rhetoricae)

2. " But if this invincible city should now give utterance to her voice, would she not speak as follows ? ' I, city of renown, who have been adorned with numerous trophies, enriched with unconditional triumphs, and made
opulent by famous victories, am now vexed, O
citizens, by your dissensions. Her whom Carthage with her wicked guile, Numantia with her tested strength, and Corinth with her polished culture, could not shake, do you now suffer to be trod upon and trampled underfoot by worthless weaklings ?" (Ad Herennium)

4. "O thou sword of the Lord, how long will it be ere thou be quiet? Put up thyself into thy scabbard, rest, and be still." - Jer. 47: 6 (Hart)

4. "The mountains sing together, the hills rejoice, and clap their hands." (Hart)

4. "Earth felt the wound; and Nature from her seat sighing, though all her works gave signs of woe." -Milton (Hart)

4. "Nature through all her works gave signs of woe." (Hart)

4. "The sun rose in his splender." (Hart)

4. "Religion sheds upon us her benign influence." (Hart)

4. "The mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, all the trees in the field shall clap their hands." - Isa. 55: 12 (Hart)

4. "Put on thy strength, O Zion; put on they beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city." - Isa. 52: 1 (Hart)

4. "Armous rusting in his halls, on the blood Clifford calls; - "Quell the Scot," exclaims the Lanee; "Bear me to the heart of France," Is the longing of the Shield, "Tell thy name, thou trembling field; Field of death, where'er thou be, Grace them with our victory!" " - Wordsworth's Song at the Feast of Brougham Castle (Hart)

5. "Birds are in woodland bowers;
Voices in lonely dells;
Streams to the listening hours
Talk in earth's secret cells.
Over the gray-ribbed sand
Breathe ocean's frothing lips;
Over the still lake's strand
The flower toward it dips.
Pluming the mountain's crest,
Life tosses in tis pines;
Coursing the desert's breast,
Life in the steed's mane shines."
- Charles Fenno Hoffman (Macbeth)

6. "The mountains sing together, the hills rejoice and clap their hands." (Bain)

8. "In the ancient poetical and proverbial language of Elis," says Muller, "people said, 'Selene [moon] loves and watches Endymion [setting sun'], instead of 'the sun is setting and the moon is rising;' 'Selene kisses Endymion into sleep,' instead of 'it is night.' These expressions remained long after their meaning had ceased to be understood; and as the human mind is generally as anxious for a reason as ready to invent one, a story arose by common consent, and without any personal effort, that Endymion must have been a young lad loved by a young lady Selene." (Hill)

8. Thus Wordsworth gives personality to age:
"Age! twine thy brows with fresh spring flowers,
And call a train of laughing Hours,
And bid them dance, and bid them sing;
And thou, too, mingle in the ring!" (Hill)

8. Curran, speaking of Irish independence, says, "I sat by her cradle, and I have followed her hearse." (Hill)

10. "'The sword of Gaul,' says Ossian, 'trembles at his side, and longs to glitter in his hand.'" (Jamieson)

11. "a dying flame, a raging fever, smiling plenty; pestilence stalked o'er the land, the monkey then arose and addressed the assemblage" (Raub)

12. [ex. of I.] Gen. 31:35. -Heb., Let not the eyes of my lord kindle with anger. (Bullinger, 845)
[ex. of II.] Gen. 9:5. -"At the hand of every beast will I require it" Beasts are thus spoken of as intelligent and responsible. How much more man! (Bullinger, 847)
[ex. of III.] Lev. 19:23. -"Ye shall count the fruit thereof as uncircumcised." For three years the fruit of a young tree was not to be eaten, but in the forth year it "shall be holiness of praises to Jehovah": i.e., it shall be counted holy to the great praise and glory of Jehovah. (Bullinger, 848)
[ex. of IV.] Lev. 18:25, 28. -"The land itself vomiteth out her inhabitants." "It spued out the nations." (Bullinger, 848)
[ex. of V.] Isa. 1:5, 6. -"Why should ye be stricken any more? ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores."... Thus the whole Jewish nation is elegantly addressed as one man. (Bullinger, 851)
[ex. of VI.] Ps. 85:10 (11). -"Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other." (Bullinger, 853)

Kind Of Identity
Part Of
Related Figures prosopopoeia, ethopoeia, antiprosopopoeia, enargia, figures of amplification
Notes 9. It is well to note that while all personifications are metaphors, not all metaphors are personifications. (Waddy)
Confidence Unconfident
Last Editor Ioanna Malton
Confidence Unconfident
Editorial Notes
Reviewed No