Personification Versus Anthropomorphism



The difference between personification and anthropomorphism causes much debate. Both are literary terms and used to add more description, depth and visualization to one’s writing. However, these terms are not interchangeable, as some believe. Each literary term will be discussed in turn based on: 1) definition, 2) examples, and 3) explanation.



Personification is when a person or fictional figure acts as, or is said to be, the physical form of a quality or an abstract idea or concept. In fact, personification is actually related to a metaphor. Examples of personification include Father Time, Mother Earth, saying that Hitler was the Devil incarnate, and “justice” as a blindfolded woman. In each case, the physical embodiment of the term is a human form: father, mother, historical figure, and woman, respectively. However, what they represent is not living; rather, it is an idea or word—time, earth, evil/devilish, and justice, respectively.


The Confusion Continues!

Yes, I know the author titled the video "Personification." But this video clip is really an example of anthropomorphism.


Anthropomorphism is when an inanimate object is given human abilities and characteristics. Examples of anthropomorphism include: Audre Lorde’s poem depicting rooming houses as old women, the animal characters in Alice in Wonderland and William Wordsworth’s poem describing daffodils dancing in the breeze. Boarding houses are literally buildings, but Lorde imagines them as having the characteristics of a specific type of individual. The movie has characters like the rabbit dressed in clothes, running on two legs, and talking. Wordsworth believes a plant is moving in a way that a human would.

Have You Used One of These Literary Devices?

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In Sum

In sum, personification creates a real or imagined physical image of a word or concept. Anthropomorphism attributes human qualities, like emotions, to non-living and/or non-human things—which could include abstract ideas.

Stephanie J. B. Crosby
Stephanie J. B. Crosby | Source

About the Author

Stephanie Bradberry Crosby is first and foremost an educator and life-long learner. Her present work is as an herbalist, naturopath, and Reiki Master. She spent over a decade as a professor of English, Literature, and Education and high school English teacher. She is a doctoral candidate in Education: Curriculum and Teaching. She runs her own home-based business, Naturally Fit & Well, LLC, which includes her all-natural, handmade, and customizable product line, Natural Herbal Blends. Stephanie loves being a freelance writer and editor on the side.

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Comments 18 comments

Jeff Berndt profile image

Jeff Berndt 3 years ago from Southeast Michigan

Well done! Students and casual writers alike will find this useful--I've found that a lot of people confound these two literary devices, and you've very clearly explained the difference. Voted up.

PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 3 years ago from Dallas, Texas

I like your explanation and the examples of the differences between the terms. Thank you.

StephanieBCrosby profile image

StephanieBCrosby 3 years ago from New Jersey Author

Hello Jeff Berndt,

I too was often confused about how best to explain the difference and if there was much of one when I first started teaching. It took a lot of digging and unraveling to figure out there is a distinct difference.

Thanks for reading and commenting!

StephanieBCrosby profile image

StephanieBCrosby 3 years ago from New Jersey Author

Hello PegCole17,

Thanks for the compliment. You are quite welcome.

Thanks for reading and commenting.

always exploring profile image

always exploring 3 years ago from Southern Illinois

This was a very interesting read. Your examples are clear and understandable. I love to learn new ideas. Thank you...

rajan jolly profile image

rajan jolly 3 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

Very well explained. Frankly, I didn't really know the difference between the two. Thanks.

Voted up and useful.

DDE profile image

DDE 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

An interesting thought here and so well approached on the topic thanks

Ceres Schwarz profile image

Ceres Schwarz 3 years ago

This is very helpful and informative. Personification and anthropomorphism can be easy to confuse with one another and this hub should help those who might be confused and are looking for the differences between the two. The examples you provided for each of the two just help to make things clearer for the readers.

StephanieBCrosby profile image

StephanieBCrosby 3 years ago from New Jersey Author

Hi always exploring,

Thanks so much. I figured if I kept it brief it would diminish the chances of the information becoming too confusing.

StephanieBCrosby profile image

StephanieBCrosby 3 years ago from New Jersey Author

Hello rajan jolly,

Thank you for the compliment. The difference can seem slight for those not into creative writing or majoring in Literature, English, etc. But hopefully this was helpful in some way to you :)

StephanieBCrosby profile image

StephanieBCrosby 3 years ago from New Jersey Author


Thanks for the compliment, reading and commenting.

StephanieBCrosby profile image

StephanieBCrosby 3 years ago from New Jersey Author

Hello Ceres Schwarz,

Thank you so much. I know it took me a while to find some solid ways of remembering the difference. But now I am passing along just a tidbit of the differences.

Evan Smiley profile image

Evan Smiley 3 years ago from Oklahoma City

Very helpful! My high school teachers simply referred to both as personification, but I am so happy to learn the correct terms!

StephanieBCrosby profile image

StephanieBCrosby 3 years ago from New Jersey Author

Hi Evan Smiley,

I am glad I was able to clear the difference in terms up for you. It is not uncommon for people to use the same word for both terms.

Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 2 years ago from Houston, Texas

You explained the differences between the two words well. I have used both in my writings.

StephanieBCrosby profile image

StephanieBCrosby 2 years ago from New Jersey Author

Hi Peggy W,

Thanks for the compliment!

tobusiness profile image

tobusiness 23 months ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

Useful and beautifuly explained.

StephanieBCrosby profile image

StephanieBCrosby 23 months ago from New Jersey Author

Hi tobusiness,

Thanks so much for reading. And I value your feedback. Glad you found it useful and easy to follow!

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