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Personification Versus Anthropomorphism

Updated on May 22, 2017
StephanieBCrosby profile image

Stephanie Bradberry is an herbalist, naturopath, and energy healer. Her academic career includes teaching, tutoring, writing and editing.



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 Bradberry
Stephanie Bradberry | Source

About the Author

Stephanie Bradberry is first and foremost an educator and life-long learner. Her present work is as an herbalist, naturopath, and energy healer. She spent over 13 years as a professor of English, Literature, and Education and high school English teacher. Stephanie runs her own home-based business, Naturally Fit & Well, LLC. She loves being a freelance writer and editor on the side.


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    • StephanieBCrosby profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Bradberry 

      5 years ago from New Jersey

      Hi tobusiness,

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

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 

      5 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

      Useful and beautifuly explained.

    • StephanieBCrosby profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Bradberry 

      5 years ago from New Jersey

      Hi Peggy W,

      Thanks for the compliment!

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      5 years ago from Houston, Texas

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

    • StephanieBCrosby profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Bradberry 

      6 years ago from New Jersey

      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.

    • profile image

      Evan Smiley 

      6 years ago

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

    • StephanieBCrosby profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Bradberry 

      6 years ago from New Jersey

      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.

    • StephanieBCrosby profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Bradberry 

      6 years ago from New Jersey

      Hi DDE,

      Thanks for the compliment, reading and commenting.

    • StephanieBCrosby profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Bradberry 

      6 years ago from New Jersey

      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 imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Bradberry 

      6 years ago from New Jersey

      Hi always exploring,

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

    • Ceres Schwarz profile image

      Ceres Schwarz 

      6 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.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      6 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

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

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 

      6 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.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      6 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...

    • StephanieBCrosby profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Bradberry 

      6 years ago from New Jersey

      Hello PegCole17,

      Thanks for the compliment. You are quite welcome.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • StephanieBCrosby profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Bradberry 

      6 years ago from New Jersey

      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!

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 

      6 years ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

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

    • Jeff Berndt profile image

      Jeff Berndt 

      6 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.


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