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In literature, a kenning is a poetic phrase substituted for the usual name of a person or thing. For example, the sea in Old English was called the whale's road.

The word is derived from the Old Norse phrase kenna eitt við, "to express a thing in terms of another", and is prevalent throughout Norse, Old English and Celtic literature. Kennings are especially associated with the practice of alliterative verse, where they tend to become traditional fixed formulas.

A list of kennings may be consulted for reference purposes.

See also: synecdoche, metonymy.



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