Beowulf Kennings

I have to start this blog post with a confession, until yesterday I had no idea what the word kenning meant.  I vaguely remember studying Beowulf but can’t recall learning about kennings! For those of you who need a refresher here is a little bit about kennings taken from the British Library’s “Learning” website:

The language of Beowulf

Beowulf is much admired for the richness of its poetry – for the beautiful sounds of the words and the imaginative quality of the description. About a third of the words in Beowulf are words known as kennings.Kennings are words that are in themselves metaphorical descriptions, and were a typical feature of AS poetry. Kennings combine two words to create an evocative and imaginative alternative word. By linking words in this way, the poets were able to experiment with the rhythm, sounds and imagery of the poetry. Beowulf contains over a thousand kennings.

Some well-known Anglo-Saxon kennings include: bone-house (banhus ) – the human body;    battle-light (beadoleoma) – sword;    wave-floater (wægflota) – ship

James’ assignment was to write his own kennings.  I thought this was a hard assignment but he really enjoys the new work he is getting at the Homeschool Group so he did it with enthusiasm.

Some of James’ Kennings:

house-top-a roof

cushion-floor- a carpet

drink-tube- a straw

salt-lake -the ocean

owl-glasses-night vision goggles


For those of  you doing RPM you may want to try this as a lesson.  There is a lot you can do with it!



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