What is the grammatical device that treats abstract concepts as having human agency?

For example: "As it evolved, however, science also turned itself into ideology, belief, and prejudice."

Clearly science didn't turn "itself" into anything. This seems to be a device to remove culpability from certain actors.

Does anybody know what the word is for this verbal technique?

  • Isn’t this the original meaning of pathetic fallacy? Like “angry clouds” or “the sun smiled upon them”
    – djs
    Aug 6, 2022 at 4:28
  • Search ELU SE for personification, anthropomorphism, etc, and you'll find a lot of questions discussing similar things, e.g. this one.
    – Stuart F
    Sep 3, 2022 at 22:30

2 Answers 2


I'd use Anthropomorphize for something like that.

Definition of anthropomorphize transitive verb

  1. to attribute human form or personality to
  • 1
    This is a good answer if you can provide a resource for which dictionary you got the answer from. Sources are helpful. Sep 2, 2022 at 15:17

John Lawler wrote in a comment:

Terry Pratchett called it an anthropomorphic personification, referring to Death, not Science, but it works for any Big Abstraction.

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