There seems to be a large overlap in the definitions of Anthropomorphism and Personification and they are somewhat interchangeable, but in what context is one of these words preferred over another?

Anthropomorphism: ascribe human features to something

Personification: the act of attributing human characteristics to abstract ideas

2 Answers 2


Note that personification is not really the attribution of human characteristics to abstract ideas; it is instead the construction of a fictional paradigm who represents or embodies abstract ideas, as in the blindfolded female figure that represents Justice, etc. This is a small but important distinction.

Personification may also refer to a person who embodies or epitomizes a certain quality, or concept, or even a thing, as in "Winston Churchill was the very personification of wartime leadership."


As you noted in your question, anthropomorphism is applied to inanimate objects, while personification is applied to abstract concepts and ideas.

We generally don't talk about anthropomorphism of love, or dignity, or intelligence. We would talk about personification of those things instead.

Likewise, we could say that you hurt your car's feelings when you kick the tires.

Also, we sometimes might say that a particular person is "creativity (or greed, or whatever) personified", meaning that the person is like that idea in corporeal form.

  • 2
    Inanimate? Anthropomorphism of animals is rampant.
    – user597
    Commented Dec 2, 2010 at 15:16
  • Indeed. Forgot about animals.
    – Klay
    Commented Dec 6, 2010 at 21:01

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