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A kenning is when you combine two words and use them as a metaphor for something else.

Kennings are useful for developing students’ descriptive language.

  1. Begin by having students match previously created kennings with the object it describes (see the list below).
  2. Have students create their own kennings by brainstorming characteristics associated with a particular object. For example, when you think of a dog you could think about the fact that they drop lots of hair, they bark or howl, they fetch balls or sticks, they give you lots of love and affection, they eat bones, some dogs have fleas, they give you sloppy licks, etc.
  3. Students write a poem consisting of kennings.

My Dog
Sloppy kissing
Ball fetching
Love giving
Best friend

Annoying Dog
Hair dropping
Peace destroying
Teeth baring
Flea haven.

List of Kennings

  • Ankle biter = a very young child
  • Bean counter = a bookkeeper or accountant
  • Bone house = your body
  • Bookworm = someone who reads a lot
  • Brown noser = a person who does anything to gain approval
  • Couch potato = lazy person
  • Feathers falling = falling snow
  • Fender bender = a car accident
  • Sun of houses = fire
  • First Lady – the wife of the president
  • Four-eyes = someone who wears glasses
  • Head twister = an owl
  • Heaven’s candle = sun
  • Hot potato = something no one wants
  • Mind reader = a person who knows what you are thinking
  • Motor mouth = a person who talks a lot and/or quickly
  • Pencil pusher = a person with a clerical job
  • Pigskin = a football
  • Postman chaser = a dog
  • Rain paint = rainbows
  • Rug rat = a toddler or crawling baby
  • Ship of night = the moon
  • Showstopper = a performance receiving long applause
  • Skyscraper = very tall building
  • Blood battle = sweat
  • Tree hugger = an environmentalist
  • Tree swinger = a monkey
  • Tummy slider = a penguin
  • Winter’s blanket = snow

More Resources

Examples of using Kennings in poetry

Kenning Generator

Video Explanation

Kenning Worksheet