Literally, the word “kenning” translates into “to teach” or “to know.” These word pairings aren’t basic metaphors, either. They can add a new level of meaning to common words of the day.
Word pairings from Old English poems and literature:
bait-gallows = fishing hook
battle-sweat = blood
breaker of trees = wind
earth-hall = burial mound
heath-stepper = deer
joy of the sky = dawn
mead-bench = throne
ring-giver = king
sea-wood = ship
sky-candle = the sun
spirit-chest = the human mind
storm of swords = battle
triumph-tree = Christ’s cross
Creating kennings is a challenging and fun exercise for children. Adults can also have a little fun with words, whether it’s a brainstorming session or as entertainment.
The setup of kennings looks something like this if you’re writing them on a chalkboard or on paper:
darkness : night :: helmet : cover
(darkness is to night as helmet is to cover)
- - - - - - :: - - - - -
Either of these methods will make it easy to come up with new kennings for some of today’s words.
Photo public domain: ship illustration from Caedmon