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Created by: Team English -, Last Updated: June 10, 2024


“Anthropomorphism” refers to the attribution of human characteristics to non-human entities. It is commonly used in literature, cartoons, and folklore to depict animals, objects, or forces of nature as having human qualities.

What is Anthropomorphism?

Anthropomorphism is the attribution of human traits, emotions, or behaviors to non-human entities, including animals, plants, or inanimate objects. This concept is commonly employed in storytelling, art, and religious contexts to convey complex ideas through relatable or familiar forms. By humanizing these entities, anthropomorphism can make abstract concepts more understandable and engaging for audiences, fostering emotional connections and enhancing narrative depth.

Why do we use Anthropomorphism?

Anthropomorphism is the practice of attributing human characteristics and qualities to non-human entities, including animals, objects, and abstract concepts. This approach is widely used in various fields such as literature, animation, marketing, and technology. The reasons behind its extensive use are deeply embedded in human psychology and serve multiple functional purposes in society.

Enhancing Connection and Empathy

Emotional Engagement: Anthropomorphism allows people to empathize with non-human entities by making them appear more familiar and relatable. For instance, when animals in animated movies display human emotions, it helps audiences connect with them on a personal level.
Building Relationships: By humanizing pets, gadgets, or even brands, individuals feel a closer bond, which can be comforting and enriching.

Simplifying Communication

Educational Tools: Particularly in educational settings, anthropomorphism is used to simplify complex concepts for better comprehension. Young children learn more effectively from characters that speak, feel, and act like they do.
Narrative Techniques: Authors and creators use anthropomorphism to convey complex themes through more accessible and engaging narratives.

Fostering Conservation Efforts

Promoting Environmental and Animal Welfare: By attributing human traits to wildlife and natural environments, organizations can more effectively advocate for conservation and animal rights, eliciting empathy and a protective response from the public.

Encouraging User-Friendly Design

Technology and Innovation: In technology, anthropomorphism helps make interfaces and robots appear more approachable and easier to interact with. This can enhance user experience and acceptance, particularly in areas like AI and robotics.

Supporting Marketing and Branding

Memorable Branding: Anthropomorphism can make brands more memorable and engaging. For example, characters like Tony the Tiger or the GEICO Gecko capture attention and foster brand loyalty through their human-like personas.

Providing Psychological Comfort

Companionship: Attributing human characteristics to objects or pets provides emotional comfort, especially in situations where human interaction is limited.
Coping Mechanism: During difficult or lonely times, anthropomorphized entities can serve as a source of comfort and emotional support, helping people to feel less isolated.

Types of Anthropomorphism

Types of Anthropomorphism

In vocabulary, anthropomorphism can manifest in various forms, each with its own nuances. Here are several types of anthropomorphism commonly observed in vocabulary:

1.Literal Anthropomorphism:

  • This involves directly attributing human characteristics to non-human entities. For instance, referring to a pet as having “feelings” or “thoughts” is a form of literal anthropomorphism.
  • Example: “My cat’s expressive eyes tell me when she’s happy or sad.”

2.Figurative Anthropomorphism:

  • In this type, human traits are metaphorically ascribed to non-human entities to convey a certain idea or emotion. For example, describing a storm as “angry” or the sun as “smiling” employs figurative anthropomorphism.
  • Example: “The storm’s furious winds howled through the night.”

3.Symbolic Anthropomorphism:

  • This type involves using human-like qualities to symbolize abstract concepts or ideas. For instance, depicting justice as a blindfolded figure holding scales is a form of symbolic anthropomorphism.
  • Example: “The Statue of Liberty, holding a torch and book, symbolizes freedom and enlightenment.”

4.Psychological Anthropomorphism:

  • Here, human emotions or mental states are attributed to non-human entities. For example, saying that a tree “longs” for company or that the ocean “grieves” reflects psychological anthropomorphism.
  • Example: “The ocean’s waves seemed to whisper secrets to the shore.”

5.Functional Anthropomorphism:

  • This type involves attributing human-like functions or roles to non-human entities. For instance, referring to a computer program as “working hard” or a car as “resting” anthropomorphizes their functions.
  • Example: “The car engine struggled to start on the cold winter morning.”

Anthropomorphism vs Personification

DefinitionAttribution of human traits to non-human entities, often animals or creatures.Attribution of human traits to abstract concepts, inanimate objects, or natural phenomena.
ExamplesAnimals talking, displaying emotions, or engaging in human-like behaviors.Giving human characteristics to objects (e.g., “The wind whispered through the trees”).
UsageCommonly found in storytelling, mythology, fables, and children’s literature.Commonly used in poetry, literature, art, and advertising to create vivid imagery or convey complex ideas.
FocusPrimarily focuses on animals or creatures.Focuses on inanimate objects, abstract concepts, or natural forces.
PurposeOften used to make non-human characters more relatable or to convey moral lessons.Used to evoke emotions, create vivid imagery, or convey ideas in a more accessible manner.
Example Sentence“The rabbit stood on its hind legs and waved goodbye.”“The sun smiled down on the children playing in the park.”

Anthropomorphism and personification are two literary devices that involve attributing human characteristics to non-human entities. While they are similar in concept, there are subtle differences between them:


Anthropomorphism is the attribution of human traits, emotions, or intentions to non-human entities, often animals or inanimate objects.
This literary device is commonly used in storytelling, mythology, and fables to make non-human characters more relatable or to convey human-like behaviors.
It involves endowing non-human entities with human-like qualities, such as speech, emotions, reasoning, or physical characteristics.


Personification is a specific type of anthropomorphism where human attributes are given to abstract concepts, inanimate objects, or natural phenomena.
It involves treating these non-human entities as if they were human, often by giving them human actions, feelings, or characteristics.
Personification is frequently used in poetry, literature, and art to create vivid imagery, evoke emotions, or convey complex ideas in a more accessible manner.

Examples of Anthropomorphism

Examples of Anthropomorphism

1. Aesop’s Fables:

A classic example of anthropomorphism is found in Aesop’s fables, where animals are often portrayed with human characteristics and behaviors to convey moral lessons. For instance, in “The Tortoise and the Hare,” the animals are given human-like qualities such as competitiveness and overconfidence.

2. Disney Characters:

Many characters in Disney movies exhibit anthropomorphic traits. For example, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy are all animals that walk, talk, and display human emotions.

3.Children’s Literature:

In children’s literature, anthropomorphism is commonly used to create engaging characters. For instance, in Beatrix Potter’s “The Tale of Peter Rabbit,” Peter Rabbit and his friends exhibit human-like emotions and behaviors as they navigate their adventures.

4.Folklore and Mythology:

Anthropomorphic beings are prevalent in folklore and mythology around the world. Examples include gods and goddesses with human-like emotions and desires, such as Zeus in Greek mythology or Anansi the spider in African folklore.

5.Animated Films and TV Shows:

Animated films and TV shows often feature anthropomorphic characters. For example, in “Zootopia,” animals in a modern city take on human-like roles such as police officers, businessmen, and politicians.


Anthropomorphism is also used in advertising to make products more relatable or memorable. For example, the M&M’s characters, which are anthropomorphic candies, engage in human-like activities and conversations in commercials.

Examples of Anthropomorphism in a sentence

  1. The mischievous wind whispered secrets through the rustling leaves.
  2. The stubborn car refused to start on cold winter mornings.
  3. The curious cat tiptoed through the garden, exploring every nook and cranny.
  4. The jealous moon hid behind the clouds, envious of the stars’ shimmering light.
  5. The playful river danced over rocks and splashed joyfully in the sunlight.
  6. The patient sun patiently waited for the clouds to part, eager to warm the earth below.
  7. The wise owl perched on the branch, observing the forest with keen eyes.
  8. The lonely house sighed as it stood abandoned on the hill, longing for the laughter of children.
  9. The fearful shadows trembled in the darkness, afraid of what lurked beyond.
  10. The faithful dog waited by the door, wagging its tail in anticipation of its owner’s return.

Anthropomorphism synonym and antonyms

Here are synonyms and antonyms for “anthropomorphism”:


  • Personification
  • Humanization
  • Anthropotheism (less common, specifically attributing human characteristics to gods or deities)
  • Humanization
  • Humanizing


  • Dehumanization
  • Objectification
  • Depersonalization
  • Deanthropomorphism
  • Dehumanizing


Is anthropomorphism good or bad?

Anthropomorphism can be beneficial by fostering empathy for animals and nature, but it might lead to misunderstandings about animal behaviors and needs in scientific contexts.

What are the problems with anthropomorphism?

Anthropomorphism can cause misinterpretations in behavioral science, lead to inappropriate animal care, and create unrealistic expectations about wildlife and other non-human entities.

How is anthropomorphism used in literature and media?

In literature and media, anthropomorphism is often used to create relatable and engaging characters in stories, such as talking animals in children’s books and animated films.

Is anthropomorphism unique to modern cultures?

No, anthropomorphism is a concept found throughout human history and across cultures, evident in ancient mythologies and religious texts where animals and objects are depicted with human qualities.

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