Doctor Le Quack from Courage The Cowardly Dog


anthrop = human

morph = shape

— from The Cognatarium – a search engine which allows you to search for the meanings of English words by morpheme (the smallest unit of meaning).

In pop culture the two terms seem to be used interchangably. See, for instance, 10 Movies That Will Traumatise Your Child With Anthropomorphism from io9.

But some people like to maintain a distinction, despite the overlapping usage. I like this explanation:

Both personification and anthropomorphization assert intangible human characteristics — such as consciousness and thought — onto an inanimate object, entity or animal. The difference is that anthropomorphization imposes physical or tangible human characteristics onto the subject to suggest an embodiment of the human form.

– from the forum

To put it another way, with examples:

Personification pretends (for literary effect) to ascribe one or two human attributes (especially thoughts, feelings, intentions) to non-human things.

Anthropomorphism turns non-humans into humans completely — such as Bugs Bunny, the animals of Aesop’s fables, the three bears who chased Goldilocks, or the Uncle Remus characters.

Another way of looking at anthropomorphism is that it is actually talking about humans — but pretends that they are shaped like animals.

This is a popular device in children’s literature, fairy tales, and comic strips. One benefit is that the characters don’t have any race or gender, so all children everywhere can identify with them. [For more on that see Why So Many Animals In Picturebooks?]

– from someone at Yahoo answers.