Introduction

With this post we conclude our look at biblical figures of speech involving comparison, after which we will consider figures of speech involving substitution. In our previous post, we considered anthropopathism, which is the attributing of human emotions or passions to non-human beings, natural phenomena, objects, or God. Today we consider the figure known as zoomorphism.

Zoomorphism

Pronunciation: \ ˌzō-ə-ˈmôr-fi-zəm \

Zoomorphism is the attributing of animal characteristics to objects, events, or non-animal beings, such as humans, deities, or God. These characteristics may include traits, forms, patterns, or behaviors deriving from the animal. The purpose of the comparison is to facilitate a better understanding of some aspect, attitude, or function of the non-animal entity. It is the opposite of anthropomorphism.

Zoomorphism is seen, for example, in Egyptian deities presented in animal form, Bronze Age vases cast in the shape of animal heads or bodies, and African ceremonial masks made to resemble creatures in the wild. It is also seen in many fictional superheroes, such as Batman, Spiderman, Aquaman, etc. Zoomorphism can also include giving the features of one animal to another, such as if a dog were to say “meow” in a cartoon or work of literature.

General Examples

•  “The detective was barking up the wrong treeby questioning the employee.”

•  “The agent was champing at the bit at the beginning of negotiations.”

•  “The trade deal ruffled some feathers in the company.”

•  “There was something about his wolf-like independence.” (William Faulkner)

•  “Man is but an ass, if he go about to expound this dream.” (William Shakespeare)

Biblical Examples

•  “But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door . . . .” (Gen 4:7b)

•  “Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.”  (Ps 63:7)

•  “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge.” (Psalm 91:4a)

•  “If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea . . . .” (Ps 139:9)

•  “The lion has roared—who will not fear? The Sovereign Lord has spoken—who can but prophesy?” (Amos 3:8)

•  “Then one of the elders said to me, ‘Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed.’” (Rev 5:5a)

Additional Resources

 The definition at Merriam-Webster.com for zoomorphism.

 An audio pronunciation guide for the word zoomorphism.

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