A kenning occurs when a roundabout phrase is used to describe a common thing, as in the use of the kenning “house of scholars” for school, “mark maker” for a pen/pencil.
The use of kenning was rampant in Anglo-Saxon verse, Old Norse, Old English and Icelandic poetry. At a simpler level, it is easy to make a kenning provided one understands the meaning of the target word used to change into a kenning. For example you could use the words web-spinner, fly-stalker etc to mean a spider.
Kenning has its root in the word kenna from Old Norse which means to know, teach, recognize etc. and the noun ken meaning knowledge. A kenning is a kind of literary trope consisting of two words usually hyphenated, to describe something instead of using the customary noun. Example, use of “spear-din” to mean battle. The structure of a kenning includes a base-word and a determinant modifying the base-word, as in the example “sea-steed” referring to a “ship” where steed is the base word and sea is the modifier.
A kenning stands for the word used instead of a noun. A number of examples can be found in Beowulf:
Kenning can be termed as a descriptive figure of speech used in place of nouns. A kenning refers to a concept which is not named directly but suggested in a round-about manner to describe the subject. Old Norse and Celtic verse abound in the use of kennings. Poets and writers make use of kennings to replace dull nouns and make their writing colorful thus attracting the attention of the audience. Further, the use of the kenning helps the reader or listener to visualize the concept intended by the poet.