Literary Term Definitions

A definition is an explanation of a word’s meaning, in this case, in regard to how it’s used in literature. With each of the terms defined, you can find detailed information regarding it, as well as examples in literature.

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  • a
  • Anagram
    An anagram is a rearrangement of the letters in a word or phrase to create a new word or phrase. Read More
  • Anthology
    An anthology is a collection of literary works that were chosen by a single compiler, a group of people, or an institution of some kind. Read More
  • Appositive
    An appositive occurs when a word, sometimes a noun, is followed by another noun or phrase that names or changes it in some way. Read More
  • b
  • Bestiary
    A bestiary is a compendium of beasts that originated in the ancient world. Read More
  • Bias
    Bias is undue favor or support to a particular person, group, race, or one argument over another. Read More
  • c
  • Canon
    A literary canon is a collection of materials that are considered to represent a specific period or genre. Read More
  • Cliché
    A cliché is a trite, overused expression that can be found in writing and everyday life. Read More
  • Climax
    The climax is the point at which the main character is forced to contend with the central conflict of the story. Read More
  • Connotation
    A connotation is the feeling a writer creates through their word choice. It’s the idea a specific word or set of words evokes. Read More
  • Context
    The context is the setting in which a story, poem, novel, play, or other literary work is situated. Read More
  • Critique
    A critique is defined as an evaluation of something, whether that be visual or literary arts. It analyzes all of the writer's choices. Read More
  • d
  • Denotation
    Denotation is the literal definition of a word. It is the meaning that’s most commonly found in dictionaries and other academic sources. Read More
  • Denouement
    The denouement is at the end of a story, where the plotlines are tied up and resolved. Read More
  • Dialect
    A dialect is a form of a language spoken by a group of people. Read More
  • Didacticism
    Didacticism refers to a type of literature that’s mean to convey instructions or very specific pieces of information. Read More
  • Discourse
    Discourse is written or spoken words. It is communication that describes thought through language in everyday life and literature. Read More
  • Doppelgänger
    A doppelgänger is a person who looks like someone else but doesn't necessarily act like that person. Read More
  • e
  • Ekphrastic
    Ekphrastic is a type of poem that explores art. The poet engages with any type of visual art within their writing. Read More
  • Epilogue
    An epilogue is an extra chapter at the end of a literary work.  Read More
  • Ethos
    Ethos is one of the three modes of persuasion, along with logos and pathos. In rhetoric, it refers to an argument that appeals to the audience through empathizing(...) Read More
  • Eulogy
    A eulogy is a speech, or short piece of writing, created in honor of someone who has recently died. Read More
  • Existentialism
    In its simplest form, existentialism is the exploration of the nature of existence with emphasis on the experiences of humanity. Read More
  • Explication
    An explication is a literary technique that's used to create a close analysis. Usually, it’s related to the analysis of a portion of a text. Read More
  • f
  • Falling Action
    The falling action occurs near the end of the story, following the climax and before the resolution. Read More
  • Figurative Language
    Figurative language refers to figures of speech that are used in order to improve a piece of writing. Read More
  • g
  • Genre
    Genre is a type of art, literary work, or musical composition that is defined by its content, style, or a specific form to which it conforms. Read More
  • h
  • Hero
    In literature, a hero is the principal or primary character of a work. Read More
  • Hubris
    Hubris is a classical term used to refer to excessive pride in a story’s characters. Read More
  • i
  • Intertextuality
    Intertextuality is a feature of a text that references another text. It reflects upon the latter and uses it as a reference for the new written work. Read More
  • k
  • Kenning
    A kenning is a figure of speech in which two words are combined to form a new expression. Read More
  • l
  • Logos
    Logos is the use of logic to create a persuasive argument in writing. Read More
  • m
  • Mood
    Mood is the feeling created by the writer for the reader. It is what happens within a reader because of the tone the writer used in the poem. Read More
  • Moral
    A moral is the meaning or message conveyed through a story. Read More
  • Morpheme
    A morpheme is the smallest meaningful part of any language. It might be a word, or it might be part of a word. Read More
  • o
  • Old English
    Old English is the earliest recorded version of the English language spoken in England and Scotland during the Middle ages. Read More
  • Omniscient Narrator
    An omniscient narrator knows what’s happening at all times, and all points, of the story. Read More
  • Ordinal Number
    Ordinal numbers are used in linguistics to represent the position or ranking of something, such as first and 1st. Read More
  • p
  • Paraphrasing
    Paraphrasing a poem means to simplify it down to its most basic elements, clarifying along the way and choosing less complicated language. Read More
  • Pedantic
    A pedant, or someone who exhibits pedantic behavior, will correct small mistakes that are not necessarily important in the broader scheme of things. Read More
  • Plot
    The plot is a connected sequence of events that make up a novel, poem, play, film, television show, and other narrative works. Read More
  • Poem Subject
    The subject of a poem might also be called the main idea, goal, or thing about which the poem is concerned. Read More
  • r
  • Rhyme Scheme
    The rhyme scheme is the pattern of rhyme that’s used in a poem. It corresponds with the end sounds that feature in lines of verse. Read More
  • Riddle
    Riddles are tricky phrases or questions that have double meanings and are usually challenging to solve or answer. Read More
  • Rising Action
    The rising action comes after the exposition and before the climax. It includes the complicating or inciting incident. Read More
  • s
  • Serendipity
    Serendipity is the experience of finding something joyful in that which came unexpectedly. Read More
  • Sesquipedalian
    Sesquipedalian is defined as the use of words that are overly long and have multiple syllables. Sometimes, they are neologisms. Read More
  • t
  • Tone
    Tone tells us how the writer feels about the text, at least to an extent. All forms of writing, aside from the academic have a tone of some sort. Read More
  • Tuffet
    A tuffet is “a tuft or clump of something” or "a footstool or low seat”. Read More
  • w
  • Wax poetic
    “Wax poetic” is an English phrase that is used to describe someone’s overly flowery and longwinded style of speech. Read More
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