Glossary of Literary Terms

Explore the largest glossary of terms on all things poetry and literature, with 860 terms explained

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  • A bad workman blames his tools“A bad workman blames his tools” is used when someone wants to remind another that they shouldn’t blame their tools for their mistakes. Instead, they should take responsibility for whatever they’ve done wrong.
  • A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush"A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush" suggests that it’s better to have a certain advantage than the possibility of an advantage.
  • A blessing in disguise“A blessing in disguise” refers to the idea that something negative can have a positive outcome.
  • A chip off the old block“A chip off the old block” is used to refer to someone who is similar to a person who was influential in their life.
  • A dime a dozen“A dime a dozen” refers to something that’s so common and plentiful that it’s practically worthless.
  • A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!“A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!” is a well-known Shakespearean quote that appears in Richard III. It consists of Richard III’s last words at the end of Act V Scene 4. 
  • A man can die but once“A man can die but once” appears in William Shakespeare’s history play Henry IV Part 2. It is used in Act III, Scene 2.
  • A method to the madness“A method to the madness” is an interesting English-language idiom that refers to someone’s tactics. They might seem “mad,” or unworkable, but there is a purpose to everything they’re doing.
  • A penny for your thoughts“A penny for your thoughts” is a figurative way of asking someone to rejoin a conversation.
  • A penny saved is a penny earned"A penny saved is a penny earned" is a clever way of suggesting that even the smallest savings can add up when one is in financial need.
  • A perfect storm“A perfect storm” is a common English idiom that is usually used as a metaphor to describe a worst-case scenario
  • A picture is worth a thousand words“A picture is worth a thousand words” suggests that a picture contains far more in its colors and content than 1,000 words ever could.
  • A rose by any other name would smell as sweet“What’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” is a famous quote from Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. It speaks to the power, or lack thereof, of names. 
  • A snowball’s chance in hell“A snowball’s chance in hell” is an interesting English idiom that refers to a situation in which one has very little chance of succeeding.
  • A stitch in time saves nine“A stitch in time saves nine” is an English proverb. It describes the benefits of working hard now in order to save time later. 
  • A storm in a teacup“A storm in a teacup,” also sometimes said as a “tempest in a teacup,” is an English idiom. It refers to an event that’s been exaggerated out of proportion with its truth. 
  • A taste of your own medicine“A taste of your own medicine” is an English idiom that’s used to describe one person’s desire for another to experience something negative.
  • AbjectionAbjection is a literary term that refers to subjective horror, or someone’s reaction to physically or emotionally disturbing subject matter.
  • AbridgmentAn abridgment is a condensed or shortened version of a book. It contains the most important details and removes any digressions.
  • Abstract DictionAbstract diction occurs when the poet wants to express something ephemeral, or ungraspable.
  • AbsurdThe absurd is a style of writing that is influenced by humanity’s isolation and a lack of logic in the universe.
  • Academic DramaAcademic drama is a theatrical movement that was popular during the Renaissance, in the 16th-century. It was performed in universities.
  • AcatalecticAcatalectic refers to a line of poetry that has a complete number of syllables in the final foot.
  • AccentIn poetry, the word “accent” refers to the stressed syllable in a word. Metered lines of verse are made up of different groups of syllables.
  • Accentual VerseAccentual verse focuses on the number of stressed syllables per line rather than the total number of syllables.
  • Accentual-Syllabic VerseAccentual-syllabic verse is a type of accentual verse in which the writer uses the same number of syllables within each line.
  • AccumulationAccumulation is a literary device that relates to a list of words or phrases that have similar, if not the same, meanings.
  • AcephalousAn acephalous line is a form of a catalectic line of poetry. This type of line omits the first syllable of a metrical pattern.
  • AcmeismAcmeism is a literary movement that emerged in the early 1910s in Russia. The movement is also referred to as the Guild of Poets.
  • AcrosticAn acrostic is a piece of writing in which letters form words or messages. The “acrostic” is most commonly associated with poetry.
  • ActAn act is a primary division of a dramatic work, like a play, film, opera, or other performance. The act is made up of shorter scenes.
  • ActantThe word “actant” is used in relation to the actantial model. This is a model that defines the roles of characters and objects.
  • Actions speak louder than words“Actions speak louder than words” refers to the fact that acts are more meaningful than statements.
  • Active VoiceActive voice is used in a phrase in which the subject performs an action which is then expressed through a verb.
  • Ad HominemAn ad hominem attack uses irrelevant information in an attempt to discredit someone's opinion or argument.
  • AdageAn adage is a short, familiar and memorable saying that strikes as an irrefutable truth to a wide segment of the population.
  • Adventure StoryAn adventure story tells the tale of a protagonist’s journey. They go on an adventure or quest: one that could be personal or geographical.
  • AdynatonAdynaton a literary device similar to hyperbole. It's an exaggeration that is stretched to the absolute extreme. The proffered scenario is impossible.
  • AestheticismAestheticism is a literary and artistic movement in the 18th and 19th centuries that focused on the importance of beauty.
  • AffectiveThe word “affective” is used to refer to the emotional qualities of a literary work.
  • AfflatusThe word afflatus is defined as a burst of sudden inspiration. A writer, artist, musician, or other creator is powerfully inspired.
  • AgitpropAgitprop is political propaganda conveyed through art, music, literature, and films.
  • AgonThe word “agon” refers to the conflict between two characters in a literary work. It is used to describe the protagonist and antagonist.
  • AlazonThe alazon is one of the three traditional characters in Greek comedy. They have an inflated sense of worth and often boast.
  • AlbaAlba is a specific type of poetry. It’s a genre of lyric poetry from the Old Occitan period, also known as the Old Provençal.
  • Alcaic StanzaAn alcaic stanza is a type of lyrical meter thought to have been invented by Alcaeus, a writer from Mitylene.
  • AleatoryAleatory refers to art that’s created through random chance. This kind of writing involves the author making random choices in regard to style, content, and characters.
  • AlexandrianismAlexandrianism is the work and beliefs of Greek poets during the Hellenistic age, lasting from 323 to 31 BCE.
  • AlexandrineAn alexandrine is a type of metrical line. It is most commonly refers to a line composed of twelve iambs.
  • Alienation EffectThe alienation effect occurs when the writer makes a concerted effort to remind the audience that they’re engaged in something artificial.
  • All that glisters is not gold“All that glisters is not gold” is a quote that originated in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. It is commonly used today with the word “glitter” instead of “glisters.” 
  • AllegoryAn allegory is a narrative found in verse and prose in which a character or event is used to speak about a broader theme.
  • AlliterationAlliteration is a technique that makes use of repeated sound at the beginning of multiple words, grouped together. It is used in poetry and prose.
  • Alliterative MeterAlliterative meter is a type of verse that focuses on alliteration as a way of creating a metrical structure. Alliteration is used rather than accents or rhymes.
  • Alliterative RevivalThe term “alliterative revival” is used to refer to a period of time, between 1350 and 1500, during which alliterative verse had a resurgence in Middle English.
  • AllusionAn allusion is an indirect reference to, including but not limited to, an idea, event, or person. It is used within both prose and verse writing.
  • AlterityAlterity is a term used to refer to anything that’s different or “other.” It’s often used today to describe something, someone, or a group that does not conform to expected or traditional norms.
  • Amatory FictionAmatory fiction is a genre of literature that was popular in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. It is today considered a predecessor of the romance novel.
  • AmbiguityAmbiguity is a word or statement that has more than one meaning. If a phrase is ambiguous, it means multiple things.
  • American RealismAmerican realism was a style of writing, music, and art during the 20th century in the United States, specifically in New York.
  • American RenaissanceAmerican Renaissance period of literature lasted from 1830 to the beginning of the Civil War, around 1861.
  • American RomanticismAmerican Romanticism is considered the first highly influential literary movement to occur within the United States. It is also sometimes known as the “American Renaissance.” 
  • Amoebean VerseAmoebean verse is poetry that uses alternating speakers. The writer creates two distinct voices that alternate speaking on a regular basis.
  • AmphibrachAn amphibrach is a form of meter. It occurs when the poet places one accented syllable, or stressed syllable, between two unstressed or unaccented syllables.
  • AmphimacerAn amphimacer is a metrical foot that consists of three syllables. It’s the opposite of an amphibrach.
  • AmplificationAmplification is a rhetorical device that’s used to improve a sentence or statement with additional information.
  • An apple a day keeps the doctor away“An apple a day keeps the doctor away” suggests that eating one apple everyday is going to prevent someone from having to go to the doctor.
  • An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure 
  • AnachronismAn anachronism is an error in the timeline or chronology of a piece of literature. This can be a purposeful or accidental error.
  • AnacoluthonAnacoluthon occurs when the writer changes the expected grammatical structure of a sentence and interrupts it with another sentence.
  • AnacreonticAnacreontics are metered verses in the style of the Greek poet Anacreon. His poetry often dealt with themes of love and wine.
  • AnacrusisAnacrusis occurs when the poet includes an extra unstressed syllable at the beginning of a line of verse. This unstressed syllable is not part of the metrical pattern.
  • AnadiplosisAnadiplosis refers to the repetition of words so that the second clause starts with the same word/s that appeared in the previous.
  • AnagnorisisAnagnorisis is the moment in a play, or other literary work, in which a character makes an important discovery.
  • Anagogical Anagogical is a term used to describe a spiritual interpretation of ideas, statements, literature, events, and more. It is most commonly used when describing the scriptures. 
  • AnagramAn anagram is a rearrangement of the letters in a word or phrase to create a new word or phrase.
  • AnalogyAn analogy is an extensive comparison between one thing and another that is very different from it.
  • AnapestAnapestic Meter depends on three-syllable sections of verse, or words. An anapest is two unstressed syllables followed by one stressed.
  • AnaphoraAnaphora is the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of multiple lines, usually in succession.
  • AnaptyxisAnaptyxis is the inclusion of one or more vowel sounds, especially at the beginning or the end of a word for the ease of pronunciation.
  • AnastropheAnastrophe, also known as inversion, is a literary technique in which a writer changes the normal order of words.
  • AnatomyIn literature, anatomies are the division of a literary work or idea into parts. This is done so that a reader might better analyze the individual pieces.
  • AnecdoteAnecdotes are short stories used in every day conversation in order to inspire, amuse, caution and more.
  • Angry Young MenThe Angry Young Men were a group of British writers and novelists disillusioned with society who produced work through the 1950s.
  • AngstThe term “angst” is usually described as a feeling of apprehension or anxiety about anything. It was first used by Kierkegaard in the 1800s.
  • AntagonistThe antagonist, in literature, is a character who is considered to be the rival of the protagonist.
  • AntanaclasisAntanaclasis is a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is used several times and the meaning changes.
  • AntecedentAn antecedent is a literary device in which a pronoun or noun refers to an earlier phrase or word.
  • AnthimeriaAnthimeria, also known as antimeria, refers to the use of a word in a new grammatical form, such as changing nouns to verbs.
  • AnthologyAn anthology is a collection of literary works that were chosen by a single compiler, a group of people, or an institution of some kind.
  • AnthropomorphismAnthropomorphism is used to make inanimate objects, forces and animals appear to actually be human beings.
  • Anti-HeroAn anti-hero is a character who is characterized by contrasting traits. This person has some of the traits of a hero and of a villain.
  • Anti-Stratfordian“Anti-Stratfordian” is a blanket term given to all those who subscribe to a theory of alternative authorship in regard to the works ascribed to William Shakespeare.
  • AnticlimaxAn anticlimax occurs when the author builds a reader’s expectations. Then, they fail to fulfill them in some fundamental way.
  • AntimasqueThe antimasque is a type of masque that occurs before the main masque and is usually presented to great contrast. 
  • AntimetaboleAntimetabole is the repetition of words, in reverse order, in successive clauses.
  • AntinovelAn antinovel is any novel that disregards traditional conventions of novel-writing. These books push the limits of what a novel can be.
  • AntiphonAn antiphon is a short chant that is usually used as part of a Christian ritual. These chants are sung as refrains, or repeated sections of verse. 
  • AntiphrasisAntiphrasis is a rhetorical device that occurs when someone says the opposite of what they mean but their true meaning is obvious.
  • AntistropheAntistrophe is a rhetorical device that’s concerned with the repetition of the same word or words at the end of consecutive phrases.
  • AntithesisAntithesis occurs when two contrasting ideas are put together to achieve a desired outcome.
  • AntonomasiaAntonomasia is the practice of replacing a proper name with a word or phrase. This is usually something that describes the person or type of person. 
  • AphorismAphorisms are short, serious, humorous, and philosophical truths about life.
  • AphorismusAphorismus is a figure of speech that occurs when a word’s use is called into question.
  • ApocalypticThe term “apocalyptic” is applied to a genre of classical religious literature that contends with end of the world scenarios. These stories contain an author's unique vision of the end of the world, as inspired by religious texts. 
  • ApologueAn apologue is a short story, sometimes a fable, that shares a moral lesson. For example, kindness is more important than power, or love triumphs over hate.
  • AporiaAporia is a figure of speech where a speaker or writer poses a question. This question expresses doubt or confusion.
  • AposiopesisAposiopesis is defined as a figure of speech in which the writer stops a line of text in the middle of a sentence.
  • ApostropheApostrophe, in poetry, is a figure of speech in which a character or speaker addresses someone who is absent.
  • AppositiveAn appositive occurs when a word, sometimes a noun, is followed by another noun or phrase that names or changes it in some way.
  • ArcadiaArcadia, in poetry, is a term that refers to an idealized, unspoiled natural landscape. It is a utopia and perfect in every way.
  • ArchaismAn archaism is a figure of speech in which a writer’s choice of word or phrase is purposefully old fashioned.
  • ArchetypeArchetypes are universal symbols. They are characters, themes, and settings that appear throughout literary works.
  • Art for Art’s SakeThe phrase “Art for Art’s Sake” dates back to the early 19th century. It’s used to describe an approach to literature, visual arts, music, and more. 
  • Arte MayorArte mayor is a term used to describe a type of Spanish verse. It uses lines ranging in length between eight and fourteen syllables. Some sources describe arte major poetry as only that which has more than nine syllables per line. 
  • Arthurian LiteratureArthurian Literature is a category of writing that encompasses stories written during the 12th, 13th, and later centuries that tell the story of King Arthur and his court.
  • AsclepiadAn asclepiad is a line of poetry that is built around a choriamb and that dates back to Ancient Greece. In Latin, it is written as “Asclepiadeus.” 
  • AsideAn aside is a dramatic device that is used within plays to help characters express their inner thoughts.
  • AssertionAn assertion is a strong statement someone makes. It’s spoken as though it's true, even though it may not be.
  • AssonanceAssonance occurs when two or more words that are close to one another use the same vowel sound.
  • AsyndetonAsyndeton is a figure of speech that occurs when words like “and” and “or” (coordinating conjunctions) are removed from sentences.
  • At the Drop of a hatTo do something at the “drop of a hat” means that one is going to immediately do whatever it is they need to do.
  • AtmosphereAtmosphere is a literary technique that is concerned with the feeling readers get from the elements of a narrative.
  • AttitudeIn literature, attitude refers to the tone a writer takes on whatever they are writing. It can come through in a character’s intentions, histories, emotions, and actions.
  • AudienceThe audience of a piece of literature, a film, or a song, is the group for which an artist or writer makes a piece of art or writes.
  • Augustan AgeThe Augustan Age was a period during the first half of the 18th century in England. Poets during this period created verse inspired by authors like Virgil and Ovid.
  • Authorial IntrusionAuthorial intrusion occurs when the writer breaks the wall of their work and addresses the reader. This can happen in any genre.
  • AutobiographyAn autobiography is an account of one’s life written by the subject.
  • Automatic WritingAutomatic writing occurs when someone with a claimed psychic ability writes without consciously deciding which words to put down on paper.
  • AuxesisAuxesis is a literary device that is used to intensify the meaning and importance of a word, phrase, or idea.
  • Avant-gardeIn literature, the term avant-garde refers to poetry or prose that pushes the boundaries and is experimental.
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  • Back to the drawing board“Back to the drawing board” is a common English idiom that’s used to refer to someone’s decision to rethink a plan or decision.
  • BalladA ballad is a kind of verse, sometimes narrative in nature, often set to music and developed from 14th and 15th-century minstrelsy.
  • BalladeA ballade is a medieval and Renaissance verse form that is distinct from the far more common “ballad.” It was commonly used in France during the 13th-15th centuries. 
  • BandwagonBandwagon is a persuasive style of writing that is used to convince readers of an argument or make them understand a certain perspective.
  • BardThe term “bard” is used to describe a professional story teller. They could also be a musician, oral historian, genealogist, or another writer. 
  • Barking up the wrong tree'Barking up the wrong tree' is an English-language idiom. It’s used to describe a situation in which someone is pursuing an incorrect assumption.
  • BaroqueThe term “baroque” is used to define a literary period that began in the 1500s and lasted through the 1700s in Europe.
  • BathosBathos is defined as a sudden, jolting change in the tone of a work. This could occur in a poem, play, story, or film.
  • Beast FableA beast fable, also known as an animal tale, is a short story or long poem that uses animal characters to relay a moral or narrative. 
  • Beat a dead horse"Beat a dead horse" is an idiom that describes someone's attempt to complete or achieve something that is futile or wasted.
  • Beat around the bush"Beat around the bush” suggests someone is avoiding saying something. They're likely trying not to address a necessary topic.
  • Beat GenerationThe Beat Generation was a literary movement that began after the Second World War and known for its liberal attitudes towards life.
  • Benefit of the doubt"Benefit of the doubt" is used to refer to a situation in which one person is willing to give another a chance before judging them.
  • Bent out of shape"Bent out of shape" is used to refer to how upset or angry someone is about something that's bothering them.
  • BestiaryA bestiary is a compendium of beasts that originated in the ancient world.
  • Better late than never“Better late than never” is an English proverb. It suggests that its good something happened at all, even if it’s late than never occurring. 
  • Beware the ides of March“Beware the ides of March” is a quote that can be found in William Shakespeare’s history play, Julius Caesar. It refers to the day that Caesar was assassinated in 44 BC. 
  • BiasBias is undue favor or support to a particular person, group, race, or one argument over another.
  • BibliographyA bibliography is a list of books an author has consulted in their creation of a novel, essay, short story, or any other written work that required research.
  • BibliomancyBibliomancy is a literary divination practice. It uses a sacred text, such as the Bible, as a method to predict the future.
  • Bigger fish to fry“Bigger fish to fry” is a common English idiom that’s used to describe one’s belief that they have more important things to do.
  • BildungsromanA bildungsroman is a literary genre that focuses on coming of age stories, following a character's progression towards adulthood.
  • BiographyA biography is an account or description of a person's life, literary, fictional, historical, or popular in nature, written by a biographer.
  • Birds of a feather flock togetherBirds of a feather flock together refers to similarities within groups that allow the indiviudals to connect and feel safe with one another.
  • Bite off more than you can chew“Bite off more than you can chew” is used to describe the possibility that someone has taken on more than they can manage.
  • Bite the bullet“Bite the bullet” is used when speaking about something difficult or unpleasant. You bite the bullet when you do that unpleasant thing.
  • Black HumorBlack humor is a literary device that's used in all forms of literature in order to discuss taboo subjects in a less distressing way.
  • Black Mountain PoetsThe Black Mountain Poets were a group of writers centered around Black Mountain College, in Black Mountain, North Carolina.
  • Blackout PoetryBlackout poetry is also known as redacted poetry and erasure poetry. It is also regarded as a type of “found poetry.” 
  • Blank VerseBlank verse is a kind of poetry that is written in unrhymed lines but with a regular metrical pattern.
  • Block FormThe term “block form” is used to describe a poem that is not separated into stanzas or verse paragraphs. These poems are contained within one “block” of text. 
  • Bloomsbury GroupThe Bloomsbury Group, also known as the Bloomsbury Set, was a group of English writers, artists, philosophers, critics, and friends.
  • Bodice RipperA bodice ripper is a genre of romantic literature. It refers to novels that take place in a historic context and follow an erotic or outwardly passionate relationship.
  • Break a leg“Break a leg” is commonly used in the world of theatre as a way of wishing a performer or group of performers good luck.
  • Break the ice“Break the ice” is an idiom used to describe the process of overcoming initial social awkwardness.
  • BrechtianThe term “Brechtian” is used to describe literature that relates to the work of Bertolt Brecht, a famed German playwright and poet during the early 1900s.
  • Brevity is the soul of wit“Brevity is the soul of wit” is one of William Shakespeare’s better-known quotes. The Bard used it in the tragedy Hamlet, written around 1603.
  • Broken RhymeBroken rhyme is an interesting type of rhyme that occurs when a poet cuts a word in half to create rhyme. 
  • BurlesqueBurlesque is a style of literature that mocks its subject. Burlesque writers represent their subjects using irony and obviously outrageous imagery. 
  • Burns StanzaThe Burns stanza is named for Scottish poet Robert Burns who popularized its use. It is a six-line stanza form that uses a rhyme scheme of AAABAB, and lines of tetrameter and dimeter.
  • By the skin of your teethThe idiom "By the skin of your teeth" is a way of saying that you only just got by.
  • ByronicThe term “Byronic” is used to describe anything that exhibits the characteristics of Lord Byron’s writing or evokes the type of life he led.
  • Byronic HeroThe Byronic hero is a type of character inspired by the life and work of George Gordon, better known as Lord Byron.
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  • CacophonyCacophony in literature is the combination of loud and harsh-sounding words.
  • CadenceCadence is the natural rhythm of a piece of text, created through a writer’s selective arrangement of words, rhymes, and the creation of meter.
  • CaesuraA caesura is a break or pause in the middle of a line of verse. These breaks can be towards the beginning, middle, or the end of a line. 
  • Call it a day“Call it a day” is a simple idiom that is used when someone wants to inform others they’re done working for the day.
  • Campus NovelThe campus novel, also known as the academic novel, is a book set around a university or college campus.
  • CanonA literary canon is a collection of materials that are considered to represent a specific period or genre.
  • CantoA canto is a subsection of a long narrative or epic poem. It is made up of at least five lines but it is normally much longer.
  • CanzoneThe word “canzone” means “song” in Italian and first used to refer to a verse form in Italy and France in the medieval period.
  • CaricatureA caricature is a device used in writing, as well as in visual arts, when a character or subject is exaggerated.
  • CarolA carol is a song sung during a festive period, such as Christmas, although not exclusively. They are usually religious in nature.
  • Caroline EraThe Age of Caroline is an age in British history that is named for Charles I. It lasted from 1625 to 1649. It is made up of three poetic schools— Metaphysical, Cavalier and Puritan.
  • Carpe DiemThe term “carpe diem” is used to describe a genre of poetry that seeks to “seize the day.” It inspires readers to live as well as possible.
  • CatachresisCatachresis is a figure of speech. it occurs when writers use mixed metaphors inappropriately.
  • CatalogA catalog is a collection of people, objects, ideas, and other elements in list form within poetry or prose.
  • CatastropheA catastrophe is a turning point in a story, usually a tragedy, in which something terrible happens to the main character/s.
  • CatharsisCatharsis occurs when pent-up emotions are released through an art form, whether that be visual arts or literary arts.
  • Cavalier PoetsThe Cavalier Poets were a group of writers from the 17th century in England. They are generally defined by their class, and the fact that they originated from that which supported Charles I during the English Civil War.
  • Celtic RevivalThe Celtic Revival was a revival in general interest in Celtic history, literature, and languages, in the late-nineteenth century.
  • ChapbookA chapbook is a small book that’s published with around 40 pages. The tradition arose in 16th century Europe, and it's still popular today.
  • Character MotivationA character’s motivation is the reason behind their actions. This could refer to specific or general actions.
  • CharacterizationCharacterization is a literary device that is used to detail and explains the aspects of a specifically crafted character in a novel, play, or poem.
  • Chaucerian StanzaThe Chaucerian stanza, also known as rhyme royal, is a stanza form introduced by English poet Geoffrey Chaucer. It's seven lines long and uses the rhyme scheme ABABBCC.
  • ChiasmusChiasmus is a rhetorical device that occurs when the grammatical structure of a previous phrase or clause is reversed or flipped.
  • Chick LitChick lit is a genre of literature that focuses on female protagonists. These stories are usually targeted at younger women and are described as “popular fiction.”
  • Chivalric RomanceChivalric Romance is a genre of literature and culture popular during the Medieval and Early Modern periods in Europe from the 12th century.
  • Chorus in LiteratureThe term “chorus” refers to a group of performers responsible for summarizing (sometimes through song and/or dance) the events of a play. The term is also used to describe the section of text they read/sang. 
  • ChronicleA chronicle is an account of events that occurs in the order that they happened in. The term is usually associated with historical events.
  • Chronicle NovelA chronicle novel is a long novel, or one in a series of novels, that follows at least two generations of a family or group.
  • Chronicle PlayA chronicle play describes a piece of drama that consists of a series of short episodes that are arranged chronologically, or at least loosely so.
  • CinquainA cinquain is a poetic form that makes use of a pattern of five lines.
  • CircumlocutionCircumlocution occurs when a writer or character talks around something they want to say.
  • ClassicismClassicism is a term used to describe literature that reflected the thoughts and ideas from Ancient Greece and Rome. 
  • ClichéA cliché is a trite, overused expression that can be found in writing and everyday life.
  • CliffhangerA cliffhanger is a narrative device that’s used to end a story abruptly before an action or segment the plot is concluded.
  • ClimaxThe climax is the point at which the main character is forced to contend with the central conflict of the story.
  • Close ReadingClose reading is a style of analysis that is commonly used in schools and among lovers of literature around the world. There are five steps to close readings that you can explore below. 
  • Closed CoupletA closed couplet is a pair of lines that are grammatically complete, or at least logically complete, on their own. They also usually rhyme.
  • Closed FormThe term “closed form” in literature refers to poems that use a closed, specific structure or pattern. This includes poems written in the form of a sonnet, villanelle, haiku, limerick, and more.
  • ClosureIn literature, closer is defined as a feeling of resolution that a reader may or may not experience at the end of a story, poem, novel, etc. 
  • CodaA coda is an epilogue that concludes a story. This could be an entire chapter, a few paragraphs, lines, or a single sentence. 
  • CoherenceCoherence refers to the properties of well-organized writing. This includes grammar, sentence structure, and plot elements.
  • Colloquial DictionColloquial diction is conversational in nature and can be seen through the use of informal words that represent a specific place or time.
  • ComedyComedy is a humorous and entertaining genre of literature, film, and television.
  • Coming-of-Age NovelA coming-of-age novel is a book that tells the story of a character growing up and going through a series of important life-defining changes.
  • Commonplace BookA commonplace book is an informal collection of notes, information, recipes, aphorisms, facts, and more. These books are personal and kept by individuals for their own purposes.
  • Companion PoemsCompanion poems are pieces of poetry that were written to accompany one another. They can also be poems written by multiple authors in response to one another. 
  • Comparing apples to oranges"Comparing apples to oranges” is used when someone is wanting to refer to the obvious differences between two things.
  • ConceitThe word conceit refers to two different kinds of comparisons: the metaphysical, made famous by John Donne, and the Petrarchan.
  • ConcessionA concession is a literary device that occurs in argumentative writing in which one acknowledges another’s point.
  • Concrete PoemConcrete poetry, also sometimes known as visual poetry or shape poetry, is focused on the visual effect that linguistic elements have when they’re arranged in a certain way.
  • Confessional PoetryConfessional Poetry is a style of poetry that is personal, often making use of a first-person narrator. It is a branch of Postmodernism that emerged in the US in the 1950s.
  • ConflictIn literature, conflict is a plot device used by writers when two opposing sides come up against each other. 
  • ConnotationA connotation is the feeling a writer creates through their word choice. It’s the idea a specific word or set of words evokes.
  • ConsonanceConsonance is the repetition of a consonant sound in words, phrases, sentences, or passages in prose and verse writing.
  • Contemporary PeriodThe term “contemporary literature” refers to written works that were created after World War II. Prior to this, was the modernist period. 
  • ContextThe context is the setting in which a story, poem, novel, play, or other literary work is situated.
  • Convention in LiteratureA convention in literature is a genre’s defining characteristics. Every genre has its go-to ideas, images, and characters. 
  • Conversation PoemA conversation poem is a style of poetry that addresses someone close to the poet in an informal way. These poems use serious language and usually discuss a specific topic. 
  • Cost an arm and a leg“Cost an arm and a leg” refers to a high cost, something astronomically expensive that is compared through this phrase, to give up an arm or a leg.
  • Country House PoemA country house poem is a piece of poetry that praises another person’s property. They were usually written for wealthy friends or patrons in order to gain favor. 
  • CoupletA couplet is a literary device that is made up of two rhyming lines of verse. These fall in succession, or one after another.
  • Cowards die many times before their deaths; the valiant never taste of death but once“Cowards die many times before their deaths; the valiant never taste of death but once” is a quote used in William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, in Act II, Scene 2.
  • CreticA cretic is an extremely rare metrical foot that’s composed of one stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable and concluded with one final stressed syllable. 
  • CritiqueA critique is defined as an evaluation of something, whether that be visual or literary arts. It analyzes all of the writer's choices.
  • Cross that bridge when you come to it“Cross that bridge when you come to it” is used to suggest that it's not necessary to do or worry about something until it happens.
  • Cry “Havoc!” and let slip the dogs of war“Cry “Havoc!” and let slip the dogs of war” is a quote William Shakespeare used in Act III, Scene 1 of Julius Caesar, his most commonly read history play.
  • Cumulative SentenceA cumulative sentence is a sentence that begins with an independent clause and then adds subordinate clauses.
  • Curiosity killed the cat“Curiosity killed the cat” is an English proverb. It describes the dangers of being too curious.
  • Curtal SonnetThe curtal sonnet, or the contracted sonnet, is an eleven-line sonnet that follows a pattern of either ABCABCDCBDC or ABCABCDBCDC. 
  • Cut some slack“Cut some slack” is an idiom that’s used to refer to increased leniency, freedom, or forgiveness.
  • Cutting corners“Cutting corners” is a simple English idiom that suggests someone is taking a shortcut or an easy way out instead of putting the right amount of time into a task.
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  • DactylA dactyl is one stressed syllable followed by two unstressed syllables. It is the opposite of an anapest.
  • Dactylic PentameterDactylic pentameter is a metrical pattern that can be found in some examples of English language poetry. The term refers to lines that consist of five, or sets of syllables, per line with three syllables per foot.
  • DadaismDadaism was an art and literary movement in Europe during the 20th century. It was a reaction to the senselessness of war during the early 1900s. 
  • Dark RomanticismDark Romanticism is a subgenre of the important literary movement— Romanticism. It includes works of a more grotesque nature. 
  • Dead as a doornail“Dead as a doornail” has been used for several centuries to refer to something that’s completely and irrevocably dead.
  • Decadent MovementThe Decadent movement occurred during the late 19th-century in Western Europe. It was exemplified by a general skepticism and sickness at everyday life, crude humor, and the belief that creativity was important than logic. 
  • Deductive ReasoningDeductive reasoning, also known as top-down logic, is a rhetorical device and a way to build a successful argument.
  • DenotationDenotation is the literal definition of a word. It is the meaning that’s most commonly found in dictionaries and other academic sources.
  • DenouementThe denouement is at the end of a story, where the plotlines are tied up and resolved.
  • Detective StoryThe detective story is a sub-genre of fiction that follows an investigator as they try to track down a criminal, solve a crime, or prevent one from happening. 
  • Deus Ex MachinaDeus ex machina refers to conclusions that involve a divine intervention or other improbable events.
  • Devotional PoetryDevotional poetry refers to poems that express worship or prayer. They’re most commonly religious in nature.
  • DiacopeDiacope is a literary term that refers to the repetition of a word or phrase.
  • DialectA dialect is a form of a language spoken by a group of people.
  • DialogueDialogue is a literary technique that is concerned with conversations held between two or more characters.
  • Diamante PoetryDiamonte is a popular poetic form that is made up of seven lines. They are formatted into the shape of a diamond and used to compare two opposites.
  • DiatribeDiatribes are angry, long pieces of writing that appear in literature and rhetoric.
  • DichotomyDichotomies create conflict between characters, groups, states of being, ideas, and more.
  • DidacticismDidacticism refers to a type of literature that’s mean to convey instructions or very specific pieces of information.
  • DigressionA digression occurs when the writer interrupts the main plot line to contribute additional details.
  • DilemmaA dilemma is a problem or conflict that has more than one possible solution. There are always important consequences one has to contend with.
  • Dime NovelA dime novel is a form of short, cheap fiction popular during the 19th and early 20th centuries in the United States. 
  • DimeterDimeter refers to a specific arrangement of syllables in poetry. If a poem is written in dimeter, that means that the lines contain four syllables each.
  • DirgeA dirge is a song or poem composed after someone's death. These songs are usually shorter and more concise than elegies.
  • Dirty RealismDirty realism is a literary movement of the 20th century in North America. The movement's authors use concise language and clear descriptions of the darkest parts of reality.
  • DiscourseDiscourse is written or spoken words. It is communication that describes thought through language in everyday life and literature.
  • Discretion Is The Better Part Of Valor“The better part of valor is discretion” is a well-known quote from William Shakespeare's history play Henry IV Part 1. 
  • DissonanceDissonance refers to a lack of harmony in elements of writing, usually created through varied vowel sounds.
  • DistortionDistortion occurs when writers twist an idea or thing. It is exaggerated or altered in a way that makes it appear different from reality.
  • Do unto others as you would have done unto you“Do unto others as you would have do unto you” asks everyone to treat those around them as they would like to be treated.
  • DocumentaryA documentary or documentary film is a genre of non-fictional filmmaking. It is used for the purpose of sharing real-life events as they happened. 
  • Don't cry over spilt milk“Don’t cry over spilt milk” is used to remind someone that there’s no point crying over something that has already happened.
  • Don't put all your eggs in one basket"Don't put all your eggs in one basket" is an idiom that means “don’t risk everything by committing to one plan or idea”.
  • Don’t count your chickens before they hatch"Don’t count your chickens before they hatch” means don’t act on a good outcome that hasn’t actually occurred yet.
  • DoppelgängerA doppelgänger is a person who looks like someone else but doesn't necessarily act like that person.
  • Double DactylA double dactyl is a form of verse that uses eight lines, each of which contains two dactyls. These are arranged into two stanzas. 
  • Double EntendreA double entendre is a literary device, phrase, and/or figure of speech that has multiple meanings or interpretations.
  • DramaDrama is a mode of storytelling that uses dialogue and performance. It’s one of several important literary genres that authors engage with.
  • Dramatic MonologueA dramatic monologue is a conversation a speaker has with themselves, or which is directed at a listen or reader who does not respond.
  • DramatizationThe term “dramatization” is used to describe a play or film that’s adapted from a novel or a real event.
  • Dream VisionThe term “dream vision” is a literary device. It suggests a story is taking place within the confines of a dream. 
  • Dub PoetryDub poetry is a form of performance poetry common to Caribbean immigrants and the West Indian region. It refers to poetry that’s spoken above a reggae music backing. 
  • DysphemismDysphemism is a figure of speech that occurs when one uses offensive language rather than inoffensive or positive language.
  • DystopiaA dystopia is the opposite of a utopia. It is an imagined place or community in which the majority of the people suffer. 
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  • Early Modern PeriodThe Early Modern Period is a period in European literature that came before the development of the novel in the 18th century. 
  • Easy does it“Easy does it” is a simple idiom. It suggests that someone shouldn’t get or remain upset about something going on in their life. 
  • Edwardian PeriodThe Edwardian Period, which officially lasted from 1901 to 1910, includes the reign of King Edward VII. However, the period is often stretched to include the start of World War One.
  • EkphrasticEkphrastic is a type of poem that explores art. The poet engages with any type of visual art within their writing.
  • ElegyAn elegy, in literature, is a poem or song that is written in dedication to someone who has died.
  • Elephant in the room"The elephant in the room" is used to refer to an important topic, problem, or issue that needs to be addressed but has yet to be.
  • ElisionAn elision is the removal of part of a word to shorten it. This might be an unstressed syllable, consonant, or letter from a word or phrase.
  • Elizabethan EraElizabethan Era was a literary period that lasted through the years of Queen Elizabeth’s reign, from 1558 to 1603.
  • EllipsisAn ellipsis is a literary device that’s used to omit parts of a sentence or phrase.
  • End RhymeAn end rhyme is a common type of rhyme found in poetry. They occur when the last word of two or more lines rhyme.
  • End-Stopped LineAn end-stopped line is a pause that occurs at the end of a line of poetry. It might conclude a phrase or sentence.
  • EnjambmentEnjambment occurs when a line is cut off before its natural stopping point. It is a transition/continuation between lines.
  • EnlightenmentThe Enlightenment, also known as the Age of Reason, was a period from the late 17th century through the 18th century, in which scientific ideas flourished throughout Western Europe, England, and the colonies in America.
  • EnthymemeEnthymeme is an informal argumentative statement in which the speaker omits one of the minor premises.
  • EnumerationEnumeration is a rhetorical device that occurs when a writer chooses to list out items, events, ideas, or other parts of a story/setting.
  • Epic PoetryAn epic is a long narrative poem that tells the story of heroic deeds, normally accomplished by more-than-human characters.
  • Epic SimileAn epic simile is a long poetic comparison, that uses like or as, and which goes on for several lines. It grows more complicated and reveals its meaning as the lines progress.
  • Epic TheatreEpic theatre was a theatrical movement that began in the early twentieth century and last through the middle of the period. It consisted of new political dramas and was inspired by the social climate of the time.
  • EpigramAn epigram is a short, witty, and sometimes surprising statement. It can stand-alone or be part of a novel or poem.
  • EpigraphAn epigraph, in literature, is a phrase, quote, or any short piece of text that comes before a longer document (a poem, story, book, etc).
  • EpilogueAn epilogue is an extra chapter at the end of a literary work. 
  • EpistleAn epistle is a letter that comes in the form of either prose or poetry.
  • EpistolaryAn epistolary novel is a book made up of a series of documents, usually letters, diary entires, or newspaper clippings.
  • EpistropheEpistrophe, or epiphora, is the repetition of the same word, or a phrase, at the end of multiple clauses or sentences.
  • EpitaphAn epitaph is a short lyric written in memory of someone who has died. Sometimes, epitaphs serve as elegies.
  • EpithetAn epithet is a literary device used to describe something or someone with characteristics that are more interesting and prominent than they are in reality.
  • EpizeuxisEpizeuxis is a figure of speech that occurs when the writer repeats a word or phrase in immediate succession.
  • EpodeThe epode is the third part of an ode. It follows the strophe and antistrophe in traditional ode-writing. It is also considered its own branch of poetry.
  • EponymAn eponym is an allusion to a famous or legendary person whose name is given to some other thing. That might be an institution, object, person, or event.
  • EristicEristic is an important and useful literary device. It occurs when the writer and speakers engage in an argument.
  • Erotic LiteratureErotic literature refers to accounts of passionate and sexual relationships. These could be fiction or non-fiction. 
  • EssayAn essay is a short piece of writing that is based around a single subject. More often than not, the personal opinion of the author is included. 
  • EthosEthos 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 with the speaker’s credibility.
  • EulogyA eulogy is a speech, or short piece of writing, created in honor of someone who has recently died.
  • EuphemismA euphemism is an indirect expression used to replace that something that is deemed inappropriate or crude.
  • EuphonyEuphony is a literary device that refers to the musical, or pleasing, qualities of words.
  • EuphuismEuphuism is a literary term that describes a style of English prose. It features ornate, overly complicated language. It is deliberately excessive.
  • Every cloud has a silver lining“Every cloud has a silver lining” is an English-language proverb that’s used to convey a feeling of optimism even if a situation seems dark and without hope.
  • Exact RhymeExact rhyme is a literary device that's used in poetry. It occurs when the writer uses the same stressed vowel or consonant sounds.
  • ExaggerationAn exaggeration is a statement that pushes the limits of a situation, feeling, idea, or experience. It is used to make something appear worse or better than it actually is in reality.
  • ExemplumExemplum is a rhetorical device. It is a short story, narrative, anecdote, or tale that’s used in literature to explain moral reasoning.
  • ExistentialismIn its simplest form, existentialism is the exploration of the nature of existence with emphasis on the experiences of humanity.
  • ExperimentalismExperimentalism is one part of modernism and postmodernist literature. Writers take risks, try strange new techniques, and attempt to create something that’s never been seen before. 
  • ExpletiveAn expletive is a grammatical assertion that starts with words like “it,” “here,” and “there,” or includes words like “in fact,” “so,” or “indeed.”
  • ExplicationAn 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.
  • ExpositionExposition is the important background information that a writer includes in a story.
  • ExpressionismExpressionism was a literary and artistic reaction against realism and naturalism. Writers were interested in emotion and psychology.
  • Extend an olive branch“Extend an olive branch” is used when someone wants to end a confrontation or an argument.
  • Extended MetaphorAn extended metaphor is a literary term that refers to a long metaphorical comparison that can last an entire poem.
  • External ConflictExternal conflict is a type of conflict, problem, or struggle that takes place in a novel, narrative poem, play, or other literary work.
  • Eye RhymeAn eye rhyme is a literary device used in poetry. It occurs when two words are spelled the same or similarly but are pronounced differently.
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  • FableA fable is a short and concise story that provides the reader with a moral lesson at the end.
  • FabliauA fabliau is a traditional French tale penned by an anonymous writer between 1150 and 1400. These were usually written by jongleurs or medieval entertainers.
  • Fairy TaleFairy tales are short stories that include fanciful and magical elements such as goblins, elves, fairies, and ogres.
  • FallacyA fallacy is a faulty or erroneous argument. It depends on poor premises and an illogical conclusion. It is used in literature as well as in everyday conversations.
  • Falling ActionThe falling action occurs near the end of the story, following the climax and before the resolution.
  • Falling RhythmThe term “falling rhythm” refers to a rhythmic pattern that’s created through repeated metrical feet. These feet use a stressed beat followed by an unstressed beat or an accented syllable followed by an unaccented syllable.
  • False DichotomyA false dichotomy is a choice between two options that's delivered as though they are the only two possible options.
  • Fantastic GenreThe word “fantastic” is applied to a specific genre of stories and poems in literature. These stories feature supernatural forces that are presented in an unusual and sometimes strange way.
  • FantasyFantasy is a literary genre that includes talking animals, magic, and other worlds. It includes plots that couldn’t take place in the real world.
  • FarceA farce is a genre of comedic literature. It uses exaggerated and outrageous situations to create humor and make the audience laugh.
  • Faulty ParallelismFaulty parallelism is the use of incorrect structures. It occurs when parts of a sentence mean the same thing but don't use the same form.
  • Feminine EndingThe feminine ending is a prosodic term, which is used to refer to a verse line having an unstressed syllable at the end.
  • Feminine Rhyme (Double Rhyme)A feminine rhyme is a type of rhyme that’s made up of two unstressed two syllable rhymes, one following the other.
  • Figurative LanguageFigurative language refers to figures of speech that are used in order to improve a piece of writing.
  • Figure of SpeechA figure of speech is created when a writer uses figurative language or that which has another meaning other than its basic definition.
  • Fireside PoetsThe fireside poets, also known as the "household poets" or "schoolroom poets," were a group of American poets well-loved during the 19th century.
  • First Person Point of ViewThe first person narrative perspective is a literary style in which the narrator tells a story about him or herself. 
  • Flash ForwardA flash forward provides readers and characters with knowledge about future events.
  • FlashbackA flashback is a plot device in a book, film, story, or poem in which the readers learn about the past.
  • FoilA foil is a literary device used in narrative poems, novels, short stories, and plays. It is used to define a character’s traits.
  • Folk SongA folk song is a piece of music that was composed within the parameters of folk music. These songs are usually about a particular group of people, an event, or an experience. 
  • FolkloreFolklore refers to stories that people tell. These include folk stores, fairy tales, urban legends, and more. 
  • ForegroundingForegrounding is a literary technique that’s employed in order to draw attention to a specific part of a poem, novel, short story, or other literary work. 
  • ForeshadowForeshadowing refers to the hints a writer gives a reader about what’s going to happen next. It's a common literary device that's used every day.
  • ForewordA foreword is a brief piece of writing that appears at the beginning of a book or a longer short story, that is usually written by someone other than the author.
  • Formal DictionFormal diction is used when the setting is sophisticated. This could be anything from a speech, to a paper submitted to a journal.
  • FormalismIn literature, formalism is a school of literary criticism and theory. It’s concerned more with the structure of the text than it is with any outside influence on the author.
  • Fortune favors the bold“Fortune favors the bold” is a proverb that encourages one to push the limits of what they can do. The more risky, the more likely it is to succeed. 
  • Found PoetryFound poetry is a type of poem that’s created using someone else’s words, phrases, or structure.
  • FourteenerA fourteener is a line of poetry that contains fourteen syllables. They are usually composed of seven iambs. 
  • Frailty, thy name is woman“Frailty, thy name is woman” is a well-known line from Hamlet’s first soliloquy in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. It appears in Act I, Scene 2.
  • Frame StoryA frame story is a narrative within a narrative. It occurs when one character decides to tell another story to the other characters around him/her.
  • Free Indirect StyleFree indirect style, speech, or discourse, is a type of third-person narrative perspective that includes the thoughts of a character while maintaining the narrator’s control over the story.
  • Free VerseIn free verse, lines are unrhymed and there are no consistent metrical patterns. But, that doesn't mean it is entirely without structure.
  • Freudian SlipA Freudian slip is an error, usually in speech or action, that reveals something about one’s unconscious feelings.
  • Friends, Romans, countrymen“Friends, Romans, countrymen” is a quote William Shakespeare used in Act III, Scene 2 of Julius Caesar, his most commonly read history play.
  • FugitivesThe Fugitives literary movement is comprised of a group of poets and scholars from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee in the mid-1920s. 
  • Full fathom five thy father lies“Full fathom five thy father lies” is a famous quote from William Shakespeare’s The Tempest. It appears in Act I, Scene 2 and is spoken by the spirit Ariel. 
  • FuturismFuturism is an avant-garde movement that originated in Italy in the 20th century. It was part of the broader Futurist art movement.
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  • GenreGenre 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.
  • Georgian PoetryGeorgian poetry was a poetic movement in England that lasted from 1910 to 1936 during the reign of George V.
  • Get out of hand“Get out of hand” is a common English idiom. It suggests that something has gotten out of control. 
  • Get something out of your system“Get something out of your system” is used when someone wants to reveal something or get something off their mind that is bothering them. It could also be applied when someone needs to do something. 
  • Get thee to a nunnery“Get thee to a nunnery” is a famous quote from William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. It appears in Act III, Scene 1. 
  • Get your act together“Get your act together” is a common English idiom used to tell someone to stop messing around and focus. 
  • GhazalA ghazal is a type of poem that is constructed with couplets, repeated words, and rhyming words.
  • Ghost StoryA ghost story is any story that involves a supernatural, ghost element. It is a subgenera of fantasy and mystery.
  • Give someone the cold shoulderTo “give someone the cold shoulder” is an English-language idiom that’s used to describe one person ignoring or showing contempt for another.
  • Go down in flames“Go down in flames” is an English idiom that’s used to describe a miserable failure. It could also result in a spectacle of some kind.
  • Go on a wild goose chase“Go on a wild goose chase” is an English idiom that’s used to describe a purposeless task, doomed to failure.
  • Golden Shovel Poetic FormThe golden shovel poetic form uses lines from another author's poetry. Each word of those lines ends one line of a new poem.
  • Goliardic VerseGoliardic verse is a style of satirical Latin poetry written during the Middle Ages by young European clergy known as the Goliards. 
  • Good things come to those who wait“Good things come to those who wait” is an English proverb. It’s used to describe the benefits of waiting patiently rather than rushing into something.
  • GothicGothic literature, poetry, and prose is that which deals with themes of death, the supernatural, sorrow, fear, loss, and more.
  • Graveyard PoetsThe graveyard poets, also known as the Churchyard Poets were a group of writers in England during the 18th century. Their writing was characterized by meditations on death and the afterlife.
  • Greater Romantic LyricGreater Romantic Lyric refers to a particular type of Romantic poem in which the author spends an extended period of time contemplating a particular subject.
  • GrotesqueGrotesque is an adjective used to describe something that’s at once mysterious, ugly, hard to understand, and distorted.
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  • Haiku PoemA haiku is a three-line Japanese poem that follows a syllable pattern of 5-7-5.
  • Hang in there“Hang in there” is an English idiom that’s used to encourage someone to preserve through a tough situation. 
  • Harlem RenaissanceThe Harlem Renaissance was a cultural and intellectual movement in African American art, literature, dance, must, and more.
  • Have your head in the clouds“Head in the clouds” is an English idiom that refers to someone being absent-minded, distracted, or always dreaming.
  • HeptameterHeptameter is a type of meter in which each line in a poem uses seven metrical feet for a total of fourteen syllables.
  • HeptastichA heptastich is a stanza that contains seven lines in poetry. These lines can be written in any rhyme scheme or metrical pattern.
  • HeroIn literature, a hero is the principal or primary character of a work.
  • Heroic CoupletA heroic couplet is a form of poetry commonly used in epics and narrative poems. It is composed of a pair of rhyming lines that are written in iambic pentameter. 
  • Heroic PoetryHeroic poetry is a form of narrative verse that is elevated in style, commonly sung or chanted aloud, and focuses on the deeds of high-ranking warriors and heroes.
  • HeroineThe term “heroine” is used to describe a female hero in literature. It is also used to describe characters in film, television, and in real life. 
  • HeterometricThe term “heterometric” is used to describe stanzas that use lines of different lengths and/or employ more than one meter. Today, heterometric stanzas are far more common that their opposite: isometric stanzas. 
  • HexameterHexameter refers to a meter commonly used in Greek and Latin epic poetry. It contains six feet and usually utilizes a combination of dactyls and spondees. 
  • Historical FictionHistorical Fiction is a genre that fictionalizes real places, people, and events. It takes place in the past with accurate historical details in regard to customs, technologies, people, and events.
  • History PlayA history play is a genre of theatre. It is based on a historical events, usually set sometime in the past with characters from the period. 
  • Hit the sack“Hit the sack” is a common English idiom. It’s used to describe someone’s desire to go to bed or to inspire someone else to do the same. 
  • HomericThe term “Homeric” is used to describe the poetry of Homer and any later works written in the same style or form. These poems use heroic characters, themes, and often include elements of Greek mythology.
  • HomilyA homily is a speech delivered by a religious person, usually a priest, in front of a group of people.
  • HomographA homograph is a word that shares the same spelling but a different meaning, with another word. These words are tricky parts of language.
  • HomophoneA homophone is a word that’s pronounced the same as another word but has a different definition.
  • Horatian OdeA Horatian ode is one of three common ode forms. It is a simple stanza form in which all stanzas use the same pattern, chosen by the poet.
  • HorrorHorror is a genre of fiction that plays with human fear, feelings of terror, dread, and repulsion to entertain the audience. 
  • How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child“How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child” can be found in Act I, Scene 4 of King Lear. 
  • HubrisHubris is a classical term used to refer to excessive pride in a story’s characters.
  • HumorHumor is a literary device that writers use in order to make their readers or audience members laugh. It should be entertaining.
  • Hymn StanzaA hymn stanza uses a rhyme scheme of ABCB and alternates between iambic trimeter and iambic tetrameter.
  • HyperbatonA hyperbaton is a figure of speech in which the order of words in a sentence or line are rearranged.
  • HyperboleHyperbole is defined as an intentionally exaggerated description, comparison, or exclamation meant to make a specific impact on a reader.
  • HypophoraHypophora is a figure of speech that occurs when writing asks a question and then immediately follows that question up with an answer.
  • HypotaxisHypotaxis is the arrangement of constructs in grammar. It refers to the placement of functionally similar although unequal constructions.
  • Hypothetical QuestionA hypothetical question is a question based on an opinion or personal belief, rather than facts.
  • Hysterical RealismHysterical realism is a genre of fiction, coined by James Wood. It refers to novels that he found to be absurdly elaborate in their use of characters and plots and that delve into real-life experiences.
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  • I am one who loved not wisely, but too well“I am one who loved not wisely but too well” is a well-known Shakespearean quote that features at the end of his tragedy, Othello. The quote can be found in Act V, Scene 2. 
  • IambAn iamb is a metrical unit. It occurs when two syllables are placed next to one another and the first is unstressed, or short, and the second is stressed, or long.
  • Iambic DimeterIambic dimeter is a type of meter used in poetry. It occurs when the writer uses two iambs per line of verse.
  • Iambic PentameterIambic pentameter is a very common way that lines of poetry are structured. Each line has five sets of two beats, the first is unstressed and the second is stressed.
  • IdiomAn idiom is a short-expression that means something different than its literal translation.
  • IdyllAn idyll is a type of short poem that describes rural life or a natural scene.
  • If music be the food of love play on“If music be the food of love play on” is a quote from William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. It is the first line of the play, spoken by Orsino, the Duke of Illyria.  
  • If you prick us, do we not bleed?“If you prick us, do we not bleed?” can be found in William Shakespeare’s comedy The Merchant of Venice. It is spoken by the moneylender, Shylock.
  • IllusionAn illusion is a false belief. The writer uses it in order to trick someone, the reader or a character, into believing something untrue.
  • ImageryImagery refers to the elements of a poem that engage a reader’s senses. These are the important sights, sounds, feelings, and smells.
  • ImagismImagism was a literary movement of the early 20th century. The proponents were interested in the use of precise imagery and clear language.
  • Imperative SentenceAn imperative sentence is a type of sentence that makes a command, gives a direction, or expresses instructions of some kind.
  • Imperfect RhymeAn imperfect rhyme is the opposite of a perfect rhyme. It refers to two words that rhyme in part, but not perfectly.
  • Implied MetaphorAn implied metaphor is a literary device that’s used in everything from short stories to novels and poems.
  • Implied ReaderThe implied reader of a poem, short story, novel, or play is the person the author directs their writing toward. It is usually the person, or type of person, they believe would most enjoy or benefit from their literature. 
  • ImpressionismImpressionism in literature refers to stories dependent on a character’s subjective point of view. These stories are based around that character’s impressions of their experiences.
  • In Medias ResIn Medias Res refers to the narration of a story beginning part through events, skipping over the exposition.
  • Inciting IncidentAn inciting incident is an event that starts the story’s main plot. It is whatever changes the protagonist’s life.
  • InductionAn induction is a conclusion that’s reached after the analysis of facts. The conclusions might be right or wrong but it depends strongly on the logic of the premises.
  • InferenceAn inference is a literary device that occurs when logical assumptions are made. These should be based on true premises, but are often based around those that are assumed to be true.
  • InnuendoAn innuendo is an indirect observation of an event, person, thing, or idea. It is not stated clearly or obviously.
  • Interior MonologueAn interior monologue is used in all forms of fiction and even in some forms of nonfiction. It is an expression of the character's thoughts and impressions.
  • Internal RhymeInternal rhyme occurs in the middle of lines of poetry. It refers to words that rhyme in the middle of the same line or across multiple lines
  • IntertextualityIntertextuality 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.
  • InvectiveInvective is the use of abusive language that expresses disapproval or attacks someone, a topic, object, idea, insinuation, or other.
  • InversionAn inversion occurs when the writer changes the normal order of words. They are reversed, therefore leading to a different kind of effect.
  • Irish Literary RevivalThe Irish Literary Revival, also sometimes known as the Irish Literary Renaissance or the Celtic Twilight, was a literary period in the late 19th and early 20th century in Ireland.
  • IronyIrony occurs when an outcome is different than expected. It is very possible for one situation to strike one reader as ironic and another not.
  • Irregular OdeAn irregular ode is a common ode form that does not conform to the characteristics of the Pindaric or Horatian ode forms.
  • IsocolonIsocolon is a figure of speech. It occurs when a series of sentences or phrases are equal in length and follow one another.
  • It ain’t over till the fat lady sings"It ain't over till the fat lady sings" refers to the moment in which something is truly over or decided.
  • It takes one to know one“It takes one to know one” is an English idiom. It’s used when one person wants to point out that what they’re being accused of is actually reflected in the accuser.
  • It takes two to tango"It takes two to tango” is a popular English idiom that’s used to describe a task one person can’t do alone.
  • It's a piece of cake“It’s a piece of cake” is used to refer to something that’s simple or easy.
  • It's raining cats and dogs"It is raining cats and dogs" is an English idiom. It is used to describe a very heavy rain but not one that's associated with animals.
  • It’s always darkest before the dawn“It’s always darkest before the dawn” is a famous proverb that dates back to at least 1650. It’s used to suggest that one needs to preserve through hard times.
  • It’s not in the stars to hold our destiny but ourselves“It’s not in the stars to hold our destiny but ourselves” is a well-known Shakespearean quote that speaks about fate and destiny. 
  • It’s not rocket science“It’s not rocket science” is a common English idiom that’s used to emphasize how simple something is, especially compared to rocket science. 
  • j

  • Jacobean AgeThe Jacobean Age or Era was a period in English and Scottish history, from 1603-1625. It corresponds with the reign of James VI of Scotland.
  • JargonJargon is the use of phrases and words that are specific to a situation, trade, a selective group, or a profession.
  • Jump on the bandwagonTo “jump on the bandwagon” means that one is going to join in with whatever new or popular thing the majority is doing or thinking.
  • JuveniliaThe term “juvenilia” refers to creative works finished during the early points of someone's career. It can be used to describe music, art, or literary work.
  • JuxtapositionJuxtaposition is a literary technique that places two unlike things next to one another.
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  • KenningA kenning is a figure of speech in which two words are combined to form a new expression.
  • Kill two birds with one stone"Kill two birds with one stone" refers to getting two things done through one action that saves time, energy, and stress.
  • KinesthesiaKinesthesia depicts movement in text. It is a type of imagery that helps readers see the movements someone makes in prose and verse.
  • Kitchen Sink Drama Kitchen sink drama, or Kitchen sink realism, is a term applied to a period in British film, literature, and art that occurred during the late 1950s and 1960s. It was based on a general frustration with contemporary life and curated art/literature. 
  • Know which way the wind blows“Know which way the wind blows” is used metaphorically to refer to understanding where public opinion is.
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  • Lai (Lay)A lai, or lay, is a medieval lyric poem written in France in octosyllabic couplets. There are a few examples of this specific poetic form in English. 
  • Lake PoetsThe Lake Poets were a group of English poets who lived and wrote in the Lake District during the nineteenth century.
  • LamentA lament is an expression of grief. They appear as poems and songs about death, loss, and general suffering. Laments can be seen in songs, poetry, and more.
  • LampoonA lampoon is a type of satire in which a person or thing is attacked unjustly. They can be found in prose and verse.
  • Language PoetryLanguage poetry is an avant-garde movement that places emphasis on the reader’s role in creating meaning. It began in the 1970s as a response to more traditional poetic forms. 
  • Leave no stone unturned"Leave no stone unturned" is a way of saying one is not going to give up searching till they find what they've lost or what they need.
  • LegendA legend is a genre of folklore that features stories about human events and actions.
  • Leonine RhymeLeonine rhymes utilize internal rhyme and a natural pause in the middle of a line. These rhymes were most common in the Middle Ages. Specifically, in Latin poetry.
  • Let sleeping dogs lie"Let sleeping dogs lie” is a reminder not to bring unnecessary risk or danger upon oneself.
  • Let the cat out of the bag“Let the cat out of the bag” is a common English idiom that’s used to describe what happens when someone tells a secret.
  • Life Writing Life writing is a term used to define a variety of genres focused on recording personal memories and experiences. It includes biographies, diaries, letters, personal essays, memoirs, and more.
  • Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player“Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player” is an interesting Shakespearean quote that is used in his tragedy, Macbeth. It appears in Act V, Scene 5 and is spoken by the title character. 
  • Light VerseLight verse is poetry that touches on amusing, light-hearted topics. It does not deal with emotionally heavy themes or traumatic life events. 
  • LimerickA limerick is a humorous poem that follows a fixed structure of five lines and a rhyme scheme of AABBA.
  • Line BreakA line break occurs when a poet decides to stop a line and begin another. It can happen with or without punctuation.
  • LitanyA litany is a poetic form. It is a prayer that contains a series of invocations much of the time including repetition.
  • Literary AdaptationAn adaptation occurs when a literary work, such as a poem or novel, is made into a new genre, such as a film or musical.
  • Literary ArgumentThe argument of a piece of literature is a statement, towards the beginning of a work, that declares what it’s going to be about.
  • Literary ContentThe content of a poem, or of any novel, short story, essay, etc., is what it is about. It is the message, theme, moral, or other purpose of the written work. 
  • Literary CriticismCriticism in literature is the study/evaluation of literary works, including but not limited to plays, poems, novels, and essays. 
  • Literary ModernismLiterary modernism originated in the late 19th and 20th centuries. It was mainly focused in Europe and North America.
  • Literary MovementIn literature, the term “movement” refers to a division of written works. They are separated out into their similarities and aesthetic features and topics. That is, in contrast to divisions of time or location.
  • LitotesLitotes is a figure of speech that includes a phrase in which a negative word is used in order to express something positive.
  • LogosLogos is the use of logic to create a persuasive argument in writing.
  • Long story shortTo make a "long story short” is a commonly used idiom that signals someone is going to summarize their information.
  • Look before you leap“Look before you leap” is a common English proverb. It’s used to remind someone to take their time before making a decision. 
  • Lord, what fools these mortals be!“Lord, what fools these mortals be!” can be found in Act III, Scene 2 of William Shakespeare’s comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The quote is spoken by Robin Goodfellow, or Puck, to Oberon and falls and can be seen in line 117. 
  • Lost GenerationLost Generation refers to a group of writers who came of age during World War I and dealt with the social changes the war brought.
  • Love is blind“Love is blind” is a direct idiom, one that clearly refers to the way that love blinds the lover to certain truths.
  • Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind, and therefore is winged Cupid painted blind“Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind, And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind” is a quote in William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
  • Lyric PoemA lyric poem is a musically inclined, short verse that speaks on poignant and powerful emotions.
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  • Macaronic VerseMacaronic verse is poetry written in more than one language. It refers to instances in which writers compose their work using bilingual puns and other clever combinations of words and languages. 
  • Mad as a hatter“Mad as a hatter” is a humorous idiom used to refer to someone who is completely crazy.
  • Magical RealismMagical Realism is a genre of fiction writing that is interested in imbuing the modern realistic world with magical, fantastical elements.
  • Main IdeaThe main idea of a literary text is the central message that the writer wants to convey.
  • Make hay while the sun shines“Make hay while the sun shines” suggests that someone should take advantage of the time they have to complete a task or take on an opportunity.
  • MalapropismA malapropism occurs when a writer, character, or other source uses a word incorrectly, usually rendering the sentence nonsensical.
  • MannerismMannerism is a hard-to-define term that’s loosely applied to literature and more commonly used in regard to visual arts. When it comes to poetry, it refers to elaborate, particularly clever, and highly poetic work.
  • Martian PoetryMartian poetry was written by a small circle of British poets in the late 1970s that depicted everyday objects in a disorienting light.
  • Masculine EndingA masculine ending, a common term used in prosody, occurs when a metered verse line ends with a stressed syllable.
  • Masculine RhymeMasculine rhyme is a literary device that occurs when the stressed syllables at line endings rhyme together.
  • MedievalismMedievalism is a set of beliefs that are inspired by the Middle Ages in Europe. It’s possible to find examples of Medievalism in art, music, literature, philosophy, architecture, and more. 
  • MeiosisMeiosis is a figure of speech that when used minimizes the importance of something. This is done through the use of a euphemism.
  • MelodramaA melodrama is a work of literature or a theatrical performance that uses exaggerated events and characters.
  • MetafictionMetafiction refers to stories in which the characters, author, or narrator acknowledge the fact that they're parts of a fiction.
  • MetalepsisMetalepsis is a figure of speech that occurs when a writer uses a phrase or word in a new context. The chosen phrase or word comes from a different figure of speech.
  • MetaphorA metaphor is used to describe an object, person, situation or action in a way that helps a reader understand it, without using "like" or "as".
  • Metaphysical PoetryMetaphysical poetry is marked by the use of elaborate figurative languages, original conceits, paradoxes, and philosophical topics.
  • MeterThe meter is the pattern of beats in a line of poetry. It is a combination of the number of beats and arrangement of stresses.
  • MetonymyMetonymy a kind of figurative language that refers to a situation in which one term is substituted for another.
  • Miltonic SonnetThe Miltonic Sonnet is one of the main sonnet forms and was popularized by the poet John Milton who was born in 1609 in London, England.
  • Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows“Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows” can be found in William Shakespeare's famous play The Tempest in Act II, Scene 2. The line is spoken by Trinculo while he’s alone on the stage.
  • Miss the boat“Miss the boat” is an English idiom that’s used to refer to someone’s missed opportunity.
  • Misty PoetsThe Misty Poets, or Ménglóng Shi Rén, is a group of Chinese poets who were working in the 20th century. Their work was created against the backdrop of the Cultural Revolution during which traditional themes of art were sidelined and artists were prosecuted. 
  • Mixed MetaphorA mixed metaphor is a literary device that occurs when two or more dissimilar metaphors are fused to forge a comparison, typically creating a ludicrous effect.
  • MonometerMonometer is a type of meter that uses single units of meter per line of verse. It could use a single iamb, trochee, etc.
  • MonorhymeMonorhyme refers to the use of the same end-sound within multiple lines of a poem. Usually, the term describes poems that only use one end sound. 
  • MoodMood 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.
  • MoralA moral is the meaning or message conveyed through a story.
  • Morality PlayA morality play is a genre of theatre popular in the medieval and Tudor period. 
  • MorphemeA morpheme is the smallest meaningful part of any language. It might be a word, or it might be part of a word.
  • Mosaic RhymeA mosaic rhyme is a type of rhyme in which a multisyllabic word is made to rhyme with two or more monosyllabic words.
  • MotifA motif is an action, image, idea, or sensory perception that repeats in a work of literature.
  • MuseThe “muse” in literature is a source of inspiration for the writer. This could be someone they know or a direct reference to the traditional Greek muses.
  • Mystery PlayMystery plays were developed in medieval Europe and focused on representations of the Bible. They were originally performed in churches and then moved out into public squares and marketplaces.
  • MythA myth is a genre of folklore that usually includes a hero and sometimes fanatical elements. 
  • MythopoeiaMythopoeia is a genre of modern literature (and film) that refers to the creation of artificial mythology.
  • n

  • NarrationNarration is the use of commentary, either written or spoken, to tell a story or “narrative.”
  • Narrative HookA narrative hook appears at the beginning of a piece of literature and is used to “hook” or capture the reader’s attention.
  • Narrative PoemNarrative poems contain all the elements of a story and are normally longer than average.
  • NarratorThe narrator is the voice that tells the story, whether that story is in the form of a poem or novel. 
  • Native American RenaissanceThe “Native American Renaissance” is a term coined by Kenneth Lincoln in 1983. It refers to a period of increased literary production by Native American authors within the United States. 
  • NaturalismNaturalism is a nineteenth-century literary and arts genre that focuses on the realistic depiction of life and all its struggles
  • Neither a borrower nor a lender be"Neither a borrower nor a lender be” appears in Act I, Scene 3 of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The quote is spoken by Polonius, Ophelia’s father, and King Claudius’ chief minister. 
  • NemesisA nemesis in a piece of literature, film, or television show, is usually the antagonist of the story.
  • NeoclassicismNeoclassicism was a movement interested in reviving Greco-Roman literature, art, architecture, philosophy, and theatre in the 18th century.
  • NeologismA neologism is a new word, serious or humorous, coined by a writer. It is used in everyday speech as well as in literary texts.
  • New ApocalypseThe New Apocalypse or New Apocalyptics grouping was a selection of poets from the United Kingdom during the 1940s.
  • New FormalismNew formalism, also known as neo-formalism was a movement of late 20th early 21st-century American poetry. It was a reaction to the innovations of Modernist poets like T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound. 
  • New Wave Science FictionThe New Wave science fiction movement occurred in the 1960s and 1970s. During this time, writers experimented with the style of “soft” science fiction. 
  • New Woman Movement and WritingNew Woman was a feminist ideal that was profoundly influential on 19th and 20th-century literature, as well as broader feminist beliefs.
  • New York School of PoetsThe New York School was a group of artists, writers, dancers, and more who were primarily active in New York City in the 1950s and 60s. 
  • Newgate NovelThe Newgate novel, or the Old Bailey novel, is a type of book published in England from the 1820s to the 1840s that glamorizes criminals' lives.
  • No pain, no gain"No pain, no gain" is used to describe the suffering that's necessary in order to achieve one's goals.
  • Noir FictionNoir, or noir fiction, is a kind of crime fiction. It is a subgenre in which anti-hero and flawed protagonists are very common. 
  • Non SequiturA non sequitur is a statement that asserts and concludes something that's obviously absurd and false.
  • Non-FictionNon-fiction is applied to prose writing that's based on real events and facts. It includes several different genres, such as biography and history.
  • Nonce WordA nonce word is a made-up word, or lexeme, created by a writer in poetry or fiction. 
  • NostalgiaNostalgia refers to a need or longing for the past. This can be anything that’s no longer accessible due to the passage of time.
  • Not playing with a full deck“Not playing with a full deck” is a way of saying that someone is mentally unsound or unintelligent.
  • Nothing will come of nothing“Nothing will come of nothing” is a quote from William Shakespeare’s tragedy King Lear. The quote appears in Act I, Scene 1, line 99. 
  • NovelA novel is a long, written, fictional narrative that includes some amount of realism.
  • NovellaA novella is a prose, fiction work that’s shorter than a novel and longer than a short story. 
  • Now is the winter of our discontent“Now is the winter of our discontent” is one of the most commonly quoted lines in all of Shakespeare. It appears at the beginning of his famed play, Richard III.
  • Nursery RhymeA nursery rhyme is a short rhyming song or poem that conveys a lesson or tells an amusing story. They are aimed at children.
  • o

  • Occasional Verse Occasional verse is a type of poetry written to commemorate an event. For example, a wedding, birth, military victory, or holiday.
  • OctameterOctameter refers to a line of verse that contains sixteen syllables or eight metrical feet. It is one of the less common patterns in English language verse.
  • OctastichAn octastich is a stanza with eight lines. These lines might be written in free verse or conform to a specific rhyme scheme or metrical pattern. 
  • OctaveThe word “octave” comes from the Latin word meaning “eighth part”. It is an eight-line stanza or poem.
  • Octosyllabic Octosyllabic verse, or an octosyllable poem, is a piece of poetry that uses eight-syllable lines. It’s possible to describe an entire poem or a single line as octosyllabic. 
  • OdeAn ode is a formal lyric poem that is written in celebration or dedication. They are generally directed with specific intent.
  • OeuvreAn oeuvre is a writer’s body of work. It includes everything they wrote and published throughout their life. 
  • Off one's rocker"Off one's rocker" is used to describe someone who is acting differently or out of the ordinary in some important way.
  • Off with his head“Off with his head” is a quote used by William Shakespeare in his history play, Henry VI, Part III and in Richard III. 
  • Old Comedy The term “Old Comedy” describes a specific type of play written by Aristophanes in the 5th century B.C. It is also known as an Aristophanic comedy. 
  • Old EnglishOld English is the earliest recorded version of the English language spoken in England and Scotland during the Middle ages.
  • Omniscient NarratorAn omniscient narrator knows what’s happening at all times, and all points, of the story.
  • On cloud nine“On cloud nine” is a common English idiom that’s used to refer to a  state of blissful happiness that one is experiencing.
  • On the ball“On the ball” is a commonly used idiom that describes someone or something that is performing well.
  • On the fence“On the fence” is an idiom. It’s used when someone wants to describe themselves or someone else as unable to make up their mind.
  • Once in a blue moon"Once in a blue moon" is a way of describing and emphasizing something, positive or negative, that happens very rarely.
  • Onegin StanzaThe Onegin stanza, or Pushkin sonnet, is a stanza form invented and popularized by Alexander Pushkin in his 1825-1832 novel, Eugene Onegin. 
  • OnomatopoeiaAn onomatopoeia is a word that imitates the natural sound of a thing.
  • Open CoupletAn open couplet is a pair of lines in poetry, the first of which is enjambed. The first line does not conclude, running into the second line.
  • Open FormAn open form poem does not follow traditional patterns or structures. These poems are more commonly known as free verse poems. 
  • Oral TraditionThe phrase “oral tradition” is associated with oral lore, or the telling of stories orally rather than writing them down.
  • Ordinal NumberOrdinal numbers are used in linguistics to represent the position or ranking of something, such as first and 1st.
  • Ottava RimaThe phrase “ottava rima” is used to describe a particular type of stanza in poetry. It uses eight iambic lines and follows a rhyme scheme of ABABABCC.
  • OulipoThe term “Oulipo” refers to a group of mainly French writers who utilized creative and contrasting writing techniques in order to experiment with what is possible in literature.
  • Out of the frying pan and into the fire“Out of the frying pan and into the fire” is a clever way of depicting a bad situation getting worse.
  • OverstatementOverstatement is a type of figurative language. They are descriptions of events, people, situations, and objects that are over exaggerated.
  • OxymoronAn oxymoron is a kind of figurative language in which two contrasting things are connected together.
  • p

  • PacingPacing refers to the pace at which a story unfolds, or how fast or slow the plot elements come together.
  • PaeanA paean expresses thanks, elation, or triumph through the form of a song or lyrical poem.
  • PaleographyPaleography is the study of historic writing systems and handwriting. The process dates documents and traces the evolution of various alphabets.
  • PalimpsestPalimpsests are reused pieces of parchment, usually made of calf, lamb, or goat skin. These scrolls or books were washed or scraped clean until the papers could be used again. 
  • PalindromeA palindrome is defined as a word or sentence that is read the same forward as it is backwards.
  • PalinodeA palinode, or palinody, is an ode in which the author expresses an opinion opposite to that which they included in another, earlier poem. 
  • PantoumPantoums use the second and fourth lines of each stanza as the first and third lines of the next stanza. They're usually four stanzas.
  • ParableA parable is a short fictional story that speaks on a religious attitude or moral belief.
  • ParadoxA paradox is used in literature when a writer brings together contrasting and contradictory elements that reveal a deeper truth.
  • ParalipsisParalipsis is a rhetorical device that occurs when the writer pretends to hide the idea or statement they actually want to express.
  • ParaliteratureParaliterature is written work that is not defined as “literature.” It is dismissed as lesser for one reason or another.
  • Parallelism / Parallel StructureParallelism, also known as parallel structure, occurs when the writer uses the same structure in multiple lines.
  • ParaphrasingParaphrasing a poem means to simplify it down to its most basic elements, clarifying along the way and choosing less complicated language.
  • ParaprosdokianParaprosdokian is a surprising shift at the end of a short story, novel, poem, play or other literary work.
  • PararhymePararhyme is a type of half-rhyme that occurs when the same pattern of consonants is used by the vowel changes.
  • ParataxisParataxis is a literary term used to describe the equal importance of a writer’s chosen words, phrases, or sentences.
  • ParenthesisParenthesis is an element of writing used when a writer wants to insert information into a passage that adds detail.
  • ParodyA parody is created based on an already existing work in order to make fun of it.
  • ParonomasiaParonomasia occurs when a writer intentionally creates confusion by using similar-sounding words.
  • ParrhesiaParrhesia is the use of direct, emotionally honest language in one’s discussion of a topic. It has its roots in Ancient Greece.
  • Passive VoicePassive voice is a generally disliked grammatical construction of sentences in which the "object" comes before the "subject."
  • PassusA passus is a division in a short story, novel, or long poem, usually medieval in nature. It is comparable to a canto.
  • PasticheA pastiche is a literary creation that imitates a famous work by another author.
  • PastoralPastoral poetry is a genre or mode of poetry that refers to works that idealize country life and the landscape they take place in.
  • Pathetic FallacyPathetic fallacy is used to describe the attribution of human emotions and actions onto non-human things found in nature.
  • PathosPathos is an appeal made by the writer to the audience’s emotions in order to make them feel something.
  • Pattern PoetryPattern poetry is a type of poetry that depends on the shape the text makes. The visual image of the lines is an integral part of the work. 
  • PedanticA pedant, or someone who exhibits pedantic behavior, will correct small mistakes that are not necessarily important in the broader scheme of things.
  • Penny DreadfulPenny dreadfuls were a cheap, serialized form of literature popular in the nineteenth century. 
  • PentameterIn poetry, “pentameter” refers to a line that contains a total of ten syllables. Commonly, these are divided into iambs or trochees.
  • Periodic StructurePeriodic structure is form of writing in which the main clause of the sentence, or its predicate, are held till the end of the sentence.
  • PeriodicalA periodical is a series of publications that appear at a regular schedule. Magazines are a common example.
  • PeriphrasisPeriphrasis occurs when the writer chooses to use more words than necessary to talk about a subject. It occurs in a variety of situations.
  • PersonaA persona is an invented perspective that a writer uses. The point of view might be entirely different than their own.
  • PersonificationPersonification is a literary device that refers to the projection of human characteristics onto inanimate objects in order to create imagery.
  • PerspectivePerspective is the lens through which the reader experiences a story, film, television series, or poem.
  • PersuasionPersuasion is a literary technique. It’s used by writers to ensure that their readers find their written content believable.
  • Petrarchan/Italian SonnetPetrarchan/Italian sonnets are fourteen lines long, follow an initial rhyme scheme of ABBAABBA, and use iambic pentameter.
  • Picaresque NovelA picaresque novel is a genre of prose fiction that depicts a roughish hero who experiences episodic adventures.
  • Pindaric OdeThe term “Pindaric” refers to the body of work, and style, of the Greek poet Pindar. It is used to refer, specifically, to his odes and those written in his traditional style. 
  • Play (Theatre)A play is a form of writing for theatre. It is divided into acts and scenes. 
  • Play Devil’s AdvocateIf someone decides to “play devil’s advocate” then they are arguing a position for the sake of it, not necessarily because they believe it.
  • PleonasmPleonasm is a rhetorical device that occurs when a writer uses two or more words to express an idea.
  • PloceA ploce is a figure of speech. It occurs when a poet repeats a word with a different emphasis. The technique is used in poetry, prose, and drama. 
  • PlotThe plot is a connected sequence of events that make up a novel, poem, play, film, television show, and other narrative works.
  • Poem FormA form is the way text is arranged in a poem, short story, novel, etc. There are a wide variety of forms in literature that an author might choose to use. 
  • Poem SubjectThe subject of a poem might also be called the main idea, goal, or thing about which the poem is concerned.
  • Poetic DictionPoetic diction describes the language of poetry. It is differentiated from everyday language and that which is commonly used in novels, by its style, vocabulary, and use of figurative language.
  • Poetic DramaPoetic drama is a genre of literature that refers to plays that contain distinctly poetic elements. These are sometimes referred to as verse plays. 
  • Poetic FootIn literature, a foot refers to a unit of meter in poetry. It is a grouping of stressed and/or unstressed syllables.
  • Poetic JusticePoetic justice occurs when a writer punishes an evil character or rewards a good character creating a satisfying conclusion.
  • Poetic LicenseThe term “poetic license” is used to describe an intentional departure from the facts or traditional structures of language when writing. It is utilized most commonly in poetry but can also be used, in order to create a particular effect, in a short story, novel, play, etc.
  • PoeticismThe term “poeticism” refers to the use of poetic elements in writing. In a literary work, the author focuses on feelings, ideas, and powerful experiences. They often use a particular style, rhythm, and rhyme scheme.
  • Point of ViewPoint of view is what the speaker, narrator, or character can see from their perspective.
  • PolyptotonPolyptoton is a figure of a speech. It occurs when words with the same root are repeated, for example, "run" and "ran."
  • PolysyndetonPolysyndeton is a figure of speech. It is concerned with coordinating conjunctions, such as “and” and “or” that join together words and clauses.
  • PortmanteauA portmanteau is a literary device. It occurs when the writer joins two or more words together to create a new word.
  • Postcolonial LiteraturePostcolonial literature is literature by people who were formally colonized. The term refers to anything, from poems to essays, produced after a colonizing force is left and that is inspired by the impact this immense change made. 
  • PostmodernismPostmodernism is a literary movement that began in the late-20th century. It was a reaction to modernism after World War II. 
  • Pre-Raphaelite BrotherhoodThe Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was a group of English artists, including writers, painters, and critics, who were founded in 1848.
  • ProcatalepsisProcatalepsis occurs when the person speaking addresses another point of view before the opponent even speaks.
  • ProemA proem is an introduction to a literary work. It is a preface to what’s to come after. 
  • PrologueThe prologue is the opening to a story that comes before the first page or chapter. It is used to establish context or to provide necessary details.
  • PropagandaPropaganda is a type of information spread in order to influence opinion. It can be negative or positive depending on the source.
  • ProseProse is a written and spoken language form that does not make use of a metrical pattern or rhyme scheme.
  • ProsodyProsody is the study of meter, rhyme, and the sound and pattern of words. It is used in prose but far more commonly in poetry.
  • ProtagonistThe protagonist is the main character of a story, generally considered to be the hero or the force for good. 
  • ProthesisProsthesis is a literary device that occurs when a writer adds a new syllable or an extra sound to the beginning of a word.
  • ProverbA proverb is a short, simple statement that gives advice. It is based in common experience.
  • PsalmA psalm is a sacred song of worship, such as those featured in the Book of Psalms in the Bible.
  • Psychological RealismPsychological realism is a type of realism that focuses on why a character does what they do.
  • Pull yourself together“Pull yourself together” is used in tense situations in order to calm down someone whose upset, panicking, or disorganized.
  • Pulling my leg“Pulling someone’s leg” is a humorous English idiom that refers to a joking comment made in order to trick or amuse another person.
  • Pulp FictionPulp fiction is a type of short, cheap storytelling that was popular from the late 1800s to the mid 1900s.
  • PunA pun is a literary device that’s defined as a play on words.
  • Pushing up daisiesPushing up daisies” is a popular idiom used to refer to someone who has died.
  • PyrrhicThe term “pyrrhic” is used to refer to a metrical foot that contains two unstressed syllables. The foot is less common today than it was in classical Greek poetry. 
  • q

  • Quantitative VerseQuantitative verse is a metrical system used in classical poetry that is dependent on the duration of syllables rather than the number of stresses.
  • QuatrainA quatrain is a verse form that is made up of four lines with fifteen different possible rhyme schemes.
  • QuintainThe term “quintain” is used to describe a stanza that has five lines. It is one of several stanza forms that a poet might choose from. 
  • r

  • Rain on someone’s parade“Rain on someone’s parade” is a clever English idiom that’s used to describe dampening someone’s mood.
  • RealismRealism is a literary movement that portrays everyday life exactly how it is.
  • RebuttalA rebuttal is a response to an argument that contradicts or attempts to disprove it. It is given by one’s opponent.
  • Red HerringA red herring is a fallacy that introduces something irrelevant to a larger narrative.
  • Reductio ad AbsurdumReductio ad absurdum is used when a speaker argues for their position by attempting to point out the absurdity in the alternative argument.
  • RefrainRefrains are used in poems and songs. They are repeated sections of text that usually appear at the end of a stanza or verse.
  • RefutationA refutation is the part of the argument that tries to prove that the alternative point of view is false.
  • Repetition in PoetryRepetition is an important poetic technique that sees writers reuse words, phrases, images, or structures multiple times within a poem.
  • ResolutionThe resolution of a piece of literature is the parts of the narrative that bring the story to a close.
  • RhetoricRhetoric is the use of language effectively in writing or speech to persuade the audience.
  • Rhetorical DevicesRhetorical devices are parts of literature that are used to persuade audiences. They make use of the three “modes of persuasion."
  • Rhetorical QuestionA rhetorical question is a question that’s asked for effect, not because someone is expecting a genuine answer to it.
  • RhymeThe word “rhyme” refers to the pattern of similar sounding words used in writing.
  • Rhyme SchemeThe 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.
  • Rhyme Scheme of SonnetsSonnets usually conform to one of two different rhyme schemes, those connected to the Shakespearean and the Petrarchan sonnet forms.
  • RhythmRhythm refers to the use of long and short stresses, or stressed and unstressed, within the writing.
  • RiddleRiddles are tricky phrases or questions that have double meanings and are usually challenging to solve or answer.
  • Rising ActionThe rising action comes after the exposition and before the climax. It includes the complicating or inciting incident.
  • RomanceRomance is a narrative genre of literature. It can feature elements that include mystery, adventure, bravery, and more.
  • Romantic ComedyRomantic comedy is a genre of literature. It follows two characters who fall in love, face obstacles that might separate them, and are reunited for a happy ending.
  • Romantic IronyRomantic irony is a rhetorical device that occurs when an author breaks through the fictional facade of their narrative and exposes their presence. This is normally seen through a demonstration of the writing process.
  • RomanticismRomanticism was a movement that originated in Europe at the end of the 18th century and emphasized aesthetic experience and imagination.
  • RondelThe rondel has two quatrains that are followed by a quintet, a set of five lines. The verse form has its origins in lyrical poetry of 14th-century France.
  • Roundelay The roundelay is a complex, less-commonly used form of poetry that follows a strict pattern. 
  • Run like the wind"Run like the wind" is a common English idiom. It's used to describe how fast someone is moving.
  • Run-On SentenceA run-on sentence is a long sentence that is made up of two independent clauses joined together.
  • s

  • SapphicsThe term “Sapphics” refers to poems written in the style of Sappho, a classical Greek poet. These poems are often composed of four-line stanzas, sometimes use quantitive meter but more commonly use accentual meter (mostly using dactyls and trochees). 
  • SarcasmSarcasm is a type of verbal irony that expresses contempt, mocks, or ridicules.
  • Satire/Satirical ComedySatire and satirical comedy are used to analyze behaviors to make fun of, criticize, or chastise them in a humorous way.
  • ScansionScansion is the analysis of a poem’s metrical patterns. It organizes the lines, metrical feet, and individual syllables into groups.
  • Science FictionScience fiction is a literary genre that focuses on imaginative content based in science. 
  • Scottish RenaissanceThe Scottish Renaissance was a literary movement that took place in the mid-20th century in Scotland. It is often referred to as the Scottish version of modernism. 
  • Second Person Point of ViewThe second person narrative perceptive is a literary style in which the narrator tells a story about “you”. 
  • Self-Fulfilling ProphecyA self-fulfilling prophecy in literature is a phenomenon in which a character predicts something and by trying to avoid it makes the thing happen.
  • SemanticsSemantics is the study of the meanings of words, symbols, and various other signs.
  • Sensation NovelThe sensation novel was a genre of literature that took advantage of outrageous and sensational topics to entertain readers. 
  • Sensory LanguageSensory language is the words used to create images that trigger the reader’s senses. These include sight, sound, smell, and taste.
  • Sentimental NovelA sentimental novel, or a novel of sensibility is a literary genre, popular in the 18th century, that is defined by its focus on concepts of sentiment and sensibility. 
  • SeptetA septet is any seven-line stanza in poetry. These stanzas are uncommon and sometimes associated with the work of Geoffrey Chaucer, who pioneered a pattern and structure known as rhyme royal. 
  • SerendipitySerendipity is the experience of finding something joyful in that which came unexpectedly.
  • SesquipedalianSesquipedalian is defined as the use of words that are overly long and have multiple syllables. Sometimes, they are neologisms.
  • SestetA sestet is a six-line stanza or poem, or the second half or a sonnet. It does not require a specific rhyme scheme or metrical pattern.
  • SettingSetting is when and where a story takes place. This could be a real place or someone completely fictional.
  • Shakespearean SonnetThe Shakespearean sonnet follows a rhyme scheme of ABABCDCDEFEFGG and uses iambic pentameter.
  • Shape up or ship out'Shape up or ship out' is an English-language idiom that’s used to threaten someone with a consequence if they don’t do what they’re supposed to.
  • Short StoryA short story is a piece of writing with a narrative that’s shorter than a novel. These stories usually only take one sitting to read.
  • SibilanceSibilance is a literary device in which consonant sounds are stressed. These are primarily "s" and "th" sounds.
  • SimileA simile is a comparison between two unlike things that uses the words “like” or “as”.
  • Situational ComedySituational comedy, also known as a sitcom, is a genre of comedy and (primarily) television and film. It refers to comedic situations that are awkward, inescapable, and lighthearted.
  • Situational IronySituational irony occurs when something happens that’s different from what’s expected.
  • Slam PoetrySlam poetry, also known as spoken word poetry, is typically performed at what is known as a “poetry slam”.
  • Slang DictionSlang diction contains words that are very specific to a region and time, and have been recently coined.
  • Slow and steady wins the race“Slow and steady wins the race” is a proverb that suggests one is better off being methodical than rushing into something unprepared.
  • SnarkSnark refers to a sarcastic comment. It is a combination the words “snide” and “remark.”
  • So far so good"So far so good” is a commonly used proverb that describes how things are progressing. In this case, everything is good so far. 
  • Socialist RealismSocialist realism is a style of realism that developed in the Soviet Union between 1932 and 1938. It was defined by its focus on idealized communist values.  
  • SolecismSolecism is refers to a phrase, sentence, or longer written work that deviates from the grammatical norm in some way.
  • SoliloquyA soliloquy is a dramatic literary device that is used when a character gives a speech that reveals something about their thought process.
  • Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them“Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them” is used in Act II Scene 5 of Twelfth Night. 
  • SonnetTraditionally, sonnets are fourteen-line poems that follow a strict rhyme scheme and conform to the metrical pattern of iambic pentameter.
  • Sound DevicesSound devices are anything writers use that improve or emphasize the sound in a piece of writing.
  • Speak of the devil"Speak of the devil" is used to acknowledge that someone who was the subject of discussion has come into the room.
  • Speaker in PoetryThe speaker in a piece of poetry might be the poet, an imagined character, a creature or even an object.
  • Spenserian SonnetThe Spenserian sonnet was invented by the famous sixteenth-century poet Edmund Spenser and uses a rhyme scheme of ABAB BCBC CDCD EE.
  • Spoken Word PoetrySpoken word or spoken word poetry is a poetic form that is meant for performance and incorporates the wordplay, alliteration, and intonation of ancient oral traditions.
  • SpondeeSpondee is an arrangement of two syllables in which both are stressed.
  • SpoonerismSpoonerism occurs when a writer changes the first letters of a word. This might create a new word or something nonsensical.
  • Sprung RhythmSprung rhythm is a rhythmic pattern used in poetry that mimics natural speech. 
  • StanzaA stanza is one of the most important fundamental elements of a poem. It is the unit of writing poems are composed of.
  • Straight from the horse’s mouth“Straight from the horse’s mouth” is an English idiom that’s used to describe getting information from a first-hand source.
  • Straw ManStraw man is a type of argument in which it appears someone has misunderstood their opponent’s argument in order to win.
  • Stream of ConsciousnessStream of consciousness is a style of writing in which thoughts are conveyed without a filter or clear punctuation.
  • StridentismStridentism, or estridentismo, was an avant-garde movement founded in Puebla City, Mexico at the end of 1921. It was influenced by the Mexican Revolution and had distinct political elements. 
  • Strong-stress MeterStrong-stress meter is a less-commonly used term to describe the metrical pattern used in accentual verse. That is, verse that depends entirely on the number of stresses per line.
  • StropheThe term “strophe” refers to a group of verses within a poem that forms a unit as well as the first part of the ode in Greek tragedies.
  • Structure of SonnetsA sonnet is a fourteen-line poem that usually makes use of the metrical pattern of iambic pentameter.
  • Sturm und DrangSturm und Drang was a literary and art movement that occurred in Germany in the late 18th century. It is generally characterized as a precursor to romanticism.
  • StyleStyle is the way a writer writes. An individual writer’s style is original and unlike any other.
  • SubjectiveThe word “subjective” refers to a particular point of view. It is based on someone’s personal opinions and beliefs.
  • SublimeThe word “sublime” is used in literature to describe writing that excites the reader beyond one’s normal experience.
  • SubplotA subplot is a side story that occurs at the same time as the main plotline. It is less important than the central storyline.
  • SuperlativeA superlative is one degree of adverb and adjective. It refers to the adverb or adjective to the greatest degree.
  • SurrealismSurrealism refers to a movement of literature, art, and drama in which creators chose to incorporated dreams and the unconscious, and fuse reality and pure imagination.
  • SuspenseSuspense is the anticipation of an outcome, created through hints at what's to come.
  • Syllabic VerseThe term “syllabic verse” is used to describe a poem in which the meter is based on counting syllables. The designation can be used no matter the number of stressed or unstressed feet.
  • SyllogismA syllogism is a three-part argument. It is based in logic and on deductive reasoning.
  • SymbolismSymbolism is the use of symbols to represent ideas or meanings. They are imbued with certain qualities often only interpretable through context.
  • SymploceSymploce occurs when a writer repeats a phrase at the beginning of successive lines and a different phrase at the end of those same successive lines.
  • SyncopeSyncope refers to a literary device that involves the shortening of a word by removing or omitting letters.
  • SyndetonSyndeton refers to a sentence that uses conjunctions to join phrases, words, and clauses. It is one of three different ways of using conjunctions, or not, within sentences.
  • SynecdocheSynecdoche is a figure of speech in which a “part" of something is used to represent its “whole.”
  • SynesisSynesis is a rhetorical device that occurs when the writer structures a sentence based on its “sense” rather than its grammatical structure.
  • SynesthesiaIn literature, synesthesia refers to a technique authors use to blur human senses in their imagery.
  • SyntaxSyntax is the rules that govern language. It is concerned with various parts of speech and the way that words are used together.
  • t

  • Tail RhymeA tail rhyme refers to a specific pattern of end-rhymes and repetition used in poetry. For example, AABCCB or AABCCCB.
  • Tail Rhyme StanzaA tail rhyme stanza refers to a stanza where the poet repeats a rhyme intermittently. It usually occurs in between rhyming couplets. 
  • Tall TaleTall tales are stories that feature unbelievable or outrageous elements. They include hyperboles and other forms of exaggeration. 
  • Tang Dynasty PoetryDuring the Tang Dynasty, from June 18, 618 to June 4, 907, Chinese poetry entered a Golden Age. It is remembered primarily for the work of poets like Li Bai, Wang Wei, Du Fu, and Bai Juyi.
  • Tanka PoetryA tanka poem is an important form in Japanese poetry that follows a syllable pattern of 5-7-5-7-7.
  • TautologyA tautology is a statement that repeats an idea, using synonymous or nearly synonymous words, phrases, or morphemes.
  • TercetA tercet is a three-line stanza. It is a common stanza form, although not as common as the couplet and quatrain.
  • Terza RimaTerza rima refers to a very specific rhyme scheme that follows the rhyming pattern of ABA BCB DED.
  • TetrameterThe term “tetrameter” refers to a line of poetry that includes four metrical feet. These feet may conform to various metrical forms. 
  • That's the last straw“That’s the last straw” is a common English idiom. It’s used to signal when someone is fed up with a situation. 
  • The best of both worlds“The best of both worlds” is an idiom that describes getting everything one wants. It’s used when a situation turns out perfectly.
  • The best thing since sliced bread“The best thing since sliced bread” is an English-language idiom that is used when someone wants to describe something that’s unusually interesting or great.
  • The course of true love never did run smooth“The course of true love never did run smooth” is a quote from Act I, Scene 1 of William Shakespeare’s comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The line is spoken by the character Lysander.
  • The devil is in the details“The devil is in the details” is an English proverb that’s used to remind someone to pay attention to the details. 
  • The early bird gets the worm“The early bird gets the worm” is an English proverb that dates back to the early 1600s. It refers to the advantage one has when they get started on something quickly, before anyone else.
  • The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interrèd with their bones"The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interrèd with their bones” is a quote spoken by Mark Antony. It is appears to be about Caesar but is actually about Brutus.
  • The fault, dear Brutus“The fault, dear Brutus” is the beginning of a well-known quote found in William Shakespeare’s history play, Julius Caesar. It can be found in Act I, Scene 2, and is spoken by Cassius. 
  • The lady doth protest too much, methinks“The lady doth protest too much, methinks” is a famous quote used in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. It is spoken by Queen Gertrude.
  • The pot calling the kettle black“The pot calling the kettle black” is used to remind someone that they’re guilty of the same thing they’re accusing another of.
  • The world is your oyster"The world is your oyster" is an idiom used to refer to the unlimited possiblites one has in front of them.
  • Theatre of CrueltyThe Theatre of Cruelty is an experimental genre of theatre that’s concerned more with audience sense-experience than it is with dialogue and content.
  • There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy” is an enigmatic quote that appears in the first Act of Hamlet. It is spoken by the title character: Hamlet.
  • There are other fish in the sea“There are other fish in the sea” is a common English proverb that describes the vast number of potential partners one has available to them.
  • There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so"There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so” is a quote from William Shakespeare’s tragedy, Hamlet. It appears in Act II, Scene 2 and is spoken by Hamlet.
  • Thesis StatementA thesis statement is the main argument of a piece of writing. It can be found in academic/formal writing novel writing.
  • Third Person ObjectiveThird person objective is a narrative point of view that uses the pronouns “he,” “she,” “they,” “them,” etc. The narrator does not, unlike the other third person perspectives, have any insight into the characters’ thoughts and feelings.
  • Third Person OmniscientWith the third person omniscient point of view, the narrator has access to every character’s thoughts and emotions. They see and know everything that’s happening in a story.
  • Third Person Point of ViewThe third person narrative perspective is a literary style in which the narrator tells a story about a variety of characters. 
  • This royal throne of kings, this sceptered isle“This royal throne of kings, this sceptered isle” is a quote that appears in Act II, Scene 1 of William Shakespeare’s history play Richard II.
  • Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones“Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones” is used to remind people not to criticize others for a flaw that you yourself possess.
  • ThrillerThe thriller is a genre of fiction that is defined by its wide variety of sub-genres. They range from crime to science fiction.
  • Time flies when you’re having fun"Time flies when you're having fun" refers to the phenomenon that time appears to pass more quickly when engaged in something they enjoy.
  • Time is money“Time is money” suggests that wasted time is wasted money. If one is wasting time, they’re missing out on an opportunity to make money.
  • TmesisTmesis is a rhetorical device that involves inserting a word in between a compound word or phrase.
  • To make matters worse“To make matters worse” is an English idiom that’s used to describe a situation that’s escalating in its difficulty or negativity. 
  • To thine own self be true"To thine own self be true” is a well-known Shakespearean quote. It is found in Hamlet in Act I, Scene 3, and is spoken by the King’s advisor, Polonius. 
  • ToneTone 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.
  • TragedyThe word “tragedy” refers to a type of drama that explores serious, sometimes dark, and depressing subject matter.
  • Tragedy of BloodTragedy of Blood theatre, also known as revenge tragedy or revenge drama, is a genre of theatre that’s primarily concerned with revenge and its consequences.
  • Tragic FlawA tragic flaw is a literary device that is used by writers to complicate their characters. Flaws include pride, envy, and cowardice.
  • Tragic HeroA tragic hero is usually the protagonist in a piece of literature. Specifically, a tragedy. This kind of character has a tragic flaw.
  • TragicomedyA tragicomedy is a fictional genre that incorporates elements of tragedies and comedies.
  • TranscendentalismThe most important part of Transcendentalism is the focus on nature and opposition to the destruction of the individual that came with industrialism.
  • TransitionTransitions are the parts of literature that connect phrases, sentences, ideas, and paragraphs. They can even connect one book to the next.
  • TricolonA tricolon is a group of three similar phrases, words, clauses, or sentences. They are parallel in their length, rhythm, and/or structure.
  • TrimeterTrimeter is one type of meter used in poetry, in which each line has three metrical feet. 
  • Trochaic PentameterTrochaic pentameter is an uncommon form of meter. It refers to lines of verse that contain five sets of two beats, the first of which is stressed and the second is unstressed. 
  • TrocheeTrochees are the exact opposite of an iamb, meaning that the first syllable is stressed and the second is unstressed.
  • TropeA trope, in literature, is the use of figurative language to make descriptions more evocative and interesting.
  • TruismA truism is a phrase that sounds meaningful but doesn’t share any new information.
  • TuffetA tuffet is “a tuft or clump of something” or "a footstool or low seat”.
  • Two peas in a podTwo peas in a pod is used to refer to how close two people are to one another.
  • u

  • Under the weather"Under the weather" is used to describe someone whose feeling unwell.
  • UnderstatementAn understatement occurs when the writer presents an idea, situation, person, or thing as less serious than it is.
  • UndertoneAn undertone is the secondary tone or meaning of a literary work.
  • Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown“Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown” is a famous quote from William Shakespeare’s King Henry IV Part 2. 
  • Unreliable NarratorAn unreliable narrator is a narrator whose credibility is in doubt, or somehow compromised.
  • UtopiaThe word “utopia” refers to a perfect, or nearly perfect, place or ideal. 
  • v

  • VaudevilleVaudeville is a genre of entertainment or theatre that originated in France in the 19th century. It is based in lightly comical situations without deeper moral intentions. They included dances and songs. 
  • Verbal IronyVerbal irony occurs when the meaning of what someone says is different from what they actually mean.
  • VerisimilitudeVerisimilitude is a concept that’s concerned with uncovering how truthful an assertion is.
  • VerismoVerismo, or “realism,” is an Italian term used to describe a movement that was popular in Italy between 1875 to the early years of the 1900s.
  • VernacularVernacular is a type of speech. It is used to refer to local dialects and common language used among everyday people.
  • VerseVerse is a term that refers to various parts of poetry, such as a single line of poetry, a stanza, or the entire poem.
  • Verse FormThe term “verse form” is used to describe any structure a poet uses within their work. There are many established verse forms such as the sonnet, haiku, ballad, sestina, and villanelle.
  • Verse ParagraphA verse paragraph is a section of poetry that resembles a prose paragraph, that which is found in novel writing and short stories.
  • VignetteA vignette is a short scene within a larger narrative. They are found in novels, short stories, poems, and films.
  • VillainA villain in literature is the antagonist, or bad guy, who harms and causes problems for the “good guys,” or heroes. 
  • VillanelleA villanelle is a nineteen-line poem that is divided into five tercets or sets of three lines, and one concluding quatrain, or set of four lines.
  • VoiceVoice refers to the specific style an author writes in. This includes the way they use point of view, tone, rhetorical devices, syntax, and more.
  • VoltaA volta is a turn or transition in a sonnet’s main argument, theme, or tone. There are Petrarchan and Shakespearean voltas.
  • w

  • Waste not, want not“Waste not, want not” asks everyone to pay attention to what they “waste” as that waste might lead to “want.”
  • Wax Poetic“Wax poetic” is an English phrase that is used to describe someone’s overly flowery and longwinded style of speech.
  • We are such stuff as dreams are made on“We are such stuff as dreams are made on” is a well-known quote that features in William Shakespeare’s The Tempest. The line appears in Act IV, Scene 1.
  • We know what we are, but know not what we may be“We know what we are, but know not what we may be” is a quote that features in Act IV, Scene 5 and is spoken by Ophelia. 
  • Weak EndingA weak ending occurs when a poet ends a line with an unstressed syllable. Often, the syllable extends the metrical pattern beyond that which is used in most of the poem. 
  • What is a Poem?A poem can be written down or spoken aloud. It is a collection of ideas and emotions in a creative way.
  • What light through yonder window breaks“What light through yonder window breaks” is part of one of the most famous soliloquies in all of William Shakespeare's plays. The line is spoken by Romeo in Act II, Scene 2.
  • When it rains it pours“When it rains it pours” is used to describe how good or bad experiences are expanded due to other circumstances.
  • WitWhen a writer uses wit in their work they’re attempting to provoke laughter by mocking someone or something.
  • Wolf in sheep's clothingThe phrase 'Wolf in sheep’s clothing' is a Biblical idiom that is used to describe the difference between what something or someone looks like and what or who they really are.
  • y

  • You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar“You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar” refers to one's ability to succeed with sweetness over cruelty or unpleasantness.
  • You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink“You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink” is an ancient English proverb used to refer to the stubbornness of human beings.
  • You can't have your cake and eat it too"You can’t have your cake and eat it too” is an English proverb that is used to remind someone that they have to make a decision and that decision is going to result in something negative.
  • You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs“You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs” implies that breaking eggs, or making sacrifices, is necessary for success.
  • You read my mind“You read my mind” is a common English idiom. It’s used when one person wants to convey how well the other person knows them.
  • z

  • ZeugmaZeugma occurs when the writer uses a single word capable of conveying two different meanings at the same time.
  • ZoomorphismZoomorphism describes how non-human animal traits are given to humans, events and forces.