Glossary of Literary Terms

Explore the largest glossary of terms on all things poetry and literature, with 591 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(...) Read More
  • 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. Read More
  • A blessing in disguise
    “A blessing in disguise” refers to the idea that something negative can have a positive outcome. Read More
  • 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. Read More
  • A dime a dozen
    “A dime a dozen” refers to something that’s so common and plentiful that it’s practically worthless. Read More
  • 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(...) Read More
  • A penny for your thoughts
    “A penny for your thoughts” is a figurative way of asking someone to rejoin a conversation. Read More
  • 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. Read More
  • A perfect storm
    “A perfect storm” is a common English idiom that is usually used as a metaphor to describe a worst-case scenario Read More
  • 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. Read More
  • 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. Read More
  • 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.  Read More
  • 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(...) Read More
  • 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. Read More
  • Abjection
    Abjection is a literary term that refers to subjective horror, or someone’s reaction to physically or emotionally disturbing subject matter. Read More
  • Abridgment
    An abridgment is a condensed or shortened version of a book. It contains the most important details and removes any digressions. Read More
  • Abstract Diction
    Abstract diction occurs when the poet wants to express something ephemeral, or ungraspable. Read More
  • Absurd
    The absurd is a style of writing that is influenced by humanity’s isolation and a lack of logic in the universe. Read More
  • Academic Drama
    Academic drama is a theatrical movement that was popular during the Renaissance, in the 16th-century. It was performed in universities. Read More
  • Acatalectic
    Acatalectic refers to a line of poetry that has a complete number of syllables in the final foot. Read More
  • Accent
    In poetry, the word “accent” refers to the stressed syllable in a word. Metered lines of verse are made up of different groups of syllables. Read More
  • Accentual Verse
    Accentual verse focuses on the number of stressed syllables per line rather than the total number of syllables. Read More
  • Accentual-Syllabic Verse
    Accentual-syllabic verse is a type of accentual verse in which the writer uses the same number of syllables within each line. Read More
  • Accumulation
    Accumulation is a literary device that relates to a list of words or phrases that have similar, if not the same, meanings. Read More
  • Acephalous
    An acephalous line is a form of a catalectic line of poetry. This type of line omits the first syllable of a metrical pattern. Read More
  • Acmeism
    Acmeism is a literary movement that emerged in the early 1910s in Russia. The movement is also referred to as the Guild of Poets. Read More
  • Acrostic
    An acrostic is a piece of writing in which letters form words or messages. The “acrostic” is most commonly associated with poetry. Read More
  • Act
    An 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. Read More
  • Actant
    The word “actant” is used in relation to the actantial model. This is a model that defines the roles of characters and objects. Read More
  • Actions speak louder than words
    “Actions speak louder than words” refers to the fact that acts are more meaningful than statements. Read More
  • Active Voice
    Active voice is used in a phrase in which the subject performs an action which is then expressed through a verb. Read More
  • Ad Hominem
    An ad hominem attack uses irrelevant information in an attempt to discredit someone's opinion or argument. Read More
  • Adage
    An adage is a short, familiar and memorable saying that strikes as an irrefutable truth to a wide segment of the population. Read More
  • Adventure Story
    An adventure story tells the tale of a protagonist’s journey. They go on an adventure or quest: one that could be personal or geographical. Read More
  • Adynaton
    Adynaton a literary device similar to hyperbole. It's an exaggeration that is stretched to the absolute extreme. The proffered scenario is impossible. Read More
  • Aestheticism
    Aestheticism is a literary and artistic movement in the 18th and 19th centuries that focused on the importance of beauty. Read More
  • Affective
    The word “affective” is used to refer to the emotional qualities of a literary work. Read More
  • Afflatus
    The word afflatus is defined as a burst of sudden inspiration. A writer, artist, musician, or other creator is powerfully inspired. Read More
  • Agitprop
    Agitprop is political propaganda conveyed through art, music, literature, and films. Read More
  • Agon
    The word “agon” refers to the conflict between two characters in a literary work. It is used to describe the protagonist and antagonist. Read More
  • Alazon
    The alazon is one of the three traditional characters in Greek comedy. They have an inflated sense of worth and often boast. Read More
  • Alba
    Alba is a specific type of poetry. It’s a genre of lyric poetry from the Old Occitan period, also known as the Old Provençal. Read More
  • Alcaic Stanza
    An alcaic stanza is a type of lyrical meter thought to have been invented by Alcaeus, a writer from Mitylene. Read More
  • Aleatory
    Aleatory 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. Read More
  • Alexandrianism
    Alexandrianism is the work and beliefs of Greek poets during the Hellenistic age, lasting from 323 to 31 BCE. Read More
  • Alexandrine
    An alexandrine is a type of metrical line. It is most commonly refers to a line composed of twelve iambs. Read More
  • Alienation Effect
    The alienation effect occurs when the writer makes a concerted effort to remind the audience that they’re engaged in something artificial. Read More
  • Allegory
    An allegory is a narrative found in verse and prose in which a character or event is used to speak about a broader theme. Read More
  • Alliteration
    Alliteration is a technique that makes use of repeated sound at the beginning of multiple words, grouped together. It is used in poetry and prose. Read More
  • Alliterative Meter
    Alliterative 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. Read More
  • Alliterative Revival
    The 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. Read More
  • Allusion
    An 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. Read More
  • Alterity
    Alterity 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(...) Read More
  • Ambiguity
    Ambiguity is a word or statement that has more than one meaning. If a phrase is ambiguous, it means multiple things. Read More
  • American Realism
    American realism was a style of writing, music, and art during the 20th century in the United States, specifically in New York. Read More
  • American Renaissance
    American Renaissance period of literature lasted from 1830 to the beginning of the Civil War, around 1861. Read More
  • Amoebean Verse
    Amoebean verse is poetry that uses alternating speakers. The writer creates two distinct voices that alternate speaking on a regular basis. Read More
  • Amphibrach
    An amphibrach is a form of meter. It occurs when the poet places on accented syllable, or stressed syllable, between two unstressed or unaccented syllables. Read More
  • Amphimacer
    An amphimacer is a metrical foot that consists of three syllables. It’s the opposite of an amphibrach. Read More
  • Amplification
    Amplification is a rhetorical device that’s used to improve a sentence or statement with additional information. Read More
  • 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. Read More
  • An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure
     
  • Anachronism
    An anachronism is an error in the timeline or chronology of a piece of literature. This can be a purposeful or accidental error. Read More
  • Anacoluthon
    Anacoluthon occurs when the writer changes the expected grammatical structure of a sentence and interrupts it with another sentence. Read More
  • Anacreontic
    Anacreontics are metered verses in the style of the Greek poet Anacreon. His poetry often dealt with themes of love and wine. Read More
  • Anadiplosis
    Anadiplosis refers to the repetition of words so that the second clause starts with the same word/s that appeared in the previous. Read More
  • Anagnorisis
    Anagnorisis is the moment in a play, or other literary work, in which a character makes an important discovery. Read More
  • Anagram
    An anagram is a rearrangement of the letters in a word or phrase to create a new word or phrase. Read More
  • Analogy
    An analogy is an extensive comparison between one thing and another that is very different from it. Read More
  • Anapest
    Anapestic Meter depends on three-syllable sections of verse, or words. An anapest is two unstressed syllables followed by one stressed. Read More
  • Anaphora
    Anaphora is the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of multiple lines, usually in succession. Read More
  • Anastrophe
    Anastrophe, also known as inversion, is a literary technique in which a writer changes the normal order of words. Read More
  • Anatomy
    In 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. Read More
  • Anecdote
    Anecdotes are short stories used in every day conversation in order to inspire, amuse, caution and more. Read More
  • Angry Young Men
    The Angry Young Men were a group of British writers and novelists disillusioned with society who produced work through the 1950s. Read More
  • Antagonist
    The antagonist, in literature, is a character who is considered to be the rival of the protagonist. Read More
  • Antanaclasis
    Antanaclasis is a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is used several times and the meaning changes. Read More
  • Antecedent
    An antecedent is a literary device in which a pronoun or noun refers to an earlier phrase or word. Read More
  • Anthimeria
    Anthimeria, also known as antimeria, refers to the use of a word in a new grammatical form, such as changing nouns to verbs. Read More
  • Anthology
    An anthology is a collection of literary works that were chosen by a single compiler, a group of people, or an institution of some kind. Read More
  • Anthropomorphism
    Anthropomorphism is used to make inanimate objects, forces and animals appear to actually be human beings. Read More
  • Anti-Hero
    An 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. Read More
  • 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. Read More
  • Anticlimax
    An anticlimax occurs when the author builds a reader’s expectations. Then, they fail to fulfill them in some fundamental way. Read More
  • Antimetabole
    Antimetabole is the repetition of words, in reverse order, in successive clauses. Read More
  • Antinovel
    An antinovel is any novel that disregards traditional conventions of novel-writing. These books push the limits of what a novel can be. Read More
  • Antiphrasis
    Antiphrasis is a rhetorical device that occurs when someone says the opposite of what they mean but their true meaning is obvious. Read More
  • Antistrophe
    Antistrophe is a rhetorical device that’s concerned with the repetition of the same word or words at the end of consecutive phrases. Read More
  • Antithesis
    Antithesis occurs when two contrasting ideas are put together to achieve a desired outcome. Read More
  • Aphorism
    Aphorisms are short, serious, humorous, and philosophical truths about life. Read More
  • Aphorismus
    Aphorismus is a figure of speech that occurs when a word’s use is called into question. Read More
  • Apologue
    An 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. Read More
  • Aporia
    Aporia is a figure of speech where a speaker or writer poses a question. This question expresses doubt or confusion. Read More
  • Aposiopesis
    Aposiopesis is defined as a figure of speech in which the writer stops a line of text in the middle of a sentence. Read More
  • Apostrophe
    Apostrophe, in poetry, is a figure of speech in which a character or speaker addresses someone who is absent. Read More
  • Appositive
    An appositive occurs when a word, sometimes a noun, is followed by another noun or phrase that names or changes it in some way. Read More
  • Arcadia
    Arcadia, in poetry, is a term that refers to an idealized, unspoiled natural landscape. It is a utopia and perfect in every way. Read More
  • Archaism
    An archaism is a figure of speech in which a writer’s choice of word or phrase is purposefully old fashioned. Read More
  • Archetype
    Archetypes are universal symbols. They are characters, themes, and settings that appear throughout literary works. Read More
  • Aside
    An aside is a dramatic device that is used within plays to help characters express their inner thoughts. Read More
  • Assertion
    An assertion is a strong statement someone makes. It’s spoken as though it's true, even though it may not be. Read More
  • Assonance
    Assonance occurs when two or more words that are close to one another use the same vowel sound. Read More
  • Asyndeton
    Asyndeton is a figure of speech that occurs when words like “and” and “or” (coordinating conjunctions) are removed from sentences. Read More
  • At the Drop of a hat
    To do something at the “drop of a hat” means that one is going to immediately do whatever it is they need to do. Read More
  • Atmosphere
    Atmosphere is a literary technique that is concerned with the feeling readers get from the elements of a narrative. Read More
  • Attitude
    In 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. Read More
  • Audience
    The 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. Read More
  • Augustan Age
    The 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. Read More
  • Authorial Intrusion
    Authorial intrusion occurs when the writer breaks the wall of their work and addresses the reader. This can happen in any genre. Read More
  • Autobiography
    An autobiography is an account of one’s life written by the subject. Read More
  • Automatic Writing
    Automatic writing occurs when someone with a claimed psychic ability writes without consciously deciding which words to put down on paper. Read More
  • b
  • 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. Read More
  • Ballad
    A ballad is a kind of verse, sometimes narrative in nature, often set to music and developed from 14th and 15th-century minstrelsy. Read More
  • Bandwagon
    Bandwagon is a persuasive style of writing that is used to convince readers of an argument or make them understand a certain perspective. Read More
  • 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. Read More
  • Bathos
    Bathos is defined as a sudden, jolting change in the tone of a work. This could occur in a poem, play, story, or film. Read More
  • 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. Read More
  • Beat around the bush
    "Beat around the bush” suggests someone is avoiding saying something. They're likely trying not to address a necessary topic. Read More
  • Beat Generation
    The Beat Generation was a literary movement that began after the Second World War and known for its liberal attitudes towards life. Read More
  • 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. Read More
  • 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. Read More
  • Bestiary
    A bestiary is a compendium of beasts that originated in the ancient world. Read More
  • Bias
    Bias is undue favor or support to a particular person, group, race, or one argument over another. Read More
  • Bibliomancy
    Bibliomancy is a literary divination practice. It uses a sacred text, such as the Bible, as a method to predict the future. Read More
  • 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. Read More
  • Bildungsroman
    A bildungsroman is a literary genre that focuses on coming of age stories, following a character's progression towards adulthood. Read More
  • Biography
    A biography is an account or description of a person's life, literary, fictional, historical, or popular in nature, written by a biographer. Read More
  • Birds of a feather flock together
    Birds of a feather flock together refers to similarities within groups that allow the indiviudals to connect and feel safe with one another. Read More
  • 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. Read More
  • 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. Read More
  • Black Humor
    Black humor is a literary device that's used in all forms of literature in order to discuss taboo subjects in a less distressing way. Read More
  • Black Mountain Poets
    The Black Mountain Poets were a group of writers centered around Black Mountain College, in Black Mountain, North Carolina. Read More
  • Blank Verse
    Blank verse is a kind of poetry that is written in unrhymed lines but with a regular metrical pattern. Read More
  • Bloomsbury Group
    The Bloomsbury Group, also known as the Bloomsbury Set, was a group of English writers, artists, philosophers, critics, and friends. Read More
  • 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. Read More
  • Break the ice
    “Break the ice” is an idiom used to describe the process of overcoming initial social awkwardness. Read More
  • Burns Stanza
    The 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(...) Read More
  • By the skin of your teeth
    The idiom "By the skin of your teeth" is a way of saying that you only just got by. Read More
  • Byronic
    The term “Byronic” is used to describe anything that exhibits the characteristics of Lord Byron’s writing or evokes the type of life he led. Read More
  • Byronic Hero
    The Byronic hero is a type of character inspired by the life and work of George Gordon, better known as Lord Byron. Read More
  • c
  • Cacophony
    Cacophony in literature is the combination of loud and harsh-sounding words. Read More
  • Cadence
    Cadence is the natural rhythm of a piece of text, created through a writer’s selective arrangement of words, rhymes, and the creation of meter. Read More
  • Caesura
    A 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.  Read More
  • 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. Read More
  • Campus Novel
    The campus novel, also known as the academic novel, is a book set around a university or college campus. Read More
  • Canon
    A literary canon is a collection of materials that are considered to represent a specific period or genre. Read More
  • Canto
    A canto is a subsection of a long narrative or epic poem. It is made up of at least five lines but it normally much longer. Read More
  • Canzone
    The word “canzone” means “song” in Italian and first used to refer to a verse form in Italy and France in the medieval period. Read More
  • Caricature
    A caricature is a device used in writing, as well as in visual arts, when a character or subject is exaggerated. Read More
  • Catachresis
    Catachresis is a figure of speech. it occurs when writers use mixed metaphors inappropriately. Read More
  • Catalog
    A catalog is a collection of people, objects, ideas, and other elements in list form within poetry or prose. Read More
  • Catastrophe
    A catastrophe is a turning point in a story, usually a tragedy, in which something terrible happens to the main character/s. Read More
  • Catharsis
    Catharsis occurs when pent-up emotions are released through an art form, whether that be visual arts or literary arts. Read More
  • Cavalier Poets
    The 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(...) Read More
  • Character Motivation
    A character’s motivation is the reason behind their actions. This could refer to specific or general actions. Read More
  • Characterization
    Characterization is a literary device that is used to detail and explains the aspects of a specifically crafted character in a novel, play, or poem. Read More
  • Chaucerian Stanza
    The 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. Read More
  • Chiasmus
    Chiasmus is a rhetorical device that occurs when the grammatical structure of a previous phrase or clause is reversed or flipped. Read More
  • Cinquain
    A cinquain is a poetic form that makes use of a pattern of five lines. Read More
  • Circumlocution
    Circumlocution occurs when a writer or character talks around something they want to say. Read More
  • Cliché
    A cliché is a trite, overused expression that can be found in writing and everyday life. Read More
  • Cliffhanger
    A cliffhanger is a narrative device that’s used to end a story abruptly before an action or segment the plot is concluded. Read More
  • Climax
    The climax is the point at which the main character is forced to contend with the central conflict of the story. Read More
  • Coherence
    Coherence refers to the properties of well-organized writing. This includes grammar, sentence structure, and plot elements. Read More
  • Colloquial Diction
    Colloquial diction is conversational in nature and can be seen through the use of informal words that represent a specific place or time. Read More
  • Comedy
    Comedy is a humorous and entertaining genre of literature, film, and television. Read More
  • Coming-of-Age Novel
    A 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. Read More
  • Comparing apples to oranges
    "Comparing apples to oranges” is used when someone is wanting to refer to the obvious differences between two things. Read More
  • Conceit
    The word conceit refers to two different kinds of comparisons: the metaphysical, made famous by John Donne, and the Petrarchan. Read More
  • Concession
    A concession is a literary device that occurs in argumentative writing in which one acknowledges another’s point. Read More
  • Concrete Poem
    Concrete 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(...) Read More
  • Confessional Poetry
    Confessional 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(...) Read More
  • Conflict
    In literature, conflict is a plot device used by writers when two opposing sides come up against each other.  Read More
  • Connotation
    A connotation is the feeling a writer creates through their word choice. It’s the idea a specific word or set of words evokes. Read More
  • Consonance
    Consonance is the repetition of a consonant sound in words, phrases, sentences, or passages in prose and verse writing. Read More
  • Context
    The context is the setting in which a story, poem, novel, play, or other literary work is situated. Read More
  • 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. Read More
  • Country House Poem 
    A 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.  Read More
  • Couplet
    A couplet is a literary device that is made up of two rhyming lines of verse. These fall in succession, or one after another. Read More
  • Critique
    A critique is defined as an evaluation of something, whether that be visual or literary arts. It analyzes all of the writer's choices. Read More
  • 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. Read More
  • Cumulative Sentence
    A cumulative sentence is a sentence that begins with an independent clause and then adds subordinate clauses. Read More
  • Curiosity killed the cat
    “Curiosity killed the cat” is an English proverb. It describes the dangers of being too curious. Read More
  • Cut some slack
    “Cut some slack” is an idiom that’s used to refer to increased leniency, freedom, or forgiveness. Read More
  • 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. Read More
  • d
  • Dactyl
    A dactyl is one stressed syllable followed by two unstressed syllables. It is the opposite of an anapest. Read More
  • Dead as a doornail
    “Dead as a doornail” has been used for several centuries to refer to something that’s completely and irrevocably dead. Read More
  • Deductive Reasoning
    Deductive reasoning, also known as top-down logic, is a rhetorical device and a way to build a successful argument. Read More
  • Denotation
    Denotation is the literal definition of a word. It is the meaning that’s most commonly found in dictionaries and other academic sources. Read More
  • Denouement
    The denouement is at the end of a story, where the plotlines are tied up and resolved. Read More
  • Deus Ex Machina
    Deus ex machina refers to conclusions that involve a divine intervention or other improbable events. Read More
  • Diacope
    Diacope is a literary term that refers to the repetition of a word or phrase. Read More
  • Dialect
    A dialect is a form of a language spoken by a group of people. Read More
  • Dialogue
    Dialogue is a literary technique that is concerned with conversations held between two or more characters. Read More
  • Diamante Poetry
    Diamonte 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. Read More
  • Diatribe
    Diatribes are angry, long pieces of writing that appear in literature and rhetoric. Read More
  • Dichotomy
    Dichotomies create conflict between characters, groups, states of being, ideas, and more. Read More
  • Didacticism
    Didacticism refers to a type of literature that’s mean to convey instructions or very specific pieces of information. Read More
  • Digression
    A digression occurs when the writer interrupts the main plot line to contribute additional details. Read More
  • Dilemma
    A dilemma is a problem or conflict that has more than one possible solution. There are always important consequences one has to contend with. Read More
  • Dimeter
    Dimeter 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. Read More
  • Dirty Realism
    Dirty 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(...) Read More
  • Discourse
    Discourse is written or spoken words. It is communication that describes thought through language in everyday life and literature. Read More
  • Dissonance
    Dissonance refers to a lack of harmony in elements of writing, usually created through varied vowel sounds. Read More
  • Distortion
    Distortion occurs when writers twist an idea or thing. It is exaggerated or altered in a way that makes it appear different from reality. Read More
  • 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. Read More
  • 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. Read More
  • 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”. Read More
  • 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. Read More
  • Doppelgänger
    A doppelgänger is a person who looks like someone else but doesn't necessarily act like that person. Read More
  • Double Entendre
    A double entendre is a literary device, phrase, and/or figure of speech that has multiple meanings or interpretations. Read More
  • Drama
    Drama is a mode of storytelling that uses dialogue and performance. It’s one of several important literary genres that authors engage with. Read More
  • Dramatic Monologue
    A dramatic monologue is a conversation a speaker has with themselves, or which is directed at a listen or reader who does not respond. Read More
  • Dysphemism
    Dysphemism is a figure of speech that occurs when one uses offensive language rather than inoffensive or positive language. Read More
  • Dystopia
    A dystopia is the opposite of a utopia. It is an imagined place or community in which the majority of the people suffer.  Read More
  • e
  • Edwardian Period
    The 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(...) Read More
  • Ekphrastic
    Ekphrastic is a type of poem that explores art. The poet engages with any type of visual art within their writing. Read More
  • Elegy
    An elegy, in literature, is a poem or song that is written in dedication to someone who has died. Read More
  • 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. Read More
  • Elision
    An 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. Read More
  • Elizabethan Era
    Elizabethan Era was a literary period that lasted through the years of Queen Elizabeth’s reign, from 1558 to 1603. Read More
  • Ellipsis
    An ellipsis is a literary device that’s used to omit parts of a sentence or phrase. Read More
  • End Rhyme
    An end rhyme is a common type of rhyme found in poetry. They occur when the last word of two or more lines rhyme. Read More
  • End-Stopped Line
    An end-stopped line is a pause that occurs at the end of a line of poetry. It might conclude a phrase or sentence. Read More
  • Enjambment
    Enjambment occurs when a line is cut off before its natural stopping point. Read More
  • Enlightenment
    The 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(...) Read More
  • Enthymeme
    Enthymeme is an informal argumentative statement in which the speaker omits one of the minor premises. Read More
  • Enumeration
    Enumeration is a rhetorical device that occurs when a writer chooses to list out items, events, ideas, or other parts of a story/setting. Read More
  • Epic Poetry
    An epic is a long narrative poem that tells the story of heroic deeds, normally accomplished by more-than-human characters. Read More
  • Epic Simile
    An 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(...) Read More
  • Epigram
    An epigram is a short, witty, and sometimes surprising statement. It can stand-alone or be part of a novel or poem. Read More
  • Epigraph
    An epigraph, in literature, is a phrase, quote, or any short piece of text that comes before a longer document (a poem, story, book, etc). Read More
  • Epilogue
    An epilogue is an extra chapter at the end of a literary work.  Read More
  • Epistle
    An epistle is a letter that comes in the form of either prose or poetry. Read More
  • Epistolary
    An epistolary novel is a book made up of a series of documents, usually letters, diary entires, or newspaper clippings. Read More
  • Epistrophe
    Epistrophe, or epiphora, is the repetition of the same word, or a phrase, at the end of multiple clauses or sentences. Read More
  • Epitaph
    An epitaph is a short lyric written in memory of someone who has died. Sometimes, epitaphs serve as elegies. Read More
  • Epithet
    An epithet is a literary device used to describe something or someone with characteristics that are more interesting and prominent than they are in reality. Read More
  • Epizeuxis
    Epizeuxis is a figure of speech that occurs when the writer repeats a word or phrase in immediate succession. Read More
  • Eponym
    An 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. Read More
  • Eristic
    Eristic is an important and useful literary device. It occurs when the writer and speakers engage in an argument. Read More
  • Ethos
    Ethos is one of the three modes of persuasion, along with logos and pathos. In rhetoric, it refers to an argument that appeals to the audience through empathizing(...) Read More
  • Eulogy
    A eulogy is a speech, or short piece of writing, created in honor of someone who has recently died. Read More
  • Euphemism
    A euphemism is an indirect expression used to replace that something that is deemed inappropriate or crude. Read More
  • Euphony
    Euphony is a literary device that refers to the musical, or pleasing, qualities of words. Read More
  • 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. Read More
  • Exact Rhyme
    Exact rhyme is a literary device that's used in poetry. It occurs when the writer uses the same stressed vowel or consonant sounds. Read More
  • Exaggeration
    An 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(...) Read More
  • Exemplum
    Exemplum is a rhetorical device. It is a short story, narrative, anecdote, or tale that’s used in literature to explain moral reasoning. Read More
  • Existentialism
    In its simplest form, existentialism is the exploration of the nature of existence with emphasis on the experiences of humanity. Read More
  • Expletive
    An expletive is a grammatical assertion that starts with words like “it,” “here,” and “there,” or includes words like “in fact,” “so,” or “indeed.” Read More
  • Explication
    An explication is a literary technique that's used to create a close analysis. Usually, it’s related to the analysis of a portion of a text. Read More
  • Exposition
    Exposition is the important background information that a writer includes in a story. Read More
  • Expressionism
    Expressionism was a literary and artistic reaction against realism and naturalism. Writers were interested in emotion and psychology. Read More
  • Extend an olive branch
    “Extend an olive branch” is used when someone wants to end a confrontation or an argument. Read More
  • Extended Metaphor
    An extended metaphor is a literary term that refers to a long metaphorical comparison that can last an entire poem. Read More
  • External Conflict
    External conflict is a type of conflict, problem, or struggle that takes place in a novel, narrative poem, play, or other literary work. Read More
  • Eye Rhyme
    An eye rhyme is a literary device used in poetry. It occurs when two words are spelled the same or similarly but are pronounced differently. Read More
  • f
  • Fable
    A fable is a short and concise story that provides the reader with a moral lesson at the end. Read More
  • Fairy Tale
    Fairy tales are short stories that include fanciful and magical elements such as goblins, elves, fairies, and ogres. Read More
  • Fallacy
    A 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. Read More
  • Falling Action
    The falling action occurs near the end of the story, following the climax and before the resolution. Read More
  • False Dichotomy
    A false dichotomy is a choice between two options that's delivered as though they are the only two possible options. Read More
  • Fantasy
    Fantasy is a literary genre that includes talking animals, magic, and other worlds. It includes plots that couldn’t take place in the real world. Read More
  • Farce
    A farce is a genre of comedic literature. It uses exaggerated and outrageous situations to create humor and make the audience laugh. Read More
  • Faulty Parallelism
    Faulty 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. Read More
  • Feminine Rhyme
    A feminine rhyme is a type of rhyme that’s made up of two unstressed two syllable rhymes, one following the other. Read More
  • Figurative Language
    Figurative language refers to figures of speech that are used in order to improve a piece of writing. Read More
  • Figure of Speech
    A figure of speech is created when a writer uses figurative language or that which has another meaning other than its basic definition. Read More
  • First Person Point of View
    The first person narrative perspective is a literary style in which the narrator tells a story about him or herself.  Read More
  • Flash Forward
    A flash forward provides readers and characters with knowledge about future events. Read More
  • Flashback
    A flashback is a plot device in a book, film, story, or poem in which the readers learn about the past. Read More
  • Foil
    A foil is a literary device used in narrative poems, novels, short stories, and plays. It is used to define a character’s traits. Read More
  • Folklore
    Folklore refers to stories that people tell. These include folk stores, fairy tales, urban legends, and more.  Read More
  • Foreshadow
    Foreshadowing 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. Read More
  • Formal Diction
    Formal diction is used when the setting is sophisticated. This could be anything from a speech, to a paper submitted to a journal. Read More
  • Formalism
    In 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(...) Read More
  • Found Poetry
    Found poetry is a type of poem that’s created using someone else’s words, phrases, or structure. Read More
  • Frame Story
    A 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. Read More
  • Free Verse
    In free verse, lines are unrhymed and there are no consistent metrical patterns. But, that doesn't mean it is entirely without structure. Read More
  • Freudian Slip
    A Freudian slip is an error, usually in speech or action, that reveals something about one’s unconscious feelings. Read More
  • Futurism
    Futurism is an avant-garde movement that originated in Italy in the 20th century. It was part of the broader Futurist art movement. Read More
  • g
  • Genre
    Genre is a type of art, literary work, or musical composition that is defined by its content, style, or a specific form to which it conforms. Read More
  • Georgian Poetry
    Georgian poetry was a poetic movement in England that lasted from 1910 to 1936 during the reign of George V. Read More
  • Ghazal
    A ghazal is a type of poem that is constructed with couplets, repeated words, and rhyming words. Read More
  • Give someone the cold shoulder
    To “give someone the cold shoulder” is an English-language idiom that’s used to describe one person ignoring or showing contempt for another. Read More
  • 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. Read More
  • Golden Shovel Poetic Form
    The golden shovel poetic form uses lines from another author's poetry. Each word of those lines ends one line of a new poem. Read More
  • 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. Read More
  • Gothic
    Gothic literature, poetry, and prose is that which deals with themes of death, the supernatural, sorrow, fear, loss, and more. Read More
  • Graveyard Poets
    The 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(...) Read More
  • Greater Romantic Lyric
    Greater Romantic Lyric refers to a particular type of Romantic poem in which the author spends an extended period of time contemplating a particular subject. Read More
  • Grotesque
    Grotesque is an adjective used to describe something that’s at once mysterious, ugly, hard to understand, and distorted. Read More
  • h
  • Haiku Poem
    A haiku is a three-line Japanese poem that follows a syllable pattern of 5-7-5. Read More
  • Harlem Renaissance
    The Harlem Renaissance was a cultural and intellectual movement in African American art, literature, dance, must, and more. Read 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. Read More
  • Hero
    In literature, a hero is the principal or primary character of a work. Read More
  • Historical Fiction
    Historical 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,(...) Read More
  • Homily
    A homily is a speech delivered by a religious person, usually a priest, in front of a group of people. Read More
  • Homograph
    A homograph is a word that shares the same spelling but a different meaning, with another word. These words are tricky parts of language. Read More
  • Homophone
    A homophone is a word that’s pronounced the same as another word but has a different definition. Read More
  • Horror
    Horror is a genre of fiction that plays with human fear, feelings of terror, dread, and repulsion to entertain the audience.  Read More
  • Hubris
    Hubris is a classical term used to refer to excessive pride in a story’s characters. Read More
  • Humor
    Humor is a literary device that writers use in order to make their readers or audience members laugh. It should be entertaining. Read More
  • Hymn Stanza
    A hymn stanza uses a rhyme scheme of ABCB and alternates between iambic trimeter and iambic tetrameter. Read More
  • Hyperbaton
    A hyperbaton is a figure of speech in which the order of words in a sentence or line are rearranged. Read More
  • Hyperbole
    Hyperbole is defined as an intentionally exaggerated description, comparison, or exclamation meant to make a specific impact on a reader. Read More
  • Hypophora
    Hypophora is a figure of speech that occurs when writing asks a question and then immediately follows that question up with an answer. Read More
  • Hypotaxis
    Hypotaxis is the arrangement of constructs in grammar. It refers to the placement of functionally similar although unequal constructions. Read More
  • Hypothetical Question
    A hypothetical question is a question based on an opinion or personal belief, rather than facts. Read More
  • i
  • Iamb
    An 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. Read More
  • Iambic Dimeter
    Iambic dimeter is a type of meter used in poetry. It occurs when the writer uses two iambs per line of verse. Read More
  • Iambic Pentameter
    Iambic 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. Read More
  • Idiom
    An idiom is a short-expression that means something different than its literal translation. Read More
  • Illusion
    An illusion is a false belief. The writer uses it in order to trick someone, the reader or a character, into believing something untrue. Read More
  • Imagery
    Imagery refers to the elements of a poem that engage a reader’s senses. These are the important sights, sounds, feelings, and smells. Read More
  • Imagism
    Imagism was a literary movement of the early 20th century. The proponents were interested in the use of precise imagery and clear language. Read More
  • Imperative Sentence
    An imperative sentence is a type of sentence that makes a command, gives a direction, or expresses instructions of some kind. Read More
  • Implied Metaphor
    An implied metaphor is a literary device that’s used in everything from short stories to novels and poems. Read More
  • Impressionism
    Impressionism in literature refers to stories dependent on a character’s subjective point of view. These stories are based around that character’s impressions of(...) Read More
  • In Medias Res
    In Medias Res refers to the narration of a story beginning part through events, skipping over the exposition. Read More
  • Inciting Incident
    An inciting incident is an event that starts the story’s main plot. It is whatever changes the protagonist’s life. Read More
  • Induction
    An 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. Read More
  • Inference
    An 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(...) Read More
  • Innuendo
    An innuendo is an indirect observation of an event, person, thing, or idea. It is not stated clearly or obviously. Read More
  • Internal Rhyme
    Internal 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 Read More
  • Intertextuality
    Intertextuality is a feature of a text that references another text. It reflects upon the latter and uses it as a reference for the new written work. Read More
  • Invective
    Invective is the use of abusive language that expresses disapproval or attacks someone, a topic, object, idea, insinuation, or other. Read More
  • Inversion
    An inversion occurs when the writer changes the normal order of words. They are reversed, therefore leading to a different kind of effect. Read More
  • Irish Literary Revival
    The 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(...) Read More
  • Irony
    Irony occurs when an outcome is different than expected. It is very possible for one situation to strike one reader as ironic and another not. Read More
  • Isocolon
    Isocolon is a figure of speech. It occurs when a series of sentences or phrases are equal in length and follow one another. Read More
  • 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. Read More
  • It's a piece of cake
    “It’s a piece of cake” is used to refer to something that’s simple or easy. Read More
  • 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. Read More
  • 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. Read More
  • j
  • Jacobean Age 
    The 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. Read More
  • Jargon
    Jargon is the use of phrases and words that are specific to a situation, trade, a selective group, or a profession. Read More
  • Jump on the bandwagon
    To “jump on the bandwagon” means that one is going to join in with whatever new or popular thing the majority is doing or thinking. Read More
  • Juxtaposition
    Juxtaposition is a literary technique that places two unlike things next to one another. Read More
  • k
  • Kenning
    A kenning is a figure of speech in which two words are combined to form a new expression. Read More
  • 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. Read More
  • Kinesthesia
    Kinesthesia depicts movement in text. It is a type of imagery that helps readers see the movements someone makes in prose and verse. Read More
  • Know which way the wind blows
    “Know which way the wind blows” is used metaphorically to refer to understanding where public opinion is. Read More
  • l
  • Lake Poets
    The Lake Poets were a group of English poets who lived and wrote in the Lake District during the nineteenth century. Read More
  • Lampoon
    A lampoon is a type of satire in which a person or thing is attacked unjustly. They can be found in prose and verse. Read More
  • 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. Read More
  • Legend
    A legend is a genre of folklore that features stories about human events and actions. Read More
  • Let sleeping dogs lie
    "Let sleeping dogs lie” is a reminder not to bring unnecessary risk or danger upon oneself. Read More
  • 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. Read More
  • Limerick
    A limerick is a humorous poem that follows a fixed structure of five lines and a rhyme scheme of AABBA. Read More
  • Line Break
    A line break occurs when a poet decides to stop a line and begin another. It can happen with or without punctuation. Read More
  • Literary Adaptation
    An adaptation occurs when a literary work, such as a poem or novel, is made into a new genre, such as a film or musical. Read More
  • Literary Argument
    The argument of a piece of literature is a statement, towards the beginning of a work, that declares what it’s going to be about. Read More
  • Literary Modernism
    Literary modernism originated in the late 19th and 20th centuries. It was mainly focused in Europe and North America. Read More
  • Litotes
    Litotes is a figure of speech that includes a phrase in which a negative word is used in order to express something positive. Read More
  • Logos
    Logos is the use of logic to create a persuasive argument in writing. Read More
  • long story short
    To make a "long story short” is a commonly used idiom that signals someone is going to summarize their information. Read More
  • Lost Generation
    Lost Generation refers to a group of writers who came of age during World War I and dealt with the social changes the war brought. Read More
  • 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. Read More
  • Lyric Poem
    A lyric poem is a musically inclined, short verse that speaks on poignant and powerful emotions. Read More
  • m
  • Mad as a hatter
    “Mad as a hatter” is a humorous idiom used to refer to someone who is completely crazy. Read More
  • Magical Realism
    Magical Realism is a genre of fiction writing that is interested in imbuing the modern realistic world with magical, fantastical elements. Read More
  • Main Idea
    The main idea of a literary text is the central message that the writer wants to convey. Read More
  • 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. Read More
  • Malapropism
    A malapropism occurs when a writer, character, or other source uses a word incorrectly, usually rendering the sentence nonsensical. Read More
  • Meiosis
    Meiosis is a figure of speech that when used minimizes the importance of something. This is done through the use of a euphemism. Read More
  • Melodrama
    A melodrama is a work of literature or a theatrical performance that uses exaggerated events and characters. Read More
  • Metafiction
    Metafiction refers to stories in which the characters, author, or narrator acknowledge the fact that they're parts of a fiction. Read More
  • Metalepsis
    Metalepsis 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. Read More
  • Metaphor
    A 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". Read More
  • Metaphysical Poetry
    Metaphysical poetry is marked by the use of elaborate figurative languages, original conceits, paradoxes, and philosophical topics. Read More
  • Meter
    The meter is the pattern of beats in a line of poetry. It is a combination of the number of beats and arrangement of stresses. Read More
  • Metonymy
    Metonymy a kind of figurative language that refers to a situation in which one term is substituted for another. Read More
  • Miltonic Sonnet
    The 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. Read More
  • Miss the boat
    “Miss the boat” is an English idiom that’s used to refer to someone’s missed opportunity. Read More
  • Mood
    Mood is the feeling created by the writer for the reader. It is what happens within a reader because of the tone the writer used in the poem. Read More
  • Moral
    A moral is the meaning or message conveyed through a story. Read More
  • Morality Play
    A morality play is a genre of theatre popular in the medieval and Tudor period.  Read More
  • Morpheme
    A morpheme is the smallest meaningful part of any language. It might be a word, or it might be part of a word. Read More
  • Motif
    A motif is an action, image, idea, or sensory perception that repeats in a work of literature. Read More
  • Myth
    A myth is a genre of folklore that usually includes a hero and sometimes fanatical elements.  Read More
  • Mythopoeia
    Mythopoeia is a genre of modern literature (and film) that refers to the creation of artificial mythology. Read More
  • n
  • Narration
    Narration is the use of commentary, either written or spoken, to tell a story or “narrative.” Read More
  • Narrative Hook
    A narrative hook appears at the beginning of a piece of literature and is used to “hook” or capture the reader’s attention. Read More
  • Narrative Poem
    Narrative poems contain all the elements of a story and are normally longer than average. Read More
  • Naturalism
    Naturalism is a nineteenth-century literary and arts genre that focuses on the realistic depiction of life and all its struggles Read More
  • Nemesis
    A nemesis in a piece of literature, film, or television show, is usually the antagonist of the story. Read More
  • Neoclassicism
    Neoclassicism was a movement interested in reviving Greco-Roman literature, art, architecture, philosophy, and theatre in the 18th century. Read More
  • Neologism
    A neologism is a new word, serious or humorous, coined by a writer. It is used in everyday speech as well as in literary texts. Read More
  • New Apocalypse
    The New Apocalypse or New Apocalyptics grouping was a selection of poets from the United Kingdom during the 1940s. Read More
  • New Woman Movement and Writing
    New Woman was a feminist ideal that was profoundly influential on 19th and 20th-century literature, as well as broader feminist beliefs. Read More
  • No pain, no gain
    "No pain, no gain" is used to describe the suffering that's necessary in order to achieve one's goals. Read More
  • Non Sequitur
    A non sequitur is a statement that asserts and concludes something that's obviously absurd and false. Read More
  • Nonce Word
    A nonce word is a made-up word, or lexeme, created by a writer in poetry or fiction.  Read More
  • Nostalgia
    Nostalgia refers to a need or longing for the past. This can be anything that’s no longer accessible due to the passage of time. Read More
  • Not playing with a full deck
    “Not playing with a full deck” is a way of saying that someone is mentally unsound or unintelligent. Read More
  • Novel
    A novel is a long, written, fictional narrative that includes some amount of realism. Read More
  • Novella
    A novella is a prose, fiction work that’s shorter than a novel and longer than a short story.  Read More
  • Nursery Rhyme
    A nursery rhyme is a short rhyming song or poem that conveys a lesson or tells an amusing story. They are aimed at children. Read More
  • o
  • Octave
    The word “octave” comes from the Latin word meaning “eighth part”. It is an eight-line stanza or poem. Read More
  • Ode
    An ode is a formal lyric poem that is written in celebration or dedication. They are generally directed with specific intent. Read More
  • Old English
    Old English is the earliest recorded version of the English language spoken in England and Scotland during the Middle ages. Read More
  • Omniscient Narrator
    An omniscient narrator knows what’s happening at all times, and all points, of the story. Read More
  • 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. Read More
  • 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. Read More
  • Onomatopoeia
    An onomatopoeia is a word that imitates the natural sound of a thing. Read More
  • Ordinal Number
    Ordinal numbers are used in linguistics to represent the position or ranking of something, such as first and 1st. Read More
  • 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. Read More
  • Overstatement
    Overstatement is a type of figurative language. They are descriptions of events, people, situations, and objects that are over exaggerated. Read More
  • Oxymoron
    An oxymoron is a kind of figurative language in which two contrasting things are connected together. Read More
  • p
  • Pacing
    Pacing refers to the pace at which a story unfolds, or how fast or slow the plot elements come together. Read More
  • Paean
    A paean expresses thanks, elation, or triumph through the form of a song or lyrical poem. Read More
  • Palindrome
    A palindrome is defined as a word or sentence that is read the same forward as it is backwards. Read More
  • Parable
    A parable is a short fictional story that speaks on a religious attitude or moral belief. Read More
  • Paradox
    A paradox is used in literature when a writer brings together contrasting and contradictory elements that reveal a deeper truth. Read More
  • Paralipsis
    Paralipsis is a rhetorical device that occurs when the writer pretends to hide the idea or statement they actually want to express. Read More
  • Parallelism / Parallel Structure
    Parallelism, also known as parallel structure, occurs when the writer uses the same structure in multiple lines. Read More
  • Paraphrasing
    Paraphrasing a poem means to simplify it down to its most basic elements, clarifying along the way and choosing less complicated language. Read More
  • Paraprosdokian
    Paraprosdokian is a surprising shift at the end of a short story, novel, poem, play or other literary work. Read More
  • Parataxis
    Parataxis is a literary term used to describe the equal importance of a writer’s chosen words, phrases, or sentences. Read More
  • Parenthesis
    Parenthesis is an element of writing used when a writer wants to insert information into a passage that adds detail. Read More
  • Parody
    A parody is created based on an already existing work in order to make fun of it. Read More
  • Paronomasia
    Paronomasia occurs when a writer intentionally creates confusion by using similar-sounding words. Read More
  • Parrhesia
    Parrhesia is the use of direct, emotionally honest language in one’s discussion of a topic. It has its roots in Ancient Greece. Read More
  • Passive Voice
    Passive voice is a generally disliked grammatical construction of sentences in which the "object" comes before the "subject." Read More
  • Pastiche
    A pastiche is a literary creation that imitates a famous work by another author. Read More
  • Pastoral
    Pastoral poetry is a genre or mode of poetry that refers to works that idealize country life and the landscape they take place in. Read More
  • Pathetic Fallacy
    Pathetic fallacy is used to describe the attribution of human emotions and actions onto non-human things found in nature. Read More
  • Pathos
    Pathos is an appeal made by the writer to the audience’s emotions in order to make them feel something. Read More
  • Pedantic
    A pedant, or someone who exhibits pedantic behavior, will correct small mistakes that are not necessarily important in the broader scheme of things. Read More
  • Penny Dreadful
    Penny dreadfuls were a cheap, serialized form of literature popular in the nineteenth century.  Read More
  • Periodic Structure
    Periodic structure is form of writing in which the main clause of the sentence, or its predicate, are held till the end of the sentence. Read More
  • Periphrasis
    Periphrasis occurs when the writer chooses to use more words than necessary to talk about a subject. It occurs in a variety of situations. Read More
  • Persona
    A persona is an invented perspective that a writer uses. The point of view might be entirely different than their own. Read More
  • Personification
    Personification is a literary device that refers to the projection of human characteristics onto inanimate objects in order to create imagery. Read More
  • Perspective
    Perspective is the lens through which the reader experiences a story, film, television series, or poem. Read More
  • Persuasion
    Persuasion is a literary technique. It’s used by writers to ensure that their readers find their written content believable. Read More
  • Petrarchan/Italian Sonnet
    Petrarchan/Italian sonnets are fourteen lines long, follow an initial rhyme scheme of ABBAABBA, and use iambic pentameter. Read More
  • Picaresque Novel
    A picaresque novel is a genre of prose fiction that depicts a roughish hero who experiences episodic adventures. Read More
  • Play (Theatre)
    A play is a form of writing for theatre. It is divided into acts and scenes.  Read More
  • Play Devil’s Advocate
    If someone decides to “play devil’s advocate” then they are arguing a position for the sake of it, not necessarily because they believe it. Read More
  • Pleonasm
    Pleonasm is a rhetorical device that occurs when a writer uses two or more words to express an idea. Read More
  • Plot
    The plot is a connected sequence of events that make up a novel, poem, play, film, television show, and other narrative works. Read More
  • Poem Subject
    The subject of a poem might also be called the main idea, goal, or thing about which the poem is concerned. Read More
  • Poetic Foot
    In literature, a foot refers to a unit of meter in poetry. It is a grouping of stressed and/or unstressed syllables. Read More
  • Poetic Justice
    Poetic justice occurs when a writer punishes an evil character or rewards a good character creating a satisfying conclusion. Read More
  • Point of View
    Point of view is what the speaker, narrator, or character can see from their perspective. Read More
  • Polyptoton
    Polyptoton is a figure of a speech. It occurs when words with the same root are repeated, for example, "run" and "ran." Read More
  • Polysyndeton
    Polysyndeton is a figure of speech. It is concerned with coordinating conjunctions, such as “and” and “or” that join together words and clauses. Read More
  • Portmanteau
    A portmanteau is a literary device. It occurs when the writer joins two or more words together to create a new word. Read More
  • Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood
    The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was a group of English artists, including writers, painters, and critics, who were founded in 1848. Read More
  • Procatalepsis
    Procatalepsis occurs when the person speaking addresses another point of view before the opponent even speaks. Read More
  • Prologue
    The 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. Read More
  • Propaganda
    Propaganda is a type of information spread in order to influence opinion. It can be negative or positive depending on the source. Read More
  • Prose
    Prose is a written and spoken language form that does not make use of a metrical pattern or rhyme scheme. Read More
  • Prosody
    Prosody is the study of meter, rhyme, and the sound and pattern of words. It is used in prose but far more commonly in poetry. Read More
  • Protagonist
    The protagonist is the main character of a story, generally considered to be the hero or the force for good.  Read More
  • Prothesis
    Prosthesis is a literary device that occurs when a writer adds a new syllable or an extra sound to the beginning of a word. Read More
  • Proverb
    A proverb is a short, simple statement that gives advice. It is based in common experience. Read More
  • Pull yourself together
    “Pull yourself together” is used in tense situations in order to calm down someone whose upset, panicking, or disorganized. Read More
  • 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. Read More
  • Pun
    A pun is a literary device that’s defined as a play on words. Read More
  • Pushing up daisies
    Pushing up daisies” is a popular idiom used to refer to someone who has died. Read More
  • q
  • Quatrain
    A quatrain is a verse form that is made up of four lines with fifteen different possible rhyme schemes. Read More
  • 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. Read More
  • Realism
    Realism is a literary movement that portrays everyday life exactly how it is. Read More
  • Rebuttal
    A rebuttal is a response to an argument that contradicts or attempts to disprove it. It is given by one’s opponent. Read More
  • Red Herring
    A red herring is a fallacy that introduces something irrelevant to a larger narrative. Read More
  • Reductio ad Absurdum
    Reductio ad absurdum is used when a speaker argues for their position by attempting to point out the absurdity in the alternative argument. Read More
  • Refrain
    Refrains are used in poems and songs. They are repeated sections of text that usually appear at the end of a stanza or verse. Read More
  • Refutation
    A refutation is the part of the argument that tries to prove that the alternative point of view is false. Read More
  • Repetition
    Repetition is an important literary technique that sees a writer reuse words or phrases multiple times. Read More
  • Resolution
    The resolution of a piece of literature is the parts of the narrative that bring the story to a close. Read More
  • Rhetoric
    Rhetoric is the use of language effectively in writing or speech to persuade the audience. Read More
  • Rhetorical Devices
    Rhetorical devices are parts of literature that are used to persuade audiences. They make use of the three “modes of persuasion." Read More
  • Rhetorical Question
    A rhetorical question is a question that’s asked for effect, not because someone is expecting a genuine answer to it. Read More
  • Rhyme
    The word “rhyme” refers to the pattern of similar sounding words used in writing. Read More
  • Rhyme Scheme
    The rhyme scheme is the pattern of rhyme that’s used in a poem. It corresponds with the end sounds that feature in lines of verse. Read More
  • Rhyme Scheme of Sonnets
    Sonnets usually conform to one of two different rhyme schemes, those connected to the Shakespearean and the Petrarchan sonnet forms. Read More
  • Rhythm
    Rhythm refers to the use of long and short stresses, or stressed and unstressed, within the writing. Read More
  • Riddle
    Riddles are tricky phrases or questions that have double meanings and are usually challenging to solve or answer. Read More
  • Rising Action
    The rising action comes after the exposition and before the climax. It includes the complicating or inciting incident. Read More
  • Romance
    Romance is a narrative genre of literature. It can feature elements that include mystery, adventure, bravery, and more. Read More
  • Romanticism
    Romanticism was a movement that originated in Europe at the end of the 18th century and emphasized aesthetic experience and imagination. Read More
  • Rondel
    The 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. Read More
  • Run-On Sentence
    A run-on sentence is a long sentence that is made up of two independent clauses joined together. Read More
  • s
  • Sarcasm 
    Sarcasm is a type of verbal irony that expresses contempt, mocks, or ridicules. Read More
  • Satire/Satirical Comedy
    Satire and satirical comedy are used to analyze behaviors to make fun of, criticize, or chastise them in a humorous way. Read More
  • Scansion
    Scansion is the analysis of a poem’s metrical patterns. It organizes the lines, metrical feet, and individual syllables into groups. Read More
  • Science Fiction
    Science fiction is a literary genre that focuses on imaginative content based in science.  Read More
  • Second Person Point of View
    The second person narrative perceptive is a literary style in which the narrator tells a story about “you”.  Read More
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
    A self-fulfilling prophecy in literature is a phenomenon in which a character predicts something and by trying to avoid it makes the thing happen. Read More
  • Semantics
    Semantics is the study of the meanings of words, symbols, and various other signs. Read More
  • Sensory Language
    Sensory language is the words used to create images that trigger the reader’s senses. These include sight, sound, smell, and taste. Read More
  • Serendipity
    Serendipity is the experience of finding something joyful in that which came unexpectedly. Read More
  • Sesquipedalian
    Sesquipedalian is defined as the use of words that are overly long and have multiple syllables. Sometimes, they are neologisms. Read More
  • Sestet
    A 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. Read More
  • Setting
    Setting is when and where a story takes place. This could be a real place or someone completely fictional, Read More
  • Shakespearean Sonnet
    The Shakespearean sonnet follows a rhyme scheme of ABABCDCDEFEFGG and uses iambic pentameter. Read More
  • 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. Read More
  • Short Story
    A 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. Read More
  • Sibilance
    Sibilance is a literary device in which consonant sounds are stressed. These are primarily "s" and "th" sounds. Read More
  • Simile
    A simile is a comparison between two unlike things that uses the words “like” or “as”. Read More
  • Situational Irony
    Situational irony occurs when something happens that’s different from what’s expected. Read More
  • Slam Poetry
    Slam poetry, also known as spoken word poetry, is typically performed at what is known as a “poetry slam”. Read More
  • Slang Diction
    Slang diction contains words that are very specific to a region and time, and have been recently coined. Read More
  • 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. Read More
  • Snark
    Snark refers to a sarcastic comment. It is a combination the words “snide” and “remark.” Read More
  • Solecism
    Solecism is refers to a phrase, sentence, or longer written work that deviates from the grammatical norm in some way. Read More
  • Soliloquy
    A soliloquy is a dramatic literary device that is used when a character gives a speech that reveals something about their thought process. Read More
  • Sonnet
    Traditionally, sonnets are fourteen-line poems that follow a strict rhyme scheme and conform to the metrical pattern of iambic pentameter. Read More
  • Sound Devices
    Sound devices are anything writers use that improve or emphasize the sound in a piece of writing. Read More
  • 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. Read More
  • Speaker in Poetry
    The speaker in a piece of poetry might be the poet, an imagined character, a creature or even an object. Read More
  • Spenserian Sonnet
    The Spenserian sonnet was invented by the famous sixteenth-century poet Edmund Spenser and uses a rhyme scheme of ABAB BCBC CDCD EE. Read More
  • Spondee
    Spondee is an arrangement of two syllables in which both are stressed. Read More
  • Spoonerism
    Spoonerism occurs when a writer changes the first letters of a word. This might create a new word or something nonsensical. Read More
  • Sprung Rhythm
    Sprung rhythm is a rhythmic pattern used in poetry that mimics natural speech.  Read More
  • Stanza
    A stanza is one of the most important fundamental elements of a poem. It is the unit of writing poems are composed of. Read More
  • 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. Read More
  • Straw Man
    Straw man is a type of argument in which it appears someone has misunderstood their opponent’s argument in order to win. Read More
  • Stream of Consciousness
    Stream of consciousness is a style of writing in which thoughts are conveyed without a filter or clear punctuation. Read More
  • Structure of Sonnets
    A sonnet is a fourteen-line poem that usually makes use of the metrical pattern of iambic pentameter. Read More
  • Style
    Style is the way a writer writes. An individual writer’s style is original and unlike any other. Read More
  • Subjective
    The word “subjective” refers to a particular point of view. It is based on someone’s personal opinions and beliefs. Read More
  • Subplot
    A subplot is a side story that occurs at the same time as the main plotline. It is less important than the central storyline. Read More
  • Superlative
    A superlative is one degree of adverb and adjective. It refers to the adverb or adjective to the greatest degree. Read More
  • Surrealism
    Surrealism 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. Read More
  • Suspense
    Suspense is the anticipation of an outcome, created through hints at what's to come. Read More
  • Syllogism
    A syllogism is a three-part argument. It is based in logic and on deductive reasoning. Read More
  • Symbolism
    Symbolism is the use of symbols to represent ideas or meanings. They are imbued with certain qualities often only interpretable through context. Read More
  • Syncope
    Syncope refers to a literary device that involves the shortening of a word by removing or omitting letters. Read More
  • Syndeton
    Syndeton 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(...) Read More
  • Synecdoche
    Synecdoche is a figure of speech in which a “part" of something is used to represent its “whole.” Read More
  • Synesis
    Synesis is a rhetorical device that occurs when the writer structures a sentence based on its “sense” rather than its grammatical structure. Read More
  • Synesthesia
    In literature, synesthesia refers to a technique authors use to blur human senses in their imagery. Read More
  • Syntax
    Syntax is the rules that govern language. It is concerned with various parts of speech and the way that words are used together. Read More
  • t
  • Tanka Poetry
    A tanka poem is an important form in Japanese poetry that follows a syllable pattern of 5-7-5-7-7. Read More
  • Tautology
    A tautology is a statement that repeats an idea, using synonymous or nearly synonymous words, phrases, or morphemes. Read More
  • Tercet
    A tercet is a three-line stanza. It is a common stanza form, although not as common as the couplet and quatrain. Read More
  • Terza Rima
    Terza rima refers to a very specific rhyme scheme that follows the rhyming pattern of ABA BCB DED. Read More
  • 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. Read More
  • 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(...) Read More
  • 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. Read More
  • 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. Read More
  • Thesis Statement
    A thesis statement is the main argument of a piece of writing. It can be found in academic/formal writing novel writing. Read More
  • Third Person Point of View
    The third person narrative perspective is a literary style in which the narrator tells a story about a variety of characters.  Read More
  • 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. Read More
  • 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. Read More
  • 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. Read More
  • Tmesis
    Tmesis is a rhetorical device that involves inserting a word in between a compound word or phrase. Read More
  • Tone
    Tone tells us how the writer feels about the text, at least, to an extent. All forms of writing, aside from the academic, have a tone of some sort. Read More
  • Tragedy
    The word “tragedy” refers to a type of drama that explores serious, sometimes dark, and depressing subject matter. Read More
  • Tragic Flaw
    A tragic flaw is a literary device that is used by writers to complicate their characters. Flaws include pride, envy, and cowardice. Read More
  • Tragic Hero
    A tragic hero is usually the protagonist in a piece of literature. Specifically, a tragedy. This kind of character has a tragic flaw. Read More
  • Tragicomedy
    A tragicomedy is a fictional genre that incorporates elements of tragedies and comedies. Read More
  • Transcendentalism
    The most important part of Transcendentalism is the focus on nature and opposition to the destruction of the individual that came with industrialism. Read More
  • Transition
    Transitions are the parts of literature that connect phrases, sentences, ideas, and paragraphs. They can even connect one book to the next. Read More
  • Tricolon
    A tricolon is a group of three similar phrases, words, clauses, or sentences. They are parallel in their length, rhythm, and/or structure. Read More
  • Trimeter
    Trimeter is one type of meter used in poetry, in which each line has three metrical feet.  Read More
  • Trochee
    Trochees are the exact opposite of an iamb, meaning that the first syllable is stressed and the second is unstressed. Read More
  • Trope
    A trope, in literature, is the use of figurative language to make descriptions more evocative and interesting. Read More
  • Truism
    A truism is a phrase that sounds meaningful but doesn’t share any new information. Read More
  • Tuffet
    A tuffet is “a tuft or clump of something” or "a footstool or low seat”. Read More
  • Two peas in a pod
    Two peas in a pod is used to refer to how close two people are to one another. Read More
  • u
  • Under the weather
    "Under the weather" is used to describe someone whose feeling unwell. Read More
  • Understatement
    An understatement occurs when the writer presents an idea, situation, person, or thing as less serious than it is. Read More
  • Undertone
    An undertone is the secondary tone or meaning of a literary work. Read More
  • Unreliable Narrator
    An unreliable narrator is a narrator whose credibility is in doubt, or somehow compromised. Read More
  • Utopia
    The word “utopia” refers to a perfect, or nearly perfect, place or ideal.  Read More
  • v
  • Verbal Irony
    Verbal irony occurs when the meaning of what someone says is different from what they actually mean. Read More
  • Verisimilitude
    Verisimilitude is a concept that’s concerned with uncovering how truthful an assertion is. Read More
  • Vernacular
    Vernacular is a type of speech. It is used to refer to local dialects and common language used among everyday people. Read More
  • Verse
    Verse is a term that refers to various parts of poetry, such as a single line of poetry, a stanza, or the entire poem. Read More
  • Vignette
    A vignette is a short scene within a larger narrative. They are found in novels, short stories, poems, and films. Read More
  • Villanelle
    A 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. Read More
  • Voice
    Voice refers to the specific style an author writes in. This includes the way they use point of view, tone, rhetorical devices, syntax, and more. Read More
  • Volta
    A volta is a turn or transition in a sonnet’s main argument, theme, or tone. There are Petrarchan and Shakespearean voltas. Read More
  • 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.” Read More
  • Wax poetic
    “Wax poetic” is an English phrase that is used to describe someone’s overly flowery and longwinded style of speech. Read More
  • 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. Read More
  • 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. Read More
  • Wit
    When a writer uses wit in their work they’re attempting to provoke laughter by mocking someone or something. Read More
  • Wolf in sheep's clothing
    The 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(...) Read More
  • 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. Read More
  • 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. Read More
  • 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(...) Read More
  • 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. Read More
  • z
  • Zeugma
    Zeugma occurs when the writer uses a single word capable of conveying two different meanings at the same time. Read More
  • Zoomorphism
    Zoomorphism describes how non-human animal traits are given to humans, events and forces. Read More

>

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