Glossary of Poetic and Literary Terms

Explore the largest glossary of terms on all things poetry and literature

AJAX progress indicator
  • a
  • Abstract Diction
    Abstract diction occurs when the poet wants to express something ephemeral, or ungraspable.
  • Accumulation
    Accumulation is a literary device that relates to a list of words or phrases that have similar, if not the same, meanings.
  • Acrostic 
    An acrostic is a piece of writing in which letters form words or messages. The “acrostic” is most commonly associated with poetry.
  • Adage
    An adage is a short, familiar and memorable saying that strikes as an irrefutable truth to a wide segment of the population.
  • Adynaton
    Adynaton a literary device similar to hyperbole. It's an exaggeration that is stretched to the absolute extreme. The proffered scenario is impossible.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Ambiguity
    Ambiguity is a word or statement that has more than one meaning. If a phrase is ambiguous that means multiple things.
  • Anachronism
    An anachronism is an error in the timeline or chronology of a piece of literature. This can be a purposeful or accidental error.
  • Analogy
    An analogy is an extensive comparison between one thing and another that is very different from it.
  • Anapestic Meter
    Anapestic Meter depends on three-syllable sections of verse, or words. It is two unstressed syllables followed by one stressed.
  • Anaphora
    Anaphora is the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of multiple lines, usually in succession.
  • Anastrophe
    Anastrophe, also known as inversion, is a literary technique in which a writer changes the normal order of words.
  • Antagonist
    The antagonist, in literature, is a character who is considered to be the rival of the protagonist.
  • Antecedent
    An antecedent is a literary device in which a pronoun or noun refers to an earlier phrase or word.
  • Anthropomorphism
    Anthropomorphism is used to make inanimate objects, forces and animals appear to actually be human beings.
  • 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.
  • Aporia
    Aporia is a figure of speech where a speaker or writer poses a question. This question expresses doubt or confusion.
  • Aposiopesis 
    Aposiopesis is defined as a figure of speech in which the writer stops a line of text in the middle of a sentence.
  • Apostrophe
    Apostrophe, in poetry, is a figure of speech in which a character or speaker addresses someone who is absent.
  • Archaism
    An archaism is a figure of speech in which a writer’s choice of word or phrase is purposefully old fashioned.
  • Archetype
    Archetypes are universal symbols. They are characters, themes, and settings that appear throughout literary works.
  • 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.
  • Aside
    An aside is a dramatic device that is used within plays to help characters express their inner thoughts.
  • Assonance 
    Assonance occurs when two or more words that are close to one another use the same vowel sound.
  • 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 and emotions.
  • 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.
  • b
  • Ballad
    A ballad is a kind of verse, sometimes narrative in nature, often set to music and developed from 14th and 15th-century minstrelsy.
  • Bandwagon
    Bandwagon is a persuasive style of writing that is used to convince readers of an argument or make them understand a certain perspective.
  • 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.
  • Biography
    A biography is an account or description of a person's life, literary, fictional, historical, or popular in nature, written by a biographer.
  • 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.
  • Blank Verse
    Blank verse is a kind of poetry that is written in unrhymed lines but with a regular metrical pattern.
  • c
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Cinquain
    A cinquain is a poetic form that makes use of a pattern of five lines.
  • Cliffhanger
    A cliffhanger is a narrative device that’s used to end a story abruptly before an action or segment the plot is concluded.
  • 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.
  • Conceit
    The word conceit refers to two different kinds of comparisons: the metaphysical, made famous by John Donne, and the Petrarchan.
  • Confessional Poetry
    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.
  • Consonance
    Consonance is the repetition of a consonant sound in words, phrases, sentences, or passages in prose and verse writing.
  • 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.
  • d
  • Dactylic Meter
    A dactyl is one stressed syllable followed by two unstressed syllables. It is the opposite of an anapest.
  • Denotation
    Denotation is the literal definition of a word. It is the meaning that’s most commonly found in dictionaries and other academic sources.
  • Dialogue
    Dialogue is a literary technique that is concerned with conversations held between two or more characters.
  • Double Entendre
    A double entendre is a literary device, phrase, and/or figure of speech that has multiple meanings or interpretations.
  • 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.
  • e
  • Elegy
    An elegy, in literature, is a poem or song that is written in dedication to someone who has died.
  • 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.
  • Enjambment 
    Enjambment occurs when a line is cut off before its natural stopping point.
  • Epic Poetry
    An epic is a long narrative poem that tells the story of heroic deeds, normally accomplished by more-than-human characters.
  • 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).
  • Epistle
    An epistle is a letter that comes in the form of either prose or poetry.
  • Epistrophe 
    Epistrophe, or epiphora, is the repetition of the same word, or a phrase, at the end of multiple clauses or sentences.
  • Epitaph
    An epitaph is a short lyric written in memory of someone who has died. Sometimes, epitaphs serve as elegies.
  • Epithet
    An epithet is a literary device used to describe something or someone with characteristics that are more interesting and prominent than they are(...)
  • Euphemism
    A euphemism is an indirect expression used to replace that something that is deemed inappropriate or crude.
  • Euphony
    Euphony is a literary device that refers to the musical, or pleasing, qualities of words.
  • Exposition
    Exposition is the important background information that a writer includes in a story.
  • Extended Metaphor
    An extended metaphor is a literary term that refers to a long metaphorical comparison that can last an entire poem.
  • f
  • Figurative Language 
    Figurative language refers to figures of speech that are used in order to improve a piece of writing.
  • Flashback
    A flashback is a plot device in a book, film, story, or poem in which the readers learns about the past.
  • Foreshadowing
    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.
  • 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.
  • Found Poetry
    Found poetry is a type of poem that’s created using someone else’s words, phrases, or structure.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Ghazal
    A ghazal is a type of poem that is constructed with couplets, repeated words, and rhyming words.
  • Gothic
    Gothic literature--poetry and prose-- is that which deals with themes of death, the supernatural, sorrow, fear, loss, and more.
  • h
  • Haiku Poem
    A haiku is a three-line Japanese poem that follows a syllable pattern of 5-7-5.
  • Hymn Stanza
    A hymn stanza uses a rhyme scheme of ABCB and alternates between iambic trimeter and iambic tetrameter.
  • Hyperbole
    Hyperbole is defined as an intentionally exaggerated description meant to make a specific impact on a reader.
  • Hypophora
    Hypophora is a figure of speech that occurs when writing asks a question and then immediately follows that question up with an answer.
  • i
  • 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(...)
  • Idiom
    An idiom is a short-expression that means something different than its literal translation
  • Imagery
    Imagery refers to the elements of a poem that engage a reader’s senses. These are the important sights, sounds, feelings, and smells.
  • Imagism
    Imagism was a literary movement of the early 20th century. The proponents were interested in the use of precise imagery and clear language.
  • In Medias Res
    In Medias Res refers to the narration of a story beginning part through events, skipping over the exposition.
  • 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.
  • j
  • Juxtaposition
    Juxtaposition is a literary technique that places two unlike things next to one another.
  • l
  • Limerick
    A limerick is a humorous poem that follows a fixed structure of five lines and a rhyme scheme of AABBA.
  • Line Break 
    A line break occurs when a poet decides to stop a line and begin another. It can happen with or without punctuation.
  • Literary Modernism
    Literary modernism originated in the late 19th and 20th centuries. It was mainly focused in Europe and North America.
  • Lyric Poem
    A lyric poem is a musically inclined, short verse that speaks on poignant and powerful emotions.
  • m
  • Magical Realism
    Magical Realism is a genre of fiction writing that is interested in imbuing the modern realistic world with magical, fantastical elements.
  • Malapropism
    A malapropism occurs when a writer, character, or other source uses a word incorrectly, usually rendering the sentence nonsensical.
  • 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".
  • Metaphysical Poetry
    Metaphysical poetry is marked by the use of elaborate figurative languages, original conceits, paradoxes, and philosophical topics.
  • Metonymy
    Metonymy a kind of figurative language that refers to a situation in which one term is substituted for another.
  • Miltonic Sonnet 
    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.
  • 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.
  • Motif
    A motif is an action, image, idea, or sensory perception that repeats in a work of literature.
  • n
  • Narrative Poem
    Narrative poems contain all the elements of a story and are normally longer than average.
  • o
  • Octave
    The word “octave” comes from the Latin word meaning “eighth part”. It is an eight-line stanza or poem.
  • Ode
    An ode is a formal lyric poem that is written in celebration or dedication. They are generally directed with specific intent.
  • Oxymoron
    An oxymoron is a kind of figurative language in which two contrasting things are connected together.
  • p
  • Palindrome
    A palindrome is defined as a word or sentence that is read the same forward as it is backwards.
  • Parable
    A parable is a short fictional story that speaks on a religious attitude or moral belief.
  • Paraphrasing
    Paraphrasing a poem means to simplify it down to its most basic elements, clarifying along the way and choosing less complicated language.
  • 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.
  • Pathetic Fallacy
    Pathetic fallacy is used to describe the attribution of human emotions and actions onto non-human things found in nature.
  • Persona
    A persona is an invented perspective that a writer uses. The point of view might be entirely different than their own.
  • Personification
    Personification is a literary device that refers to the projection of human characteristics onto inanimate objects in order to create imagery.
  • Petrarchan Sonnet
    Petrarchan/Italian sonnets are fourteen lines long, follow an initial rhyme scheme of ABBAABBA, and use iambic pentameter.
  • Poem Subject
    The subject of a poem might also be called the main idea, goal, or thing about which the poem is concerned.
  • Point of View 
    Point of view is what the speaker, narrator, or character can see from their perspective. This can change dramatically depending on the character.
  • Prologue 
    The prologue is the opening to a story that comes before the first page or chapter. Today, it is used to establish context or to provide(...)
  • Prose
    Prose is a written and spoken language form that does not make use of a metrical pattern or rhyme scheme.
  • q
  • Quatrain
    A quatrain is a verse form that is made up of four lines with fifteen different possible rhyme schemes.
  • r
  • Red Herring
    A red herring is a fallacy that introduces something irrelevant to a larger narrative.
  • Repetition
    Repetition is an important literary technique that sees a writer reuse words or phrases multiple times.
  • Rhyme Scheme of Sonnets 
    Sonnets usually conform to one of two different rhyme schemes, those connected to the Shakespearean and the Petrarchan sonnet forms.
  • Romanticism
    Romanticism was a movement that originated in Europe at the end of the 18th century and emphasized aesthetic experience and imagination.
  • Rondel
    The rondel has two quatrains that are followed by a quintet, a set of five lines. It originated in 14th-century France.
  • s
  • Satire
    Satire analyzes human behaviors and human nature in order to make fun of, criticize, or chastise them.
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
    A self-fulfilling prophecy occurs when a character predicts something and by trying to avoid it makes it happen.
  • Serendipity
    Serendipity is the experience of finding something joyful in that which came unexpectedly.
  • 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.
  • Shakespearean Sonnet
    The Shakespearean sonnet follows a rhyme scheme of ABABCDCDEFEFGG and uses iambic pentameter.
  • Sibilance
    Sibilance is a literary device in which consonant sounds are stressed. These are primarily "s" and "th" sounds.
  • Simile
    A simile is a comparison between two unlike things that uses the words “like” or “as”.
  • Slam Poetry
    Slam poetry, also known as spoken word poetry, is typically performed at what is known as a “poetry slam”.
  • Slang Diction
    Slang diction contains words that are very specific to a region and time, and have been recently coined.
  • Soliloquy
    A soliloquy is a dramatic literary device that is used when a character gives a speech that reveals something about their thought process.
  • Sonnet
    Traditionally, sonnets are fourteen-line poems that follow a strict rhyme scheme and conform to the metrical pattern of iambic pentameter.
  • Speaker in Poetry
    The speaker in a piece of poetry might be the poet, an imagined character, a creature or even an object.
  • 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.
  • Spondee Meter
    Spondee is an arrangement of two syllables  in which both are stressed.
  • Stream of Consciousness
    Stream of consciousness is a style of writing in which thoughts are conveyed without a filter or clear punctuation.
  • Structure of Sonnets
    A sonnet is a fourteen-line poem that usually makes use of the metrical pattern of iambic pentameter.
  • Symbolism
    Symbolism is the use of symbols to represent ideas or meanings. They are imbued with certain qualities often only interpretable through context.
  • Syncope
    Syncope refers to a literary device that involves the shortening of a word by removing or omitting letters.
  • t
  • Tanka Poetry
    A tanka poem is an important form in Japanese poetry that follows a syllable pattern of 5-7-5-7-7.
  • Tmesis
    Tmesis is a rhetorical devces that invloves inserting a word inbetween a compound word or phrase.
  • 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.
  • Tragic Flaw
    A tragic flaw is a literary device that is used by writers to complicate their characters. Flaws include pride, envy, and cowardice.
  • Transcendentalism
    The most important part of Transcendentalism is the focus on nature and opposition to the destruction of the individual that came with industrialism.
  • Trochaic Meter
    Trochees are the exact opposite of iambic pentameter, meaning that the first syllable is stressed and the second is unstressed.
  • Trope
    A trope, in literature, is the use of figurative language to make descriptions more evocative and interesting.
  • Tuffet
    A tuffet is: “a tuft or clump of something” or "a footstool or low seat”.
  • v
  • 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.
  • Volta
    A volta is a turn or transition in a sonnet’s main argument, theme, or tone. There are Petrarchan and Shakespearean voltas.
  • z
  • Zoomorphism
    Zoomorphism describes how non-human animal traits are given to humans, events and forces.

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
>
Scroll Up