Literary Terms

Vocabulary | Poetry | Literature


Did you know that there are over 600,000 words in English? That's a lot of words, and far more than any human being could ever manage to learn. Even Shakespeare only used around 55,000 different words in all of his works. Mind you, he did actually invent quite a few of them. To get a good mastery of English, you do need to expand your vocabulary as much as possible. The more words you know, the better your English will be. The Activities here will help you to quickly develop your vocabulary.


In these Activities, you will have the opportunity to dive into the world of poetry and improve your understanding of the rhythm and flow of the English language. By listening to, reading, and studying poetry, you will gain a deeper understanding of the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) symbols, which will in turn improve your pronunciation. Not only will you learn about the poems and poets themselves, but you will also gain insights into the background and inspiration behind the writing. To solidify your learning, interactive exercises are included to test your knowledge of vocabulary and other aspects of the poems.


Reading classic literature is a great way to improve your English language skills. Not only will you be exposed to a wide range of vocabulary, but you'll also gain a deeper understanding of English culture and history. The Britlish Library offers a variety of activities that are designed to help students understand and appreciate classic literature in English. Whether you prefer to sit back and listen to an audiobook or dive into the text itself, these activities will provide a fun and engaging way to improve your listening and reading skills. So, if you're looking to take your English language skills to the next level, consider exploring the world of classic literature with the Britlish Library.


Spelling can be challenging in English due to the many exceptions and irregularities in the language. These Activities are designed to help you improve your spelling skills by learning and practicing commonly misspelled words. The exercises will help you to identify patterns and rules in spelling, and to memorize the correct spellings of words. By participating in these Activities, you will have a better chance of spelling words correctly in your written English.

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If you don't know your kinaesthesia from your synaesthesia or a trochee from an iamb, this comprehensive glossary of literary terms will help you to master your prosody studies. There is also a knowledge test that will give you 10 random questions from a bank of 651 questions about these literary terms. If you are a student of poetry, literature, or philology, or just an English student, this lesson is made for you.

Prosody Glossary

A comprehensive glossary of 651 literary terms that you can test your knowlege of, too.


Abjection is a literary expression which alludes to subjective horror, or a person's reaction to physically or emotionally disturbing content.


An abridgment is a condensed or shortened version of a book. It contains the most important details and removes any digressions.

Abstract Diction

Abstract diction comes about when the poet wants to put into words something ephemeral, or ungraspable.

Abstract Poem

In an abstract poem, it is important to understand that it is not the meaning of the words that are important but the feeling, the sound and the impact of the words on the reader or listener.


The absurd is a manner of writing which is influenced by humanity's isolation and a lack of logic in the universe.

Academic Drama

Academic drama is a theatrical movement which was favoured during the Renaissance, in the 16th-century. It was performed in universities.


Acatalectic alludes to a line of poetry which has a complete number of syllables in the final foot.


In poetry, the word "accent" alludes to the stressed syllable in a word. Metered lines of verse are made up of different groups of syllables.

Accentual Verse

Accentual verse emphasises the number of stressed syllables per line rather than the total number of syllables.

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.


Accumulation is a literary device which relates to a list of words or phrases which have similar, if not the same, meanings.


An acephalous line is a type of catalectic line of poetry. This type of line omits the first syllable of a metrical pattern.


Acmeism is a literary movement which emerged in the early 1910s in Russia. The movement is also referred to as the Guild of Poets.


An acrostic is a piece of writing in which letters form words or messages. The "acrostic" is most commonly associated with poetry.


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.


The word "actant" is used in relation to the actantial model. This is a model which defines the roles of characters and objects.

Active Voice

Active voice is used in a phrase in which the subject performs an action which is then expressed through a verb.

Ad Hominem

An ad hominem attack uses irrelevant information in an attempt to discredit a person's opinion or argument.


An adage is a short, familiar and memorable saying which strikes as an irrefutable truth to a wide segment of the population.


Adynaton a literary device similar to hyperbole. It's an exaggeration which is stretched to the absolute extreme. The proffered scenario is impossible.


Aestheticism is a literary and artistic movement in the 18th and 19th centuries which focused on the importance of beauty.


The word "affective" is used to refer to the emotional qualities of a literary work.


The word afflatus is defined as a burst of sudden inspiration. A writer, artist, musician, or other creator is powerfully inspired.


Agitprop is political propaganda conveyed through art, music, literature, and films.


The word "agon" alludes to the conflict between two characters in a literary work. It is used to describe the protagonist and antagonist.


The alazon is one of the three traditional characters in Greek comedy. They have an inflated sense of worth and often boast.


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.

Alcaic Stanza

An alcaic stanza is a type of lyrical meter thought to have been invented by Alcaeus, a writer from Mitylene.

Alcaic verse

Classical Greek poetic stanza composed of four lines of varied metrical feet, with five long syllables in the first two lines, four in the third and fourth lines, and an unaccented syllable at the beginning of the first three lines (anacrusis).


Aleatory alludes to art which is created through random chance. This kind of writing involves the author making random choices in regard to style, content, and characters.


Alexandrianism is the work and beliefs of Greek poets during the Hellenistic age, lasting from 323 to 31 BCE.


An alexandrine is a type of metrical line. It most commonly alludes to a line composed of twelve iambs.

Alienation Effect

The alienation effect comes about when the writer makes a concerted effort to remind the audience which they're engaged in something artificial.


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 is a technique which makes use of repeated sound at the beginning of multiple words, grouped together. It is used in poetry and prose.

Alliterative Meter

Alliterative meter is a type of verse which emphasises alliteration as a way of creating a metrical structure. Alliteration is used rather than accents or rhymes.

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.


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.


Alterity is a term used to refer to anything which is different or "other." It's often used today to describe something, someone, or a group which does not conform to expected or traditional norms.


Ambiguity is a word or statement which has more than one meaning. If a phrase is ambiguous, it means multiple things.

American Realism

American realism was a manner of writing, music, and art during the 20th century in the United States, specifically in New York.

American Renaissance

American Renaissance period of literature lasted from 1830 to the beginning of the Civil War, around 1861.

Amoebean Verse

Amoebean verse is poetry which uses alternating speakers. The writer creates two distinct voices which alternate speaking on a regular basis.


An amphibrach is a type of meter. It comes about when the poet places on accented syllable, or stressed syllable, between two unstressed or unaccented syllables.


An amphimacer is a metrical foot which consists of three syllables. It's the opposite of an amphibrach.


Amplification is a rhetorical device which is used to improve a sentence or statement with additional information.


An anachronism is an error in the timeline or chronology of a piece of literature. This can be a purposeful or accidental error.


Anacoluthon comes about when the writer changes the expected grammatical structure of a sentence and interrupts it with another sentence.


Anacreontics are metered verses in the manner of the Greek poet Anacreon. His poetry often dealt with themes of love and wine.


In poetic and musical meter, and by analogy in publishing, an anacrusis (from Greek: 'pushing up') is a brief introduction (not to be confused with a literary or musical introduction, foreword, or with a preface)


Anadiplosis alludes to the repetition of words so which the second clause starts with the same word or words which appeared in the previous.


Anagnorisis is the moment in a play, or other literary work, in which a character makes an important discovery.


Anagogical is a term used to describe a spiritual interpretation of ideas, statements, literature, events, and more. It is most commonly used when describing the scriptures.


An anagram is a rearrangement of the letters in a word or phrase to create a new word or phrase.


An analogy is an extensive comparison between one thing and another which is very different from it.

Analysed rhyme

The use of assonance and consonance in a complex pattern at the ends of alternate lines of a quatrain, as in head, mat, met, had.


Anapestic Meter depends on three-syllable sections of verse, or words. An anapest is two unstressed syllables followed by one stressed.


Anaphora is the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of multiple lines, usually in succession.


Anastrophe, also known as inversion, is a literary technique in which a writer changes the normal order of words.


In literature, anatomies are the division of a literary work or idea into parts. This is done so which a reader might better analyse the individual pieces.


Anecdotes are short stories used in everyday conversation in order to inspire, amuse, caution and 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.


The term "angst" is usually described as a feeling of apprehension or anxiety about anything. It was first used by Kierkegaard in the 1800s.


The antagonist, in literature, is a character who is considered to be the rival of the protagonist.


Antanaclasis is a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is used several times and the meaning changes.


An antecedent is a literary device in which a pronoun or noun alludes to an earlier phrase or word.


Anthimeria, also known as antimeria, alludes to the use of a word in a new grammatical form, such as changing nouns to verbs.


An anthology is a collection of literary works which were chosen by a single compiler, a group of people, or an institution of some kind.


Anthropomorphism is used to make inanimate objects, forces and animals appear to actually be human beings.


An antibacchius is a rare metrical foot used in formal poetry. In accentual-syllabic verse an antibacchius consists of two accented syllables followed by one unaccented syllable. Its opposite is a bacchius. Example: Blind luck is | loved more than | hard thinking.


An anticlimax comes about when the author builds a reader's expectations. Then, they fail to fulfil them in some fundamental way.


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.


The antimasque is a type of masque which comes about before the main masque and is usually presented to great contrast.


Antimetabole is the repetition of words, in reverse order, in successive clauses.


An antinovel is any novel which disregards traditional conventions of novel-writing. These books push the limits of what a novel can be.


An antiphon is a short chant which is usually used as part of a Christian ritual. These chants are sung as refrains, or repeated sections of verse.


Antiphrasis is a rhetorical device which comes about when someone says the opposite of what they mean but their true meaning is obvious.


A metrical foot or system of four syllables in which an iambic cadence is followed by a trochaic.


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.


Antistrophe is a rhetorical device which is concerned with the repetition of the same word or words at the end of consecutive phrases.


Antithesis comes about when two contrasting ideas are put together to achieve a desired outcome.


Antonomasia is the practice of replacing a proper name with a word or phrase. This is usually something which describes the person or type of person.


Aphorisms are short, serious, humorous, and philosophical truths about life.


Aphorismus is a figure of speech which comes about when a word's use is called into question. It often appears in the type of a rhetorical question which is meant to imply a difference between the present thing being discussed and the general notion of the subject.


An apologue is a short story, sometimes a fable, which shares a moral lesson. For example, kindness is more important than power, or love triumphs over hate.


Aporia is a figure of speech where a speaker or writer poses a question. This question expresses doubt or confusion.


Aposiopesis is defined as a figure of speech in which the writer stops a line of text in the middle of a sentence.


Apostrophe, in poetry, is a figure of speech in which a character or speaker addresses someone who is absent.


An appositive comes about when a word, sometimes a noun, is followed by another noun or phrase which names or changes it in some way.


Arcadia, in poetry, is a term which alludes to an idealized, unspoiled natural landscape. It is a utopia and perfect in every way.


An archaism is a figure of speech in which a writer's choice of word or phrase is purposefully old fashioned.


Archetypes are universal symbols. They are characters, themes, and settings which appear throughout literary works.

Archilochian verse

In the analysis of Archaic and Classical Greek poetry, archilochean usually describes the length x – u u – u u – x – u – u – – (where "–" indicates a longum, "u" a breve, and "x" an anceps syllable).

Art for Art's Sake

The phrase "Art for Art's Sake" dates back to the early 19th century. It's used to describe an approach to literature, visual arts, music, and more.

Arte Mayor

Arte mayor is a term used to describe a type of Spanish verse. It uses lines ranging in length between eight and fourteen syllables. Some sources describe arte major poetry as only poetry which has more than nine syllables per line.

Arthurian Literature

Arthurian Literature is a category of writing which encompasses stories written during the 12th, 13th, and later centuries which tell the story of King Arthur and his court.


An asclepiad is a line of poetry which is built around a choriamb, and which dates back to Ancient Greece. In Latin, it is written as "Asclepiadeus."


An aside is a dramatic device which is used within plays to help characters put into words their inner thoughts.


An assertion is a strong statement someone makes. It's spoken as though it's true, even though it may not be.


Assonance comes about when two or more words which are close to one another use the same vowel sound.


Being or relating to a verse of two members, having different rhythms, as for example when the first consists of iambuses and the second of trochees.


Asyndeton is a figure of speech which comes about when words like "and" and "or" (coordinating conjunctions) are removed from sentences.


Atmosphere is a literary technique which is concerned with the feeling readers get from the elements of a narrative.


In literature, attitude alludes to the tone a writer takes on whatever they are writing. It can come through in a character's intentions, histories, emotions, and actions.


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.

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.

Authorial Intrusion

Authorial intrusion comes about when the writer breaks the wall of their work and addresses the reader. This can happen in any genre.


An autobiography is an account of one's life written by the subject.

Automatic Writing

Automatic writing comes about when someone with a claimed psychic ability writes without consciously deciding which words to put down on paper.


In literature, the term avant-garde alludes to poetry or prose which pushes the boundaries and is experimental.


A ballad is a kind of verse, sometimes narrative in nature, often set to music and developed from 14th and 15th-century minstrelsy.


A fixed verse form consisting usually of three stanzas with recurrent rhymes, an envoi, and an identical refrain for each part.


Bandwagon is a persuasive manner of writing which is used to convince readers of an argument or make them understand a certain perspective.


The term "bard" is used to describe a professional storyteller. They could also be a musician, oral historian, genealogist, or another writer.


The term "baroque" is used to define a literary period which began in the 1500s and lasted through the 1700s in Europe.


Bathos is defined as a sudden, jolting change in the tone of a work. This could occur in a poem, play, story, or film.

Beast Fable

A beast fable, also known as an animal tale, is a short story or long poem which uses animal characters to relay a moral or narrative.

Beat Generation

The Beat Generation was a literary movement which began after the Second World War and known for its liberal attitudes towards life.


A bestiary is a compendium of beasts which originated in the ancient world.


Bibliomancy is a literary divination practice. It uses a sacred text, such as the Bible, as a method to predict the future.


A bildungsroman is a literary genre which emphasises coming-of-age stories, following a character's progression towards adulthood.


A biography is an account or description of a person's life, literary, fictional, historical, or favoured in nature, written by a biographer.

Black Humour

Black humour is a literary device which is used in all forms of literature in order to discuss taboo subjects in a less distressing way.

Black Mountain Poets

The Black Mountain Poets were a group of writers cantered around Black Mountain College, in Black Mountain, North Carolina.

Blank Verse

Blank verse is a kind of poetry which is written in unrhymed lines but with a regular metrical pattern.

Bloomsbury Group

The Bloomsbury Group, also known as the Bloomsbury Set, was a group of English writers, artists, philosophers, critics, and friends.


(French, literally 'rhymed-ends') is the name given to a kind of poetic game defined by Addison in the Spectator as "lists of words that rhyme to one another, drawn up by another hand, and given to a poet, who was to make a poem to the rhymes in the same order that they were placed upon the list".


The term "Brechtian" is used to describe literature which relates to the work of Bretolt Brecht, a famed German playwright and poet during the early 1900s.

Broken Rhyme

Broken rhyme is an interesting type of rhyme which comes about when a poet cuts a word in half to create rhyme.


Burlesque is a manner of literature which mocks its subject. Burlesque writers represent their subjects through the use of irony and obviously outrageous imagery.

Burns Stanza

The Burns stanza is named for Scottish poet Robert Burns who favoured its use. It is a six-line stanza form which uses a rhyme scheme of AAABAB, and lines of tetrameter and dimeter.


The term "Byronic" is used to describe anything which exhibits the characteristics of Lord Byron's writing or evokes the type of life he led.

Byronic Hero

The Byronic hero is a type of character inspired by the life and work of George Gordon, better known as Lord Byron.


Cacophony in literature is the combination of loud and harsh-sounding words.


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.


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.

Campus Novel

The campus novel, also known as the academic novel, is a book set around a university or college campus.


A literary canon is a collection of materials which are considered to represent a specific period or genre.


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.


The word "canzone" means "song" in Italian and first used to refer to a verse form in Italy and France in the medieval period.


A caricature is a device used in writing, as well as in visual arts, when a character or subject is exaggerated.


A carol is a song sung during a festive period, such as Christmas, although not exclusively. They are usually religious in nature.

Caroline Era

The Age of Caroline is an age in British history which is named for Charles I. It lasted from 1625 to 1649. It is made up of three poetic schools— Metaphysical, Cavalier and Puritan.


Catachresis is a figure of speech. it comes about when writers use mixed metaphors inappropriately.


A catalectic line is a metrically incomplete line of verse, lacking a syllable at the end or ending with an incomplete foot. One form of catalexis is headlessness, where the unstressed syllable is dropped from the beginning of the line. A line missing two syllables is called brachycatalectic.


A catalogue is a collection of people, objects, ideas, and other elements in list form within poetry or prose.


A catastrophe is a turning point in a story, usually a tragedy, in which something terrible happens to the main character/s.


Catharsis comes about when pent-up emotions are released through an art form, whether which be visual arts or literary arts.

Cavalier Poets

The Cavalier Poets were a group of writers from the 17th century in England. They are generally defined by their class, and by their originating from those who supported Charles I during the English Civil War.

Celtic Revival

The Celtic Revival was a revival in general interest in Celtic history, literature, and languages, in the late-nineteenth century.


A chapbook is a small book which is published with around 40 pages. The tradition arose in 16th century Europe, and it's still favoured today.

Character Motivation

A character's motivation is the reason behind their actions. This could refer to specific or general actions.


Characterization is a literary device which is used to detail and explains the aspects of a specifically crafted character in a novel, play, or poem.

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.


Chiasmus is a rhetorical device which comes about when the grammatical structure of a previous phrase or clause is reversed or flipped.

Chick Lit

Chick lit is a genre of literature which emphasises female protagonists. These stories are usually targeted at younger women and are described as "favoured fiction."

Chivalric Romance

Chivalric Romance is a genre of literature and culture favoured during the Medieval and Early Modern periods in Europe from the 12th century.


Choliambic verse is a form of meter in poetry. It is found in both Greek and Latin poetry in the classical period. Choliambic verse is sometimes called scazon, or "lame iambic", because it brings the reader down on the wrong "foot" by reversing the stresses of the last few beats. It was originally pioneered by the Greek lyric poet Hipponax, who wrote "lame trochaics" as well as "lame iambics".


A metrical foot of two syllables, the first long and the second short.


In Greek and Latin poetry, a choriamb is a metron (prosodic foot) consisting of four syllables in the pattern long-short-short-long, that is, a trochee alternating with an iamb. Choriambs are one of the two basic metra that do not occur in spoken verse, as distinguished from true lyric or sung verse. The choriamb is sometimes regarded as the "nucleus" of Aeolic verse, because the pattern long-short-short-long pattern occurs, but to label this a "choriamb" is potentially misleading.


A chronicle is an account of events which comes about in the order which they happened in. The term is usually associated with historical events.

Chronicle Novel

A chronicle novel is a long novel, or one in a series of novels, which follows at least two generations of a family or group.


A cinquain is a poetic form which makes use of a pattern of five lines.


Circumlocution comes about when a writer or character talks around something they want to say.


Classicism is a term used to describe literature which reflected the thoughts and ideas from Ancient Greece and Rome.


A cliché is a trite, overused expression which can be found in writing and everyday life.


A cliffhanger is a narrative device which is used to end a story abruptly before an action or segment the plot is concluded.


The climax is the point at which the main character is forced to contend with the central conflict of the story.


A coda is an epilogue which concludes a story. This could be an entire chapter, a few paragraphs, lines, or a single sentence.


Coherence alludes to the properties of well-organized writing. This includes grammar, sentence structure, and plot elements.

Colloquial Diction

Colloquial diction is conversational in nature and can be seen through the use of informal words which represent a specific place or time.


Comedy is a humorous and entertaining genre of literature, film, and television.

Coming-of-Age Novel

A coming-of-age novel is a book which tells the story of a character growing up and going through a series of important life-defining changes.

Commonplace Book

A commonplace book is an informal collection of notes, information, recipes, aphorisms, facts, and more. These books are personal and kept by individuals for their own purposes.

Companion Poems

Companion poems are pieces of poetry which were written to accompany one another. They can also be poems written by multiple authors in response to one another.


The word conceit alludes to two different kinds of comparisons: the metaphysical, made famous by John Donne, and the Petrarchan.


A concession is a literary device which comes about in argumentative writing in which one acknowledges another's point.

Concrete Poem

Concrete poetry, also sometimes known as visual poetry or shape poetry, is focused on the visual effect which linguistic elements have when they're arranged in a certain way.

Confessional Poetry

Confessional Poetry is a manner of poetry which is personal, often making use of a first-person narrator. It is a branch of Postmodernism which emerged in the US in the 1950s.


In literature, conflict is a plot device used by writers when two opposing sides come up against each other.


A connotation is the feeling a writer creates through their word choice. It's the idea a specific word or set of words evokes.


Consonance is the repetition of a consonant sound in words, phrases, sentences, or passages in prose and verse writing.


The context is the setting in which a story, poem, novel, play, or other literary work is situated.

Country House Poem

A country house poem is a piece of poetry which praises another person's property. They were usually written for wealthy friends or patrons in order to gain favour.


A couplet is a literary device which is made up of two rhyming lines of verse. These fall in succession, or one after another.


A critique is defined as an evaluation of something, whether which be visual or literary arts. It analyses all of the writer's choices.

Cumulative Sentence

A cumulative sentence is a sentence which begins with an independent clause and then adds subordinate clauses.

Curtal Sonnet

The curtal sonnet, or the contracted sonnet, is an eleven-line sonnet which follows a pattern of either ABCABCDCBDC or ABCABCDBCDC.


A dactyl is one stressed syllable followed by two unstressed syllables. It is the opposite of an anapest.


Dadaism was an art and literary movement in Europe during the 20th century. It was a reaction to the senselessness of war during the early 1900s.

Decadent Movement

The Decadent movement occurred during the late 19th-century in Western Europe. It was exemplified by a general scepticism and sickness at everyday life, crude humour, and the belief which creativity was important than logic.


A poem or stanza of 10 lines.

Deductive Reasoning

Deductive reasoning, also known as top-down logic, is a rhetorical device and a way to build a successful argument.


Denotation is the literal definition of a word. It is the meaning which is most commonly found in dictionaries and other academic sources.


The denouement is at the end of a story, where the plotlines are tied up and resolved.

Detective Story

The detective story is a sub-genre of fiction which follows an investigator as they try to track down a criminal, solve a crime, or prevent one from happening.

Deus Ex Machina

Deus ex machina alludes to conclusions which involve a divine intervention or other improbable events.

Devil's Advocate

A devil's advocate is a person who argues a position for the sake of it, not necessarily because they believe it.


Diacope is a literary expression which alludes to the repetition of a word or phrase.


A dialect is a type of a language spoken by a group of people.


Dialogue is a literary technique which is concerned with conversations held between two or more characters.

Diamante Poetry

Diamante is a poetic form which is made up of seven lines. They are formatted into the shape of a diamond and used to compare two opposites.


Diatribes are angry, long pieces of writing which appear in literature and rhetoric.


Dichotomies create conflict between characters, groups, states of being, ideas, and more.


Didacticism alludes to a type of literature which is meant to convey instructions or very specific pieces of information.


A digression comes about when the writer interrupts the main plot line to contribute additional details.


A dilemma is a problem or conflict which has more than one possible solution. There are always important consequences we have to contend with.

Dime Novel

A dime novel is a type of short, cheap fiction favoured during the 19th and early 20th centuries in the United States. Called so because it cost just a dime. Compare to the UK's penny dreadful.


Dimeter alludes to a specific arrangement of syllables in poetry. If a poem is written in dimeter, which means which the lines contain four syllables each.


In classical prosody, a pair of metrical feet that is taken as a single unit. Trochaic, iambic, and anapestic verse are all measured by dipodies. In them a monometer consists of one dipody (or two feet), a dimeter of four feet, a trimeter of six feet, and a tetrameter of eight feet. When trochaic or iambic verse is measured by single feet it is called tripody (three feet), tetrapody (four feet), hexapody (six feet).

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 of reality.


Discourse is written or spoken words. It is communication which describes thought through language in everyday life and literature.


A double spondee; a metrical foot consisting of four long syllables.


Dissonance alludes to a lack of harmony in elements of writing, usually created through varied vowel sounds.


A pair of verse lines; a couplet.


Distortion comes about when writers twist an idea or thing. It is exaggerated or altered in a way which makes it appear different from reality.


A double trochee: a trochaic dipody reckoned as a single measure or compound foot.


A French poem or stanza of ten lines, employing eight or ten syllables to the line and having a specific rhyming pattern, as ababbccdcd.


A foot of five syllables typically having the first and fourth short and the rest long.


A documentary or documentary film is a genre of non-fictional filmmaking. It is used for the purpose of sharing real-life events as they happened.


A doppelgänger is a person who looks like someone else but doesn't necessarily act like that person.

Double Entendre

A double entendre is a literary device, phrase, or figure of speech which has multiple meanings or interpretations, often with sexual overtones.


Drama is a mode of storytelling which uses dialogue and performance. It's one of several important literary genres which authors engage with.

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.


The term "dramatization" is used to describe a play or film which is adapted from a novel or a real event.

Dream Vision

The term "dream vision" is a literary device. It suggests a story is taking place within the confines of a dream.


Dysphemism is a figure of speech which comes about when one uses offensive language rather than inoffensive or positive language.


A dystopia is the opposite of a utopia. It is an imagined place or community in which the majority of the people suffer.

Early Modern Period

The Early Modern Period is a period in European literature which came before the development of the novel in the 18th century.

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 of World War One.


Ekphrastic is a type of poem which explores art. The poet engages with any type of visual art within their writing.


An elegy, in literature, is a poem or song which is written in dedication to someone who has died.

Elephant in the room

"The elephant in the room" is used to refer to an important topic, problem, or issue which needs to be addressed but has yet to be.


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.

Elizabethan Era

Elizabethan Era was a literary period which lasted through the years of Queen Elizabeth's reign, from 1558 to 1603.


An ellipsis is a literary device which is used to omit parts of a sentence or phrase.

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.

End-Stopped Line

An end-stopped line is a pause which comes about at the end of a line of poetry. It might conclude a phrase or sentence.


Enjambment comes about when a line is cut off before its natural stopping point.


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 throughout Western Europe, England, and the colonies in America.


Enthymeme is an informal argumentative statement in which the speaker omits one of the minor premises.


Enumeration is a rhetorical device which comes about when a writer chooses to list out items, events, ideas, or other parts of a story/setting.


The brief stanza that ends French poetic forms such as the ballade or sestina. It usually serves as a summation or a dedication to a particular person.

Epic Poetry

An epic is a long narrative poem which tells the story of heroic deeds, normally accomplished by more-than-human characters.

Epic Simile

An epic simile is a long poetic comparison, which uses like or as, and which goes on for several lines. It grows more complicated and reveals its meaning as the lines progress.

Epic Theatre

Epic theatre was a theatrical movement which began in the early twentieth century and last through the middle of the period. It consisted of new political dramas and was inspired by the social climate of the time.


An epigram is a short, witty, and sometimes surprising statement. It can stand-alone or be part of a novel or poem.


An epigraph, in literature, is a phrase, quote, or any short piece of text which comes before a longer document (a poem, story, book, etc).


An epilogue is an extra chapter at the end of a literary work.


An epistle is a letter which comes in the type of either prose or poetry.


An epistolary novel is a book made up of a series of documents, usually letters, diary entries, or newspaper clippings.


Epistrophe, or epiphora, is the repetition of the same word, or a phrase, at the end of multiple clauses or sentences.


An epitaph is a short lyric written in memory of someone who has died. Sometimes, epitaphs serve as elegies.


An epithet is a literary device used to describe something or someone with characteristics which are more interesting and prominent than they are in reality.


A metrical foot in Ancient Greek and Latin prosody consisting of three long syllables and one short syllable.


Epizeuxis is a figure of speech which comes about when the writer repeats a word or phrase in immediate succession.


A form of lyric poem written in couplets, in which a long line is followed by a shorter one.


An eponym is an allusion to a famous or legendary person whose name is given to some other thing. Which might be an institution, object, person, or event.


Eristic is an important and useful literary device. It comes about when the writer and speakers engage in an argument.


An essay is a short piece of writing which is based around a single subject. More often than not, the personal opinion of the author is included.


Ethos is one of the three modes of persuasion, along with logos and pathos. In rhetoric, it alludes to an argument which appeals to the audience through empathizing with the speaker's credibility.


A eulogy is a speech, or short piece of writing, created in honour of someone who has recently died.


A euphemism is an indirect expression used to replace which something which is deemed inappropriate or crude.


Euphony is a literary device which alludes to the musical, or pleasing, qualities of words.


Euphuism is a literary expression which describes a manner of English prose. It features ornate, overly complicated language. It is deliberately excessive.

Exact Rhyme

Exact rhyme is a literary device which is used in poetry. It comes about when the writer uses the same stressed vowel or consonant sounds.


An exaggeration is a statement which pushes the limits of a situation, feeling, idea, or experience. It is used to make something appear worse or better than it actually is in reality.


Exemplum is a rhetorical device. It is a short story, narrative, anecdote, or tale which is used in literature to explain moral reasoning.


In its simplest form, existentialism is the exploration of the nature of existence with emphasis on the experiences of humanity.


Experimentalism is one part of modernism and postmodernist literature. Writers take risks, try strange new techniques, and attempt to create something which is never been seen before.


An expletive is a grammatical assertion which starts with words like "it," "here," and "there," or includes words like "in fact," "so," or "indeed."


An explication is a literary technique which is used to create a close analysis. Usually, it's related to the analysis of a portion of a text.


Exposition is the important background information which a writer includes in a story.


Expressionism was a literary and artistic reaction against realism and naturalism. Writers were interested in emotion and psychology.

Extended Metaphor

An extended metaphor is a literary expression which alludes to a long metaphorical comparison which can last an entire poem.

External Conflict

External conflict is a type of conflict, problem, or struggle which takes place in a novel, narrative poem, play, or other literary work.

Eye Rhyme

An eye rhyme is a literary device used in poetry. It comes about when two words are spelled the same or similarly but are pronounced differently.


A fable is a short and concise story which provides the reader with a moral lesson at the end.


A fabliau is a traditional French tale penned by an anonymous writer between 1150 and 1400. These were usually written by jongleurs or medieval entertainers.

Fairy Tale

Fairy tales are short stories which include fanciful and magical elements such as goblins, elves, fairies, and ogres.


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.

Falling Action

The falling action comes about near the end of the story, following the climax and before the resolution.

False Dichotomy

A false dichotomy is a choice between two options which is delivered as though they are the only two possible options.

False quantity

Faulty pronunciation or metrical use of a vowel with respect to its quantity


Fantasy is a literary genre which includes talking animals, magic, and other worlds. It includes plots which couldn't take place in the real world.


A farce is a genre of comedic literature. It uses exaggerated and outrageous situations to create humour and make the audience laugh.

Faulty Parallelism

Faulty parallelism is the use of incorrect structures. It comes about when parts of a sentence mean the same thing but don't use the same form.

Feminine caesura

A caesura that follows an unstressed or short syllable.

Feminine ending

A line of verse having an unstressed and usually extrametrical syllable at its end.

Feminine Rhyme

A feminine rhyme is a type of rhyme which is made up of two unstressed two syllable rhymes, one following the other.

Figurative Language

Figurative language alludes to figures of speech which are used in order to improve a piece of writing.

Figure of Speech

A figure of speech is created when a writer uses figurative language or language which has another meaning other than its basic definition.

First Person

The first-person narrative perspective is a literary style in which the narrator tells a story about him or herself.

Flash Forward

A flash forward provides readers and characters with knowledge about future events.


A flashback is a plot device in a book, film, story, or poem in which the readers learn about the past.


A foil is a literary device used in narrative poems, novels, short stories, and plays. It is used to define a character's traits.

Folk Song

A folk song is a piece of music which was composed within the parameters of folk music. These songs are usually about a particular group of people, an event, or an experience.


Folklore alludes to stories which people tell. These include folk stores, fairy tales, urban legends, and more.


A poetic foot is a basic repeated sequence of meter composed of two or more stressed or unstressed syllables. In the case of an iambic foot, the sequence is "unstressed, stressed". There are several types of poetic feet commonly found in English language poetry.


Foreshadowing alludes to the hints a writer gives a reader about what's going to happen next. It's a common literary device which is 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.


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 the author.

Found Poetry

Found poetry is a type of poem which is created using someone else's words, phrases, or structure.

Frame Story

A frame story is a narrative within a narrative. It comes about when one character decides to tell another story to the other characters around him/her.

Free Indirect Style

Free indirect style, speech, or discourse is a type of third-person narrative perspective which includes the thoughts of a character while maintaining the narrator's control over the story.

Free Verse

In free verse, lines are unrhymed and there are no consistent metrical patterns. But which doesn't mean it is entirely without structure.

Freudian Slip

A Freudian slip is an error, usually in speech or action, which reveals something about one's unconscious feelings.


The Fugitives literary movement is comprised of a group of poets and scholars from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee in the mid-1920s.


Futurism is an avant-garde movement which originated in Italy in the 20th century. It was part of the broader Futurist art movement.


Consists of two iambic dimeters catalectic of which the last one lacks the final syllable. It is structured with four Ionic à minore feet that is varied by resolution or contraction. This metre was meant for the goddess Cybele. In Latin, galliambus is a song of the priests of Cybele, the ancient nature goddess of Anatolia.


Genre is a type of art, literary work, or musical composition which is defined by its content, style, or a specific form to which it conforms.

Georgian Poetry

Georgian poetry was a poetic movement in England which lasted from 1910 to 1936 during the reign of George V.


A ghazal is a type of poem which is constructed with couplets, repeated words, and rhyming words.

Ghost Story

A ghost story is any story which involves a supernatural, ghost element. It is a subgenus of fantasy and mystery.


From Glycon, a Greek lyric poet, is a form of meter in classical Greek and Latin poetry. The glyconic line is the most basic form of Aeolic verse, and it is often combined with others.

Golden Shovel

The golden shovel poetic form uses lines from another author's poetry. Each word of those lines ends one line of a new poem.


Gothic literature, poetry, and prose deals with themes of death, the supernatural, sorrow, fear, loss, and 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 on death and the afterlife.

Greater Romantic Lyric

Greater Romantic Lyric alludes to a particular type of Romantic poem in which the author spends an extended period of time contemplating a particular subject.


Grotesque is an adjective used to describe something which is at once mysterious, ugly, hard to understand, and distorted.


A haiku is a three-line Japanese poem which follows a syllable pattern of 5-7-5.


Half rhyme, also called near rhyme, slant rhyme, or oblique rhyme, in prosody, two words that have only their final consonant sounds and no preceding vowel or consonant sounds in common (such as stopped and wept, or parable and shell).

Harlem Renaissance

The Harlem Renaissance was a cultural and intellectual movement in African American art, literature, dance, must, and more.


Heptameter is a type of meter where each line of verse contains seven metrical feet.


A verse with seven metrical feet.


In literature, a hero is the principal or primary character of a work.

Heroic Couplet

A heroic couplet is a type of poetry commonly used in epics and narrative poems. It is composed of a pair of rhyming lines which are written in iambic pentameter.


Hexameter, a line of verse containing six feet, usually dactyls.


A strophe, stanza, or poem consisting of six lines.

Historical Fiction

Historical Fiction is a genre which fictionalizes real places, people, and events. It takes place in the past with accurate historical details in regard to customs, technologies, people, and events.

History Play

A history play is a genre of theatre. It is based on historical events, usually set sometime in the past with characters from the period.


A homily is a speech delivered by a religious person, usually a priest, in front of a group of people.


A homograph is a word which shares the same spelling but a different meaning, with another word. These words are tricky parts of language.


A homophone is a word which is pronounced the same as another word but has a different definition.


Horror is a genre of fiction which plays with human fear, feelings of terror, dread, and repulsion to entertain the audience.


Hubris is a classical term used to refer to excessive pride in a story's characters.


Humour is a literary device which writers use in order to make their readers or audience members laugh. It should be entertaining.

Hymn Stanza

A hymn stanza uses a rhyme scheme of ABCB and alternates between iambic trimeter and iambic tetrameter.


A hyperbaton is a figure of speech in which the order of words in a sentence or line are rearranged.


Hyperbole is defined as an intentionally exaggerated description, comparison, or exclamation meant to make a specific impact on a reader.


Having one or more syllables in addition to those found in a standard metrical unit or line of verse.


Hypophora is a figure of speech which comes about when writing asks a question and then immediately follows which question up with an answer.


Hypotaxis is the arrangement of constructs in grammar. It alludes to the placement of functionally similar although unequal constructions.

Hypothetical Question

A hypothetical question is a question based on an opinion or personal belief, rather than facts.

Hysterical Realism

Hysterical realism is a genre of fiction, coined by James Wood. It alludes to novels which he found to be absurdly elaborate in their use of characters and plots and which delve into real-life experiences.


An iamb is a metrical unit. It comes about when two syllables are placed next to one another and the first is unstressed, or short, and the second is stressed, or long.

Iambic Dimeter

Iambic dimeter is a type of meter used in poetry. It comes about when the writer uses two iambs per line of verse.

Iambic Pentameter

Iambic pentameter is a very common way which lines of poetry are structured. Each line has five sets of two beats, the first is unstressed and the second is stressed.


An artificial stress or diacritical accent placed over the top of particular syllables in a line of poetry to indicate which syllables the poet wants the reader to stress if that stress is not clear from the normal pattern of pronunciation.


An idiom is a short expression which means something different than its literal translation.


An idyll is a type of short poem which describes rural life or a natural scene.


An illusion is a false belief. The writer uses it in order to trick someone, the reader or a character, into believing something untrue.


Imagery alludes to the elements of a poem which engage a reader's senses. These are the important sights, sounds, feelings, and smells.


Imagism was a literary movement of the early 20th century. The proponents were interested in the use of precise imagery and clear language.

Imperative Sentence

An imperative sentence is a type of sentence which makes a command, gives a direction, or expresses instructions of some kind.

Implied Metaphor

An implied metaphor is a literary device which is used in everything from short stories to novels and poems.


Impressionism in literature alludes to stories dependent on a character's subjective point of view. These stories are based around which character's impressions of their experiences.

In Medias Res

In Medias Res alludes to the narration of a story beginning part through events, skipping over the exposition.

Inciting Incident

An inciting incident is an event which starts the story's main plot. It is whatever changes the protagonist's life.


An induction is a conclusion which is reached after the analysis of facts. The conclusions might be right or wrong, but it depends strongly on the logic of the premises.


An inference is a literary device which comes about when logical assumptions are made. These should be based on true premises but are often based around those which are assumed to be true.


An innuendo is an indirect observation of an event, person, thing, or idea. It is not stated clearly or obviously.

Internal Rhyme

Internal rhyme comes about in the middle of lines of poetry. It alludes to words which rhyme in the middle of the same line or across multiple lines


Intertextuality is a feature of a text which references another text. It reflects upon the latter and uses it as a reference for the new written work.


Invective is the use of abusive language which expresses disapproval or attacks someone, a topic, object, idea, insinuation, or other.


An inversion comes about when the writer changes the normal order of words. They are reversed, therefore leading to a different kind of effect.


The ionic (or Ionic) is a four-syllable metrical unit (metron) of light-light-heavy-heavy that occurs in ancient Greek and Latin poetry. According to Hephaestion it was known as the Ionicos because it was used by the Ionians of Asia Minor; and it was also known as the Persicos and was associated with Persian poetry.


The expression of meaning by using language which normally signifies the opposite, typically used for humorous or emphatic effect.

Irregular Ode

An irregular ode is a common ode form which does not conform to the characteristics of the Pindaric or Horatian ode forms.


Isocolon is a figure of speech. It comes about when a series of sentences or phrases are equal in length and follow one another.

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.


Jargon is the use of phrases and words which are specific to a situation, trade, a selective group, or a profession.


Juxtaposition is a literary technique which places two unlike things next to one another.


A kenning is a figure of speech in which two words are combined to form a new expression.


Kinaesthesia depicts movement in text. It is a type of imagery which helps readers see the movements someone makes in prose and verse.


A French verse form in short usually octosyllabic rhyming couplets often paired in quatrains and characterized by a refrain which is sometimes a single word or sometimes the full second line of the couplet or fourth line of the quatrain.


A laisse is a type of stanza, of varying length, found in medieval French literature, specifically medieval French epic poetry (the chanson de geste), such as The Song of Roland.

Lake Poets

The Lake Poets were a group of English poets who lived and wrote in the Lake District during the nineteenth century.


A lampoon is a type of satire in which a person or thing is attacked unjustly. They can be found in prose and verse.


A legend is a genre of folklore which features stories about human events and actions.

Leonine rhyme

A form of internal rhyme in which the word preceding the caesura rhymes with the final word in the line, as in: "For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams" (Edgar Allan Poe).


A limerick is a humorous poem which follows a fixed structure of five lines and a rhyme scheme of AABBA.

Line Break

A line break comes about when a poet decides to stop a line and begin another. It can happen with or without punctuation.

Linked verse

A Japanese verse form in which stanzas of three lines alternating with stanzas of two lines are composed by two or more poets in alternation.

Literary Adaptation

An adaptation comes about when a literary work, such as a poem or novel, is made into a new genre, such as a film or musical.

Literary Argument

The argument of a piece of literature is a statement, towards the beginning of a work, which declares what it's going to be about.

Literary Modernism

Literary modernism originated in the late 19th and 20th centuries. It was mainly seen in Europe and North America.


Litotes is a figure of speech which includes a phrase in which a negative word is used in order to put into words something positive.


Logos is the use of logic to create a persuasive argument in writing.


Quatrains in iambic tetrameter with rhyme scheme ABCB.

Lost Generation

Lost Generation alludes to a group of writers who came of age during World War I and dealt with the social changes the war brought.

Lyric Poem

A lyric poem is a musically inclined, short verse which speaks on poignant and powerful emotions.


Denoting language, especially burlesque verse, containing words or inflections from one language introduced into the context of another.

Magical Realism

Magical Realism is a genre of fiction writing which is interested in imbuing the modern realistic world with magical, fantastical elements.

Main Idea

The main idea of a literary text is the central message which the writer wants to convey.


A malapropism comes about when a writer, character, or other source uses a word incorrectly, usually rendering the sentence nonsensical.

Masculine ending

Masculine ending is a term used in prosody, the study of verse form. It refers to a line ending in a stressed syllable. Its opposite is feminine ending. When a masculine ending is rhymed, the result is called a masculine rhyme.

Masculine rhyme

When a masculine ending is rhymed, the result is called a masculine rhyme. Masculine ending is a term used in prosody, the study of verse form. It refers to a line ending in a stressed syllable. Its opposite is feminine ending.


Also spelt mask, festival or entertainment in which disguised participants offer gifts to their host and then join together for a ceremonial dance.


Medievalism is a set of beliefs which are inspired by the Middle Ages in Europe. It's possible to find examples of Medievalism in art, music, literature, philosophy, architecture, and more.


Meiosis is a figure of speech which when used minimizes the importance of something. This is done through the use of a euphemism.


A melodrama is a work of literature or a theatrical performance which uses exaggerated events and characters.


Metafiction alludes to stories in which the characters, author, or narrator acknowledge the fact which they're parts of a fiction.


Metalepsis is a figure of speech which comes about when a writer uses a phrase or word in a new context. The chosen phrase or word comes from a different figure of speech.


A metaphor is used to describe an object, person, situation or action in a way which 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 a kind of figurative language which alludes to a situation in which one term is substituted for another.


In poetry, metre (UK) meter (US) is the basic rhythmic structure of a verse or lines in verse. Many traditional verse forms prescribe a specific verse metre, or a certain set of metres alternating in a particular order. The study and the actual use of metres and forms of versification are both known as prosody.

Miltonic Sonnet

The Miltonic Sonnet is one of the main sonnet forms and was favoured by the poet John Milton, born in 1609 in London, England.


A dactylic hexameter with short penultimate syllable.


Monometer is a type of meter which uses single units of meter per line of verse. It could use a single iamb, trochee, etc.


A strophe or poem in which all the lines have the same end rhyme. Monorhymes are rare in English but are a common feature in Latin, Welsh, and Arabic poetry.


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.


A moral is the meaning or message conveyed through a story.

Morality Play

A morality play is a genre of theatre favoured in the medieval and Tudor period.


A morpheme is the smallest meaningful part of any language. It might be a word, or it might be part of a word.


A motif is an action, image, idea, or sensory perception which repeats in a work of literature.


The "muse" in literature is a source of inspiration for the writer. This could be someone they know or a direct reference to the traditional Greek muses.


A myth is a genre of folklore which usually includes a hero and sometimes fanatical elements.


Mythopoeia is a genre of modern literature (and film) which alludes to the creation of artificial mythology.


Narration is the use of commentary, either written or spoken, to tell a story or "narrative."

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.

Narrative Poem

Narrative poems contain all the elements of a story and are normally longer than average.


The narrator is the voice which tells the story, whether which story is in the type of a poem or novel.


Naturalism is a nineteenth-century literary and arts genre which emphasises the realistic depiction of life and all its struggles


A nemesis in a piece of literature, film, or television show, is usually the antagonist of the story.


Neoclassicism was a movement interested in reviving Greco-Roman literature, art, architecture, philosophy, and theatre in the 18th century.


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.

New Apocalypse

The New Apocalypse or New Apocalyptic grouping was a selection of poets from the United Kingdom during the 1940s.

New Woman

New Woman was a feminist ideal which greatly influenced 19th and 20th-century literature, as well as broader feminist beliefs.

Newgate Novel

The Newgate novel, or the Old Bailey novel, is a type of book published in England from the 1820s to the 1840s which glamorizes criminals' lives.

Non Sequitur

A non sequitur is a statement which asserts and concludes something which is obviously absurd and false.

Nonce Word

A nonce word is a made-up word, or lexeme, created by a writer in poetry or fiction.


Nostalgia alludes to a need or longing for the past. This can be anything which is no longer accessible due to the passage of time.


A novel is a long, written, fictional narrative which includes some amount of realism.


A novella is a prose, fiction work which is shorter than a novel and longer than a short story.

Nursery Rhyme

A nursery rhyme is a short rhyming song or poem which conveys a lesson or tells an amusing story. They are aimed at children.


The word "octave" comes from the Latin word meaning "eighth part". It is an eight-line stanza or poem.


An ode is a formal lyric poem which is written in celebration or dedication. They are generally directed with specific intent. It is a traditional, beautiful poem of praise which is dedicated to something meaningful. Usually, this "something" is ephemeral, such as love, beauty, or music.

Old English

Old English is the earliest recorded version of the English language spoken in England and Scotland during the Middle ages.

Omniscient Narrator

An omniscient narrator knows what's happening at all times, and all points, of the story.


An onomatopoeia is a word which imitates the natural sound of a thing. Bang, crack, smash.

Oral Tradition

The phrase "oral tradition" is associated with oral lore, or the telling of stories orally rather than writing them down.

Ordinal Number

Ordinal numbers are used in linguistics to represent the position or ranking of something, such as first and 1st.

Ottava Rima

The phrase "ottava rima" is used to describe a particular type of stanza in poetry. It uses eight iambic lines and follows a rhyme scheme of ABABABCC.


Overstatement is a type of figurative language. They are descriptions of events, people, situations, and objects which are over exaggerated.


An oxymoron is a kind of figurative language in which two contrasting things are connected together.


Pacing alludes to the pace at which a story unfolds, or how fast or slow the plot elements come together.


A paean expresses thanks, elation, or triumph in the type of a song or lyrical poem.


A metrical foot of one long syllable and three short syllables in any order.


Paleography is the study of historic writing systems and handwriting. The process dates documents and traces the evolution of various alphabets.


Palimpsests are reused pieces are parchment, usually made of calf, lamb, or goat skin. These scrolls or books were washed or scraped clean until the papers could be used again.


A palindrome is defined as a word or sentence which is read the same forward as it is backwards.


The pantoum is a form of poetry similar to a villanelle in that there are repeating lines throughout the poem. It is composed of a series of quatrains; the second and fourth lines of each stanza are repeated as the first and third lines of the next stanza.


A parable is a short fictional story which speaks on a religious attitude or moral belief.


A paradox is used in literature when a writer brings together contrasting and contradictory elements which reveal a deeper truth.


Paralipsis is a rhetorical device which comes about when the writer pretends to hide the idea or statement they actually want to put into words.


Paraliterature is written work which is not defined as "literature." It is dismissed as lesser for one reason or another.


Parallelism, also known as parallel structure, comes about when the writer uses the same structure in multiple lines.


Paraphrasing a poem means to simplify it down to its most basic elements, clarifying along the way and choosing less complicated language.


Paraprosdokian is a surprising shift at the end of a short story, novel, poem, play or other literary work.


Pararhyme is a type of half-rhyme which comes about when the same pattern of consonants is used by the vowel changes.


Parataxis is a literary expression used to describe the equal importance of a writer's chosen words, phrases, or sentences.


Parenthesis is an element of writing used when a writer wants to insert information into a passage which adds detail.


A parody is created based on an already existing work in order to make fun of it.


Paronomasia comes about when a writer intentionally creates confusion by using similar-sounding words.


Parrhesia is the use of direct, emotionally honest language in one's discussion of a topic. It has its roots in Ancient Greece.

Passive Voice

Passive voice is a generally disliked grammatical construction of sentences in which the "object" comes before the "subject."


A passus is a division in a short story, novel, or long poem, usually medieval in nature. It is comparable to a canto.


A pastiche is a literary creation which imitates a famous work by another author.


Pastoral poetry is a genre or mode of poetry which alludes to works which 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.


Pathos is an appeal made by the writer to the audience's emotions in order to make them feel something.

Pattern Poetry

Pattern poetry is a type of poetry which depends on the shape the text makes. The visual image of the lines is an integral part of the work.


A pedant, or someone who exhibits pedantic behaviour, will correct small mistakes which are not necessarily important in the broader scheme of things.

Penny Dreadful

A penny dreadful was a cheap, serialized type of literature favoured in the nineteenth century. So called because it cost a penny.


A line of verse containing five metrical feet. In English verse, in which pentameter has been the predominant metre since the 16th century, the preferred foot is the iamb.


A strophe, stanza, or poem consisting of five lines or verses.

Periodic Structure

Periodic structure is type of writing in which the main clause of the sentence, or its predicate, are held till the end of the sentence.


A periodical is a series of publications which appear at a regular schedule. Magazines are a common example.


Periphrasis comes about when the writer chooses to use more words than necessary to talk about a subject. It comes about in a variety of situations.


A persona is an invented perspective which a writer uses. The point of view might be entirely different than their own.


Personification is a literary device which alludes to the projection of human characteristics onto inanimate objects in order to create imagery.


Perspective is the lens through which the reader experiences a story, film, television series, or poem.


Persuasion is a literary technique. It's used by writers to ensure which their readers find their written content believable.

Petrarchan Sonnet

Petrarchan sonnets, also known as Italian sonnets, are fourteen lines long, follow an initial rhyme scheme of ABBAABBA, and use iambic pentameter.


Designating a logaoedic metre or verse consisting of three feet, normally a spondee, dactyl, and spondee (or trochee), but admitting of some variations.

Picaresque Novel

A picaresque novel is a genre of prose fiction which depicts a roughish hero who experiences episodic adventures.


Relating to or characteristic of the Greek lyric poet Pindar or his works.


A play is a type of writing for theatre. It is divided into acts and scenes.


Pleonasm is a rhetorical device which comes about when a writer uses two or more words to put into words an idea.


The plot is a connected sequence of events which make up a novel, poem, play, film, television show, and other narrative works.


A poem is a composition written in metrical feet forming rhythmical lines.

Poem Subject

The subject of a poem might also be called the main idea, goal, or thing about which the poem is concerned.

Poetic Foot

In literature, a foot alludes to a unit of meter in poetry. It is a grouping of stressed and/or unstressed syllables.

Poetic Justice

Poetic justice comes about when a writer punishes an evil character or rewards a good character creating a satisfying conclusion.

Point of View

Point of view is what the speaker, narrator, or character can see from their perspective.


Polyptoton is a figure of a speech. It comes about when words with the same root are repeated, for example, "run" and "ran."


Polysyndeton is a figure of speech. It is concerned with coordinating conjunctions, such as "and" and "or" which join together words and clauses.


A portmanteau is a literary device. It comes about when the writer joins two or more words together to create a new word.

Poulters' measure

A metre in which lines of 12 and 14 syllables alternate. Poulter is an obsolete variant of poulterer (poultry dealer); poulterers traditionally gave one or two extra eggs when selling by the dozen.

Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was a group of English artists, including writers, painters, and critics, who were founded in 1848.


Procatalepsis, also called prolepsis or prebuttal, comes about when the person speaking addresses another point of view before the opponent even speaks.


A proem is an introduction to a literary work. It is a preface to what's to come after.


The prologue is the opening to a story which comes before the first page or chapter. It is used to establish context or to provide necessary details.


Propaganda is a type of information spread in order to influence opinion. It can be negative or positive depending on the source.


Prose is a written and spoken language form which does not make use of a metrical pattern or rhyme scheme.


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.


The protagonist is the main character of a story, generally considered to be the hero or the force for good.


Prosthesis is a literary device which comes about when a writer adds a new syllable or an extra sound to the beginning of a word.


A proverb is a short, simple statement which gives advice. It is based in common experience.


A psalm is a sacred song of worship, such as those featured in the Book of Psalms in the Bible.

Psychological Realism

Psychological realism is a type of realism which emphasises why a character does what they do.

Pulp Fiction

Pulp fiction is a type of short, cheap storytelling which was favoured from the late 1800s to the mid-1900s.


A pun is a literary device which is defined as a play on words.


A metrical unit consisting of two unstressed syllables, in accentual-syllabic verse, or two short syllables, in quantitative meter.

Pythian verse

Dactylic hexameter the oldest known form of Greek poetry and is the preeminent metre of narrative and didactic poetry in Greek and Latin, in which its position is comparable to that of iambic pentameter in English versification.


A fourteen-line poem, especially an irregular sonnet.


A quatrain is a verse form which is made up of four lines with fifteen different possible rhyme schemes.


The term "quintain" is used to describe a stanza which has five lines. It is one of several stanza forms which a poet might choose from.


Realism is a literary movement which portrays everyday life exactly how it is.


A rebuttal is a response to an argument which contradicts or attempts to disprove it. It is given by one's opponent.

Red Herring

A red herring is a fallacy which introduces something irrelevant to a larger narrative.

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.


Refrains are used in poems and songs. They are repeated sections of text which usually appear at the end of a stanza or verse.


A refutation is the part of the argument which tries to prove which the alternative point of view is false.


Repetition is an important poetic technique which sees writers reuse words, phrases, images, or structures multiple times within a poem.


The resolution of a piece of literature is the parts of the narrative which bring the story to a close.


Rhetoric is the use of language effectively in writing or speech to persuade the audience.

Rhetorical Devices

Rhetorical devices are parts of literature which are used to persuade audiences. They make use of the three "modes of persuasion."

Rhetorical Question

A rhetorical question is a question which is asked for effect, not because someone is expecting a genuine answer to it.


Having each succeeding unit in a prosodic series larger or longer than the preceding one: a: having each successive word in a line or verse longer by one syllable than its predecessor. b: having successive lines of a stanza increasing in length by the addition of one element (as a syllable or metrical foot)


The word "rhyme" alludes to the pattern of similar sounding words used in writing.

Rhyme royal

Rhyme royal (or rime royal) is a rhyming stanza form that was introduced to English poetry by Geoffrey Chaucer. The form enjoyed significant success in the fifteenth century and into the sixteenth century. It has had a more subdued but continuing influence on English verse in more recent centuries.

Rhyme Scheme

The rhyme scheme is the pattern of rhyme which is used in a poem. It corresponds with the end sounds which feature in lines of verse.


Rhythm alludes to the use of long and short stresses, or stressed and unstressed, within the writing.


Riddles are tricky phrases or questions which have double meanings and are usually challenging to solve or answer.

Rime riche

(French: "rich rhyme,") also called identical rhyme, in French and English prosody, a rhyme produced by agreement in sound not only of the last accented vowel and any succeeding sounds but also of the consonant preceding this rhyming vowel. A rime riche may consist of homographs (fair/fair) or homophones (write/right). It is distinguished from rime suffisante.

Rime suffisante

(French: "sufficient rhyme,") plural rimes suffisantes, in French and English prosody, end rhyme produced by agreement in sound of an accented final vowel and following final consonant or consonants, if any. Examples of rimes suffisantes in English include the rhymes ship/dip and flee/see. It is distinguished from rime riche.

Rising Action

The rising action comes after the exposition and before the climax. It includes the complicating or inciting incident.


Romance is a narrative genre of literature. It can feature elements which include mystery, adventure, bravery, and more.


Romanticism was a movement which originated in Europe at the end of the 18th century and emphasized aesthetic experience and imagination.


The rondeau is a traditionally French form composed of a rhyming quintet, quatrain, and sestet.


The rondel has two quatrains which are followed by a quintet, a set of five lines. The verse form has its origins in lyrical poetry of 14th-century France. It is a variation of the rondeau consisting of two quatrains followed by a quintet (13 lines total) or a sestet (14 lines total). It is not to be confused with the roundel, a similar verse form with repeating refrain.


Having an extrametrical syllable at the end of one line that forms a foot with the first syllable of the next line. The term is used to describe a type of verse in sprung rhythm, Gerard Manley Hopkins's method of counting only the stressed syllables of a line.

Run-On Sentence

A run-on sentence is a long sentence which is made up of two independent clauses joined together.


Related to Sappho, a 7th-century BC poet who wrote about her attraction to women. Sapphic stanza, a four-line poetic form. Sapphic love, related to same gender attraction between women, which does not exclude heterosexual attraction and includes lesbian, bisexual, and queer women.


Sarcasm is a type of verbal irony which expresses contempt, mocks, or ridicules.


Satire and satirical comedy are used to analyse behaviours to make fun of, criticize, or chastise them in a humorous way.


Scansion is the analysis of a poem's metrical patterns. It organizes the lines, metrical feet, and individual syllables into groups.

Science Fiction

Science fiction is a literary genre which emphasises imaginative content based in science.

Scottish Renaissance

The Scottish Renaissance was a literary movement which took place in the mid-20th century in Scotland. It is often referred to as the Scottish version of modernism.

Second Person

The second person narrative perceptive is a literary style in which the narrator tells a story about "you".

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.


Semantics is the study of the meanings of words, symbols, and various other signs.


A verse of six feet, especially an iambic trimeter.

Sensation Novel

The sensation novel was a genre of literature which took advantage of outrageous and sensational topics to entertain readers.

Sensory Language

Sensory language is the words used to create images which trigger the reader's senses. These include sight, sound, smell, and taste.


A verse line of seven feet, especially a trochaic or iambic tetrameter catalectic.


Serendipity is the experience of finding something joyful in something which came unexpectedly.


Sesquipedalian is defined as the use of words which are overly long and have multiple syllables. Sometimes, they are neologisms.


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.


A complex French verse form, usually unrhymed, consisting of six stanzas of six lines each and a three-line envoy. The end words of the first stanza are repeated in a different order as end words in each of the subsequent five stanzas; the closing envoy contains all six words, two per line, placed in the middle and at the end of the three lines.


Setting is when and where a story takes place. This could be a real place or someone completely fictional,

Shakespearean Sonnet

The Shakespearean sonnet follows a rhyme scheme of ABABCDCDEFEFGG and uses iambic pentameter.

Short Story

A short story is a piece of writing with a narrative which is shorter than a novel. These stories usually only take one sitting to read.


Sibilance is a literary device in which consonant sounds are stressed. These are primarily "s" and "th" sounds.


A simile is a comparison between two unlike things which uses the words "like" or "as".

Situational Irony

Situational irony comes about when something happens which is different from what's expected.

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 which are very specific to a region and time and have been recently coined.


Snark alludes to a sarcastic comment. It is a combination the words "snide" and "remark."


Solecism alludes to a phrase, sentence, or longer written work which deviates from the grammatical norm in some way.


A soliloquy is a dramatic literary device which is used when a character gives a speech which reveals something about their thought process.


Traditionally, sonnets are fourteen-line poems which follow a strict rhyme scheme and conform to the metrical pattern of iambic pentameter.

Sound Devices

Sound devices are anything writers use which improve or emphasize the sound in a piece of writing.


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 is an arrangement of two syllables in which both are stressed.


Spoonerism comes about when a writer changes the first letters of a word. This might create a new word or something nonsensical. This is named after the Reverend William Archibald Spooner (1844 - 1930) who once said "Kinkering Kongs (Conquering Kings) their Titles Take" during a sermon.

Sprung Rhythm

Sprung rhythm is a rhythmic pattern used in poetry which mimics natural speech.


A stanza is one of the most important fundamental elements of a poem. It is the unit of writing poems are composed of.


Poetry made up of lines of the same approximate meter and length, not broken up into stanzas, is called stichic (as opposed to stanzaic, e.g.). Most poetry from the Old English period is considered stichic. Most English poetry written in blank verse, such as the epic Paradise Lost by John Milton, is stichic.

Straw Man

Straw man is a type of argument in which it appears someone has misunderstood their opponent's argument in order to win.

Stream of Consciousness

Stream of consciousness is a manner of writing in which thoughts are conveyed without a filter or clear punctuation.


A strophe is a poetic term originally referring to the first part of the ode in Ancient Greek tragedy, followed by the antistrophe and epode. The term has been extended to also mean a structural division of a poem containing stanzas of varying line length. Strophic poetry is to be contrasted with poems composed line-by-line non-stanzaically, such as Greek epic poems or English blank verse, to which the term stichic applies.


Style is the way a writer writes. An individual writer's style is original and unlike any other.


The word "subjective" alludes to a particular point of view. It is based on a person's personal opinions and beliefs.


A subplot is a side story which comes about at the same time as the main plotline. It is less important than the central storyline.


In modern prosody, substitution refers to the use within a metrical series of a foot other than the prevailing foot of the series. A silence may also replace expected sound and occupy the time of a foot or syllable.


A superlative is one degree of adverb and adjective. It alludes to the adverb or adjective to the greatest degree.


Surrealism alludes to a movement of literature, art, and drama in which creators chose to incorporated dreams and the unconscious, and fuse reality and pure imagination.


Suspense is the anticipation of an outcome, created through hints at what's to come.


A syllogism is a three-part argument. It is based in logic and on deductive reasoning.


Symbolism is the use of symbols to represent ideas or meanings. They are imbued with certain qualities often only interpretable through context.


Also spelt synaloepha - the merging of two syllables into one, especially when it causes two words to be pronounced as one.


Mutual connection of all the verses in a system, so that they are scanned as one verse, as in anapaestics. Elision or synalepha, at the end of a line, of the final vowel of a dactylic hexameter before the initial vowel of the next.


Syncope alludes to a literary device which involves the shortening of a word by removing or omitting letters.


Syndeton alludes to a sentence which uses conjunctions to join phrases, words, and clauses. It is one of three different ways of using conjunctions, or not, within sentences.


Synecdoche is a figure of speech in which a "part" of something is used to represent its "whole."


Synesis is a rhetorical device which comes about when the writer structures a sentence based on its "sense" rather than its grammatical structure.


In literature, synaesthesia alludes to a technique authors use to blur human senses in their imagery.


Syntax is the rules which govern language. It is concerned with various parts of speech and the way which words are used together.

Tanka Poetry

A tanka poem is an important form in Japanese poetry which follows a syllable pattern of 5-7-5-7-7.


A tautology is a statement which repeats an idea, using synonymous or nearly synonymous words, phrases, or morphemes.


A tercet is a three-line stanza. It is a common stanza form, although not as common as the couplet and quatrain.

Terza Rima

Terza rima alludes to a very specific rhyme scheme which follows the rhyming pattern of ABA BCB DED.


A tetrameter is a line of four metrical feet. The particular foot can vary.


A measure consisting of four feet.


A group of four lines of verse.

Theatre of Cruelty

The Theatre of Cruelty is an experimental genre of theatre which is concerned more with audience sense-experience than it is with dialogue and content.

Thesis Statement

A thesis statement is the main argument of a piece of writing. It can be found in academic/formal writing novel writing.

Third Person

The third person narrative perspective is a literary style in which the narrator tells a story about a variety of characters.

Third Person Objective

Third person objective is a narrative point of view which uses the pronouns "he," "she," "they," "them," etc. The narrator does not, unlike the other third person perspectives, have any insight into the characters' thoughts and feelings.


The thriller is a genre of fiction which is defined by its wide variety of sub-genres. They range from crime to science fiction.


Tmesis is a rhetorical device which involves inserting a word in between a compound word or phrase.


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.


The word "tragedy" alludes to a type of drama which explores serious, sometimes dark, and depressing content.

Tragedy of Blood

Tragedy of Blood theatre, also known as revenge tragedy or revenge drama, is a genre of theatre which is primarily concerned with revenge and its consequences.

Tragic Flaw

A tragic flaw is a literary device which is used by writers to complicate their characters. Flaws include pride, envy, and cowardice.

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.


A tragicomedy is a fictional genre which incorporates elements of tragedies and comedies.


The most important part of Transcendentalism is the focus on nature and opposition to the destruction of the individual which came with industrialism.


Transitions are the parts of literature which connect phrases, sentences, ideas, and paragraphs. They can even connect one book to the next.


A metrical foot of three short syllables.


A tricolon is a group of three similar phrases, words, clauses, or sentences. They are parallel in their length, rhythm, or structure.


Trimeter is one type of meter used in poetry, in which each line has three metrical feet.


An eight-line stanza having just two rhymes and repeating the first line as the fourth and seventh lines, and the second line as the eighth.


A unit or group of three feet in prosody.


A metrical foot of a length equal to three short syllables


Trochees are the exact opposite of an iamb, meaning which the first syllable is stressed and the second is unstressed.


A trope, in literature, is the use of figurative language to make descriptions more evocative and interesting.


A truism is a phrase which sounds meaningful but doesn't share any new information.


An understatement comes about when the writer presents an idea, situation, person, or thing as less serious than it is.


An undertone is the secondary tone or meaning of a literary work.

Unreliable Narrator

An unreliable narrator is a narrator whose credibility is in doubt, or somehow compromised.


The word "utopia" alludes to a perfect, or nearly perfect, place or ideal.


Vaudeville is a genre of entertainment or theatre which originated in France in the 19th century. It is based in lightly comical situations without deeper moral intentions. They included dances and songs.

Verbal Irony

Verbal irony comes about when the meaning of what someone says is different from what they actually mean.


Verisimilitude is a concept which is concerned with uncovering how truthful an assertion is.


Vernacular is a type of speech. It is used to refer to local dialects and common language used among everyday people.


Verse is a term which alludes to various parts of poetry, such as a single line of poetry, a stanza, or the entire poem.


A vignette is a short scene within a larger narrative. They are found in novels, short stories, poems, and films.


A villain in literature is the antagonist, or bad guy, who harms and causes problems for the "good guys," or heroes.


A villanelle is a nineteen-line poem which is divided into five tercets or sets of three lines, and one concluding quatrain, or set of four lines.


A short lyric poem of a type originating in France in the 14th century, consisting of short lines arranged in stanzas with only two rhymes, the end rhyme of one stanza being the chief one of the next.


Voice alludes to the specific style an author writes in. This includes the way they use point of view, tone, rhetorical devices, syntax, and more.


A volta is a turn or transition in a sonnet's main argument, theme, or tone. There are Petrarchan and Shakespearean voltas.


When a writer uses wit in their work, they're attempting to provoke laughter by mocking someone or something.


Zeugma comes about when the writer uses a single word capable of conveying two different meanings at the same time.


Zoomorphism describes how non-human animal traits are given to humans, events, and forces.

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