List of literary terms
List of literary terms: in alphabetical order.
A[change | change source]
An abecedarius is an acrostic where the first letter of every word or verse follows the order of the alphabet. For example, in the sentence A Bear Climbed Down, the first letter of every word is in alphabetical order: A, B, C, D.
A form of writing where the first letter of each line, paragraph, or verse spells out a word or a message.
A story or picture with two or more different meanings – a literal meaning and one or more symbolic meanings. The setting, characters, and things that happen inside an allegory are symbols for ideas or qualities.
The repeating of consonant sounds. The repetition can be put side by side (for example, "sleepy sun sank slowly over the sea").
Allusion[change | change source]
A figure of speech which refers indirectly to a situation, and leaves the reader (or audience) to make the connection.
New words, ideas, or pronunciations become like the pattern of older or more familiar ones. Comparing two different things. The purpose of an analogy is to describe something unfamiliar or new with something that is more familiar.
Anecdote[change | change source]
A short and humorous (funny) story about a real event or person.
A protagonist who does not have many heroic qualities. For example, Tom Jones in Henry Fielding's book Tom Jones is an antihero. Sometimes antagonists who are surprisingly likable are called antiheroes, too.
A word that is the opposite of another. (example: Love,Hate).
The good example, pattern, blueprint, or model of a type or group. All other things of the same kind are made from this.
Argumentation[change | change source]
Aside[change | change source]
In a play, an aside is a speech that the actor says in a way that the other characters are supposed not to hear it. It usually shows the person's inner thoughts. Similar to the function of the ancient Greek chorus.
A non-fiction story that describes ones life, written by the person themselves.
B[change | change source]
A form of nonfiction in which a writer tells the life story of a different person.
C[change | change source]
Carpe diem[change | change source]
Character[change | change source]
A person or an animal who is part of the action of a literary work. The main character is the one the work focuses on. The person with whom the main character has the most conflict is the antagonist. They are the enemy of the main character, who is usually called a protagonist.
Characterization is the manner in which an author develops characters and their personalities. Characters can be presented by description. They can also be presented through their speech, thoughts, or actions.
Classicism[change | change source]
A struggle between two forces against each other. It can be internal or external. When a conflict happens inside a character, it is called internal conflict. For example, in Charlotte Brontë's novel Jane Eyre, Jane is asking herself whether she should live with Mr. Rochester, whom she loves, or if she should go away. An external conflict is usually a conflict that is easy to see, happening between the protagonist and antagonist. Conflict is one of the most important elements of narrative literature.
Contradiction[change | change source]
Two statements that do not seem to agree with one another. "I heard a soundless shout" is a contradiction.
Connotation[change | change source]
The opposite of denotation, refers to an associated meaning or feeling of a word or expression.
Crisis or climax[change | change source]
The moment or event in the plot where it is or he/she is in stress. Here, the main character usually "wins" or "loses". After the climax, there is a denouement (falling action).
D[change | change source]
Looking at and thinking about opinions or ideas logically, often by questions and answers.
Digression[change | change source]
Dramatic monologue[change | change source]
A poem or speech in which an imaginary character speaks to a silent listener.
E[change | change source]
Elegy[change | change source]
Ellipses are used often in everyday life as well as in literature. They usually look like this (...). It is usually used in leaving out or not using words.
Epigraph[change | change source]
A sentence, quotation, or poem that is put at the beginning of a written work.
Epilogue[change | change source]
A piece of writing at the end of a work of literature, especially in drama. It is usually different from the whole work and is used to end it.
F[change | change source]
Foreshadowing is a literary device by which an author hints what is to come. It is used to avoid disappointment, and sometimes used to arouse readers.
H[change | change source]
A figure of speech that uses an incredible exaggeration or overstatement, for effect.
I[change | change source]
Idyll[change | change source]
A short poem about simple everyday life, sometimes written in a pastoral (about shepherd life) or sentimental style.
Imagery[change | change source]
Imagery is strong describing language which helps us use our senses and memory when we read.
Irony means to say something while meaning a different, contradictory thing.
J[change | change source]
Ji-amari[change | change source]
Ji-amari uses one or more extra syllables than the usual 5/7 outline in Japanese poetry formats of waka and haiku.
Jitarazu[change | change source]
Jitarazu uses less syllables than the usual 5/7 outline in Japanese poetry formats of waka and haiku.
K[change | change source]
Kigo[change | change source]
Kigo is a term of Japanese poetry meaning the requirement of using a seasonal word or phrase in haiku and renku.
L[change | change source]
Lyric[change | change source]
Lyric is short and formal sing-song like poem that expresses moods and feelings.
P[change | change source]
References[change | change source]
- Michael Meyer, The Bedford Introduction to Literature, St. Martin's, 2005, p 2128. ISBN 0-312-41242-8
- "Online Etymology Dictionary". etymonline.com. Retrieved 18 September 2010.
- Mostow, Joshua S. Pictures of the Heart: The Hyakunin Isshu in Word and Image. University of Hawaii Press, 1996. ISBN 9780824817053 p12
- Crowley, Cheryl. Haikai Poet Yosa Buson and the Bashō Revival. Brill, 2006. ISBN 978-9004157095 p54
- "Plot - Examples and Definition of Plot". Literary Devices. 3 November 2013.