AP English Literary Terms

Must Know Literary terms for AP Literature
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alliteration
the repetition of initial sounds in successive or neighboring words
assonance
The repetition of vowel sounds.
consonance
the repetition of consonant sounds within or at the end of a word
cacophony
harsh, non-melodic, unpleasant sounding arrangement of words
euphony
any agreeable (pleasing and harmonious) sounds
onomatopoeia
words that sound like what they mean
sibilance
hissing sounds represented by s, z, sh
allegory
a literary work in which the characters represent abstract ideas; a symbolic representation
apostrophe
someone absent, dead, or imaginary, or an abstraction, is being addressed as if it could reply
didactic poetry
poetry with the primary purpose of teaching or preaching
dramatic monologue
character "speaks" through the poem; a character study
elegy
poem which expresses sorrow over a death of someone for whom the poet cared, or on another solemn theme
connotation
what a word suggests beyond its surface definition
denotation
basic definition or dictionary meaning of a word
diction
choice of words for effect
syntax
word order or grammatical appropriateness
blank verse
unrhymed iambic pentameter
caesura
a natural pause in the middle of a line, sometimes coinciding with punctuation
couplet
two successive lines which rhyme, usually at the end of a work
enjambment
describes a line of poetry in which the sense and grammatical construction continues on to the next line
feminine rhyme
latter two syllables of first word rhyme with latter two syllables of second word (ceiling appealing)
free verse
no fixed meter or rhyme
iambic pentameter
70% of verse is written this way; ten syllables per line, following an order of unaccented-accented syllables
internal rhyme
repetition of sounds within a line (but not at the end of the line)
masculine rhyme
final syllable of first word rhymes with final syllable of second word (scald recalled)
meter
regularized rhythm of stressed and unstressed syllables; accents occur at approx. equal intervals of time
refrain
repeated word, phrase, line, or group of lines in a pattern
rhyme
repetition of end sounds
rhythm
the pattern or beat of a poem.
stanza
group of lines
structure
internal organization of a poem's content
allusion
a reference to something in literature or history
anaphora
repetition of the same word or words at the start of two or more lines
archetype
a character or personality type found in every society
conceit
an extended witty, paradoxical, or startling metaphor
hyperbole
exaggeration, overstatement
imagery
representation through language of a sensory experience
irony
incongruity or discrepancy between the implied and expected; verbal, dramatic, situational
metaphor
implied or direct comparison
metonymy
symbolism; one thing is used as a substitute for another with which it is closely identified (the White House)
mood
the atmosphere suggested by the structure and style of the poem
oxymoron
a figure of speech consisting of two apparently contradictory terms
pace
tempo or rate implied by the structure and style of the poem
paradox
statement or situation containing seemingly contradictory elements
parallelism
presents coordinating ideas in a coordinating manner
persona
assumed speaker of the poem; typically used synonymously with 'speaker'
personification
giving a non-human the characteristics of a human
simile
comparison using 'like' or 'as'
style
a way of expressing something (in language or art or music etc.) that is characteristic of a particular person or group of people or period
symbolism
something (object, person, situation, etc.) means more than what it is
synecdoche
symbolism; the part signifies the whole, or the whole the part (all hands on board)
theme
the general idea or insight about life that a work of literature reveals
tone
writer's attitude toward the audience or subject, implied or related directly
understatement
saying less than one means, for effect
litotes
an understatement in which an affirmative is expressed by negating its opposite.
ode
a lyric poem usually marked by serious, respectful, and exalted feelings toward the subject
ballad
A narrative poem written in four-line stanzas, characterized by swift action and narrated in a direct style often dealing with a tragedy
villanelle
highly structured poem consisting of six stanzas: five tercets and a quatrain; first and third line are repeated throughout
sonnet
fourteen line poem in iambic pentameter with a prescribed rhyme scheme ending in a couplet; its subject is traditionally that of love
foot
a unit of meter
consists generally of one stressed and one or more unstressed syllables
antithesis
a balancing or contrasting of one term against another
triplet or tercet
a three line stanza
quatrain
four rhymed lines
quintet
a five line stanza
sestet
a six line stanza
septet
a seven line stanza
octave
an eight line stanza