How can we help?

You can also find more resources in our Help Center.

125 terms

Literary Terms

STUDY
PLAY
Act
A major division of a play.
Alliteration
The repetition of similar sounds, usually consonant clusters, in a group of words.
Allusion
A reference in one work of literature to a person, place, or event in another work of literature, or in history, art, or music.
Anachronism
An event or detail exsiting out of its proper time in history.
Anaology
An extented comparison showing the similarities between two things.
Anecdote
A brief account of an interesting, or amusing incident. Often used as evidence to support, or explain an idea, or it may be used to entertain readers or reveal the personality of the author, or of another person.
Antagonist
A person, or force in society, or nature that opposes the protagonist, or central character in a literary work.
Argument
A form of discourse in which reason is used to influence, or change people's ideas, or actions.
Aside
Words spoken by a character in a play, usually in an undertone, not intented to be heard by the iother characters on stage.
Assonance
The repetition of similar vowel sounds, usually close together in a group of words.
Atmosphere
The mood, or emotional quality of a literary work. Often created with details about people and setting.
Author's Purpose
The author's reason for writing. For example; the purpose may be to persuade, to express an opinion, or to inform.
Autobiography
A person's account to his/her own life.
Ballad
A story told in verse and usually meant to be sung.
Biography
An account of a person's life written by another person.
Blank Verse
Verse written in unryhymed iambic pentameter, where each line usually contains ten syllables and every other syllable is stressed.
Catastrophe
The tragic denouement, or unknotting of a play or story.
Characterization
The personality a character displays; also, the means by which an author reveals that personality.
Characters
Persons or animals, things or natural forces presented as person appearing in a short story, novel, play, or narrative poem.
Cinquain
A five-line poem or stanza that follows a specific pattern of syllables. The first line has two syllables, the next has four, then six, then eight, then the fifth line has two again.
Climax
That point of greatest emotional intensity, interest, or suspense in a narrative.
Comedy
In general, a literary work that is amusing and ends happily.
Comic Relief
A short, funny episode that interrupts an otherwise serious or tragic work of drama.
Conclusion
The ending of a piece of writing that provides closure to the piece and expresses the author's feelings about his/her experience.
Complication
A series of difficulties forming the central action in a narrative.
Conflict
A struggle between two opposing forces or characters in a short story, novel, play, or narrative poem.
Connotation
The emotion or association that a word or phrase may arouse.
Conventions
Unrealistic devices or procedures that the reader agrees to accept.
Consonance
The repitition of consonant sounds before or after different vowel sounds.
Couplet
Two consecutive lines of poetry that rhyme.
Crisis/Turning Point
A point of great tension in a narrative that determines how the action will come out.
Denotation
The literal or dictonary meaning of a word.
Description
Any careful detailing of a person, place, thing, or event.
Dialect
A representation of the speech patterns of a particular region or social group.
Dialogue
Conversation between two characters in a literary work.
Diction
A writer's choice of words, particularly for clarity effectiveness, and precision.
Drama
A story acted out, usually on stage, by actors and actresses who take the parts of specific characters.
Dramatic Irony
A device whereby the audience understands more of a situation or of what is being said than the character is aware of.
Dramatic Poetry
Poetry in which one or more characters speak.
Dynamic Character
A character who undergoes an important and basic changes in personality or outlook.
Epic
A long narrative poem that relates deeds of a hero.
Epithet
A descriptive adjective or phrase used to characterize someone or something.
Epic Simile
An extended comparison using like or as to compare two seemingly unlike things.
Essay
A piece of prose writing, usually short, that deals with a subject in a limited way and expresses a particular point of view.
Exposition
The kind of writing that is intented primarily to present information.
Fable
A brief story or poem that is told to present a moral or practical lesson.
Falling Action
All of the action in a play that follows the turning point.
Fantasy
A highly imaginative type of fiction in which the events could not really happen.
Farce
A type of comedy based on a farfetched humorous situation, often with ridiculous or stereotyped characters.
Fiction
Anything that is invented or imagined, especially a prose narrative.
Figurative Language
Language that is not intented to be interpreted in a literal sense.
Flashback
A literary device in which an earlier episode, conversation, or event is inserted into the chronological sequence of a narrative.
Figure of Speech
A term applied to a speific kind of figurative language, such as a metaphor or similie.
Foil
A character who sets off another character by contrast.
Folklore
The traditional beliefs, customs, stories, songs, and dances of the culture.
Folk Ballad
A story told in verse that is by an unknown author and meant to be sung.
Foreshadowing
The use of hints or clues in a narrative to suggest what action is to come.
Framework Story
A narrative thatc contains another narrative.
Free Verse
Poetry that has no fixed meter or pattern and depends on natural speech.
Genre
A category or type of literature characterized by a particular form or style.
Heroic Couplet
Two consecutive lines of rhyming poetry that are written in iambic pentameter and that contain a complete thought.
Hero
The main character in a literary work, typically one whose character or deeds inspire the admiration of the reader.
Homeric Simile
An extended comparison that mounts in excitment and usually ends in a climax.
Hyperbole
A figure of speech in which great exaggeration is used for emphasis or humorous effect.
Iambic Pentameter
The most common verse line in English Poetry.
Idiom
A work or phrase that has a special meaning different from its standard or dicontary meaning.
Imagery
Langauge that appeals to any sense or any combination of senses.
Inversion
A reversal of the usual order of words to achieve some kind of emphasis.
Irony
A contrast or an incongruity between what is stated and really meant, or between what is expected to happen and actually does happen.
Legend
A story handed down from the past through the oral tradition and commonly believed to be based on historical events.
Line
In a poem, a word or row of words that may or may not from a complete sentence.
Literal Language
A fact or idea stated directly.
Literary Ballad
A story told in verse in which a known writer imitates a folk ballad.
Local Color
The use of specific details to re-create the language, custins, geography, and habits of a particular area.
Lyric Poetry
Poetry that expresses a spealer's personal thoughts or feelings.
Magic Realism
A style of writing it which realistic deatils, events, settings, characrters, and dialouge are interwoven with magical, bizarre, fantastic, or supernatural elements.
Memoir
A type of narrative nonfiction that presents the story of a peroid in a person's life and is usually written from the first person point of view.
Metaphor
A comparsion between two unlike thinigs with the intent of giving added meaning to one of them.
Meter
A geneerally regular pattern of stressed and unstressed syables in poetry.
Monologue
A long, uniterrupted speech that is spoken in the presence of other characters.
Mood
The feelings or atmosphere that an author creatres in a literary work.
Moral
A practical lesson about right or wrong conduct.
Myth
A tradional story or an anonymous origin that deals with goddesses, gods, heros, and supernatural events.
Narration
The kind of writing or speaking that tells a story.
Narration Poetry
Poetry that tells a story.
Narrator
One who narrates or tells a story.
Nonfiction
Any prose narrative that tells about things as they actually happened or that presents factual info about something.
Novel
A fictional narrative in prose, generally longer than a short story.
Octave
The first eight lines of a Petrarchan sonnet.
Onomatopoeia
The use of a word whose sound in some degree imitates or suggests its meaning.
Oral Tradition
Literature that passes by a word of mouth from one generation to the next.
Oxymoron
A figure of speech that is a combination of seemingly contradictory words.
Parable
A simple story pointing to a moral or religious lesson.
Paradox
A situation or statement that includes two parts, both of which are true but seem to condridict each other.
Parallelism
The use of phrases, clauses, or sentences that are similar or complementary in structure or in meaning.
Paraphrase
A summary or a recapitulation of a piece of literature.
Personification
A figure of speech in which an animal, an object, a natural force, or an idea is given personality or described as if it were human.
Persuasion
The type of speaking or writing that is intented to make its audience adopt a certain opinion or preform a certain action or do both.
Petarchan Sonnet
A fourteen-line lyric poem consisting of two parts, the octave and the seset.
Plot
The sequence of events or happenings in a literary work.
Poetry
Language arranged in lines with a regular rhythm and often a definite rhyme scheme.
Point of View
The vantage point from which a narrative is told.
Pun
The humorous use of a word or phrase to suggest two or more meanings at the same time.
Quatrain
A stanza or poem of four lines.
Refrain
A word, phrase, line, or group of lines repeated regularly in a poem, usually at the end of each line.
Repetition
The return of a word, phrase, stanza form, or effect in any form of literature.
Resolution
The outcome of the conflict in a play or story.
Rhyme
the repetition of sound in two or more words or phrases that usually appear close together to each other in a poem.
Rhyme Scheme
The pattern of rhymes in a poem.
Rhythm
The arrangement of stressed and unstressed syllables into a pattern.
Rising Action
Those events in a play that leads to a turning point in the action.
Satire
A kind of writing that holds up to a ridicule contempt, the weaknesses or wrongdoings of individuals, groups, institutions, or humanity in general.
Sestet
The last six lines of a Petrarchan sonnet.
Setting
The time and place of action in a narrative.
Short Story
Narrative prose fiction that is shorter than a novel.
Simile
A comparison made between two dissimilar things through the use of a specific word of comparison such as like, as, than, or resembles.
Soliloquy
A speech, usually lengthy, in which a character, alone on stange expresses his/her thoughts.
Sonnet
A fourteen-line poem, usually written in rhymed iambic pentameter.
Speaker
The voice in a poem.
Staging
All of the devices except dialogue, which a dramatist uses to communicate to an audience.
Stanza
A group of lines forming a unit in a poem.
Static Character
A character who remains the same throughout a narrative.
Subplot
Secondary action that is interwoven with the main action in a play or story.
Suspense
The quality of a literary work that makes the reader or audience uncertain or tense about the outcome of events.
Symbol
Any object, person, place, or action that has meaning in itself and that also stands for somrthing larger than itself.