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one thing, idea, or action is referred to by a word or expression normally denoting another thing so as to suggest some common quality shared by the two


an explicit comparison between two different things using the words "like" or "as"


a figure of speech by which animals, abstract ideas, or inanimate things are referred to as if they were human


figure of speech that combines two contradictory terms in a compressed paradox, as in the word bittersweet or the phrase living death


a statement or expression so surprisingly self-contradictory as to provoke use into seeking another sense or context in which it would be true (death, thou shalt die)


placing two contrasting ideas side by side


an expression that achieves emphasis or humor by contriving an ambiguity; two distinct meanings being suggested either by the same word or by two similar-sounding words


a salient abstract idea that emerges from a literary work's treatment of its subject-matter; a topic recurring in a number of literary works


a very vague critical term usually designating the mood or atmosphere of a work; refers to the author's attitude to the reader


a subtly humorous perception of inconsistency, in which an apparently straightforward statement or event is undermined by its context so as to give it a very different significance


a figure of speech that replaces the name of one thing with the name of something else closely associated with it


the name of a part is substituted for the whole (using hired hand for worker)


a rhetorical figure in which the speaker addresses a dead or absent person, or an abstraction or inanimate object

parallel structure (or parallelism)

the arrangement of similarly constructed clauses, sentences, or verse lines in a pairing or other sequence suggesting some correspondence between them; anaphora is a form of this


a rhetorical figure of repetition in which the same word or phrase is repeated in (and usually at the beginning of) successive lines, clauses, or sentences

rhetorical shift (volta)

a change in tone, attitude, speaker, subject, etc. in a poem; look for key words like but, however, even though, although, yet, etc.; used for sonnets


a rhetorical term for the repeated use of conjunctions to link together a succession of words, clauses, or sentences


a form of verbal compression which consists of the omission of connecting words (usually conjunctions) between clauses; opposite of polysyndeton


a figure of speech by which the order the terms in the first of two parallel clauses is reversed in the second (ex. pleasure's a sin, and sometimes, sin's a pleasure)


the reversal of the normally expected order of words, such as placing the adjective after the noun


brought to a pause at which the end of a verse coincides with the completion of a sentence, clause, or other independent unit of syntax; the opposite of enjambment; gives verse lines an appearance of self-contained sense


the running over of the sense and grammatical structure from one verse line or couplet to the next without a punctuated pause (aka run-on line)


the use of words that seem to imitate the sounds they refer to (whack, fizz, crackle); any combination of words in which the sound gives the impression of an echoing of the sense


the repetition of the same sounds in any sequence of neighboring words


the repetition of identical or similar vowel sounds of neighboring words


the repetition of identical or similar consonants in neighboring words whose vowel sounds are different

half-rhyme (imperfect rhyme, slant rhyme)

the final consonants of stress syllables agree but the vowel sounds do not match (cape/deep or cape/keep)


rhyme occurring at the ends of verse lines, as opposed to internal rhyme and head rhyme

internal rhyme

a poetic device by which two or more words rhyme within the same line of a verse

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