Abridge- To reduce the scope; to
shorten by means of the omission or words without
sacrificing their meaning
Accent- in poetry, the vocal
force or emphasis placed on a syllable or word. The
regular, orderly repetition of accent contributes to
the poetic quality of writing and fixes the rhythm of
Acronym- A word formed from the
initial letters or syllables of other words; for
example, radar (Radio Detecting and Ranging)
Action- The events that take
place in a work of literature. In drama, stage
action refers to any event that occurs on the
stage. The action of a novel, short story or
narrative poem is usually both external and internal.
External action comprises those physical
events that actually occur in relation to the
characters, actions that affect them or in which they
participate. Internal action refers to a
character’s thoughts and feelings as they are
reported by the author
Acts- Divisions of plays or
operas. On the contemporary stage, the three-act play
is most common.
Adage- a proverb or wise saying
made familiar by long use
Adaptation- 1) The rewriting of
a work written in a different genre or medium than it
was originally written. For example, turning a novel
into a play would be an ADAPTATION 2) the translation
of a work from one language to another
Address- a speech or written
statement, serious in intent and somewhat formal in
style. Frequently, for example, the political head of
a nation gives an address to the country’s
Allegory- Prose or verse in
which the objects, events or people are presented
symbolically, so that the story conveys a meaning
other than and deeper than the actual incident or
characters described. Often, the form is used to
teach a moral lesson.
Alliteration- The repetition of
the initial letter or sound in two or more closely
associated words or stressed syllables. Alliteration
is not restricted to poetry.
Allusion- A figure of speech
making casual reference to a famous historical or
literary figure or event.
Ambiguity- The expression of an
idea in such a way that more than one meaning is
Anachronism- The utilization of
an event, a person, an object, language in a time
when that event, person, or object was not in
Analogy- An extended comparison
showing the similarities between two things.
Anagram- A word or phrase made
by transposing the letters of another word or
Example: cask in an anagram of
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
intended to be heard by other characters on
repetition of similar vowel sounds, usually close
together, in a group of words.
person’s account of his or her own life.
Ballad- A story told
in verse and usually meant to be sung. The earliest
ballads, known as folk ballads or popular ballads,
were composed anonymously and transmitted orally for
Biography- An account
of a person’s life written by another
Blank Verse- Verse
written in unrhymed iambic pentameter, where each
line usually contains ten syllables and every other
syllable is stressed.
tragic denouement, or unknotting of a play or
personality a character displays; also, the means by
which an author reveals that personality
animals, things, or natural forces presented as
person- appearing in a short story, novel, play, or
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.
Complication- A series
of difficulties forming the central action in a
Conflict- A struggle
between two opposing forces or characters in a short
story, novel, play, or narrative poem. Conflict can
be internal or external, and it can take one of these
- Person against another
- Person against
- A person against
- Two elements or ideas
struggling for mastery within a person
- Person against
emotion or association that a word or phrase may
arouse. Connotation is distinct from denotation,
which is the literal or dictionary meaning of a word
Unrealistic devices or procedures that the reader (or
audience) agrees to accept.
consecutive lines of poetry that rhyme
Crisis or Turning
Point- A point of great tension in a
narrative that determines how the action will come
literal or "dictionary" meaning of a word
careful detailing of a person, place, thing, or
event. Description is one of the for major forms of
discourse. Descriptions re-create sensory
impressions: sights, sounds, smells, textures,
representation of the speech patterns of a particular
region or social group. Dialect, naturally, changes
from location to location
writer’s choice of words, particularly for
clarity, effectiveness, and precision. A
writer’s diction can be formal or informal,
abstract or concrete. In attempting to choose the
"right word", writers must think of their subject and
their audience. Words that are appropriate in
informal dialogue would not always be appropriate in
a formal essay.
Drama- A story acted
out, usually on a stage, by actors and actresses who
take the parts of specific characters. Dramas are
usually divided into two types, those being
tragedies (serious play in which the central
characters meet an unhappy or disastrous end) and
comedies (humorous plays that end happily).
The stories are told through dialogue and stage
directions, which tell the actors how they should
move and react to certain happenings.
Dramatic Irony- A
device whereby the audience (or reader) understands
more of a situation or of what is being said than the
character is aware of. Such speech or action has
great significance to the audience or reader and
little significance to the character speaking or
performing the action.
Poetry in which one or more characters speak
Dynamic Character- A
character who undergoes an important and basic change
in personality or outlook.
Epic- A long narrative
poem that relates the deeds of a hero. Epics
incorporate myth, legend, folk tale, and history, and
usually reflect the values of the society from which
Epithet- A descriptive
adjective or phrase used to characterize someone or
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 intending primarily to present
Fable- A brief story
or poem that is told to present a moral, or practical
lesson. The characters in fables are often animals
who speak or act like human beings.
Falling Action- All of
the action in a play that follows the turning point.
The falling action leads to the resolution or
conclusion of the play.
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. Although fiction may be based on actual
events or personal experiences, its characters and
settings are invented. Even if a story is set in an
actual place and involves recognizable characters or
details, we understand the story itself to be
Language that is not intended to be interpreted in a
literal sense. Figurative language always makes use
of a comparison between different things. By
appealing to the imagination, figurative language
provides new ways of looking at the world.
Figure of Speech- A
term applied to a specific kind of figurative
language, such as a metaphor or simile. Everyday
language abounds with many different figures of
speech, in which we say one thing and mean
Flashback- A scene in
a short story, novel, play, or narrative poem that
interrupts the action to show an event that happened
at an earlier time.
Foil- A character who
sets off another character by contrast. For example,
having an angry character talking to a happy one.
Folk Ballad- A story
told in verse that is by an unknown author and meant
to be sung.
Folk Tale- An account,
legend, or story that is passed along orally from
generation to generation. Folk talks are of unknown
Foreshadowing- The use
of hints or clues in a narrative to suggest what
action is to come. Foreshadowing helps to build
suspense in a story because it suggests what is about
Framework Story- A
narrative that contains another narrative. Both the
framework story and the inner story add meaning to
one another, and one is usually important to the
outcome of the other. Chaucer’s Canterbury
Tales is a famous example of several stories within a
Free Verse- Poetry
that has no fixed meter or pattern and that depends
on natural speech rhythms. Free verse may rhyme or
not rhyme; its lines may be of different lengths; and
like natural speech, it may switch suddenly from one
rhythm to another.
Heroic Couplet- Two
consecutive lines of rhyming poetry that are written
in iambic pentameter and that contain a complete
thought. In a heroic couplet, there is usually one
pause at the end of the first line, and another
heavier pause at the end of the second line.
Homeric Simile- An
extended comparison that mounts in excitement and
usually ends in a climax. The Homeric simile is also
known as the epic simile.
Iambic Pentameter- The
most common verse line in English poetry. It consists
of five verse feet, with each foot an iamb-that is,
an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed
syllable. Shakespeare’s plays are written
almost exclusively in iambic pentameter.
Imagery- Language that
appeals to any sense or any combination of the
Inversion- A reversal
of the usual order or words to receive some sort of
Irony- A contrast or
an incongruity between what is stated and what is
really meant, or between what is expected to happen
and what actually does happen. Two kinds of irony
are: 1) verbal irony, in which a writer or speaker
says one thing and means something entirely
different; and 2) dramatic irony in which a reader or
audience member perceives something that a character
in the story does not
Literal Language- A
fact or idea stated directly. When a writer intends
something to be understood exactly as it is written,
he or she is using literal language.
Literary Ballad- A
story told in verse in which a known writer imitates
a folk ballad.
Lyric Poetry- Poetry
that expresses a speaker’s personal thoughts or
feelings. The elegy, ode, and sonnet are forms of the
Metaphor- A comparison
between two unlike things with the intent of giving
added meaning to one of them. Metaphor is one of the
most important forms of figurative language. Unlike a
simile, a metaphor does not use a connective word
such as like, as, than, or resembles to state a
Meter- A generally
regular pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables
Monologue- A long,
uninterrupted speech (in a narrative or drama) that
is spoken in the presence of other characters. Unlike
a soliloquy and most aides, a monologue is heard by
Narration- The kind of
writing or speaking that tells a story.
Poetry that tells a story. One kind of narrative poem
is the epic, a long poem which sets form the heroic
ideals of a particular society.
Narrator- One who
narrates or tells, a story. A writer may choose to
have a story told by a first person narrator, someone
who is either a major or minor character. Or, a
writer may choose to use a third person narrator,
someone who is not in the story at all. Third person
narrators are often omniscient, or "all knowing"-
that is, they are able to enter into the minds of all
the characters in the story.
Nonfiction- Any prose
narrative that tells about things as they actually
happened or that posses factual information about
something. Autobiography and biography are the most
Novel- A fictional
narrative in prose, generally longer than a short
story. The author is not restricted by historical
facts but rather is free to create fictional
personalities in a fictional world.
Octave- The first
eight lines of a Petrarchan (or Italian) sonnet.
Onomatopoeia- The use
of a word whose sound in some degree imitates or
suggests its meaning. The names of some birds are
onomatopoetic, imitating the cry of the bird named.
For instance, cuckoo, whippoorwill, owl, crow.
Parallelism- The use
of phrases, clauses, or sentences that are similar or
complementary in structure or in meaning.
Paraphrase- A summary
or recapitulation of a piece of literature. A
paraphrase does not enhance a literary work. It
merely tells in the simplest form what happened.
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 intended to make its
audience adopt a certain opinion or pursue an action
or do both.
Petrarchan Sonnet- A
fourteen-line lyric poem consisting of two parts: the
octave (or first eight lines) and the sestet (or last
six lines). The Petrarchan, or Italian sonnet,
originated in Italy in thirteenth century and was
much used by the Italian poet Francesco Petraarch.
Its rhyme scheme is abbaabba cdecde.
Plot- The sequence of
events or happenings in a literary work. Plots may be
simple or complex, loosely constructed or close-knit.
But every plot is made up a series of incidents that
are related to one another.
poetry is language arranged in lines, with a regular
rhythm and often a definite rhyme scheme.
Nontraditional poetry does away with regular rhythm
and rhyme, although is usually is set up in lines.
The richness of its suggestions, the sounds of its
words, and the strong feelings evoked by its line are
often said to be what distinguish poetry from other
forms of literature. Poetry is difficult to define,
but most people know when they read it.
Point of View- The
vantage point from which a narrative is told.
Pun- Usually, the
humorous use of a word or phrase to suggest two or
more meanings at the same time.
Quatrain- Usually a
stanza or poem of four lines. However, a quatrain may
also be any group of four lines. Unified by a rhyme
scheme. Quatrains usually follow an abab, abba, or
abcb rhyme scheme.
Refrain- A word,
phrase, line, or group of lines repeated regularly in
a poem, usually at the end of each stanza.
Repetition- The return
of a word, phrase, stanza form, or effect in any form
of literature. Repetition is an effective literary
device that may bring comfort, suggest order, or add
special meaning to a piece of literature.
outcome of the conflict in a play or story. The
resolution concludes the falling action.
Rhyme- The repetition
of sounds in two or more words or phrases that
usually appear close to each other in a poem. For
example: river/shiver, song/long, leap/deep. If the
rhyme occurs at the ends of lines, it is called end
Rhyme Scheme- The
pattern of rhymes in a poem. The rhyme scheme is
indicated by a different letter of the alphabet for
each new rhyme of the stanza.
arrangement of stressed an unstressed syllables into
a pattern. Rhythm is most apparent in poetry, though
it is part of all good writing.
Rising Action- Those
events in a play that lead to a turning point in the
Satire- A kind of
writing that holds up to ridicule or contempt the
weaknesses and wrongdoing of individuals, groups,
institution, or humanity in general.
Sestet- The last six
lines of a Petrarchan (or Italian) sonnet. The
sestet, from the Latin word for six, usually has a
rhyme scheme of cdecde. A thought or idea that is
introduced in the first eight lines, octave, of the
poem is sometimes further developed in the
Setting- The time and
place of action in a narrative. In short stories,
novels, poetry, and nonfiction, setting is generally
created by description. In drama, setting is usually
established by stage directions and dialogue. Setting
can be of great importance in establishing not only
physical background but also mood or emotional
intensity. In turn, the mood contributes to the plot
and theme of the narrative.
A fourteen-line lyric poem consisting of three
quatrains (four line stanza) and a concluding couplet
(two rhyming lines). The Shakespearean, or English,
sonnet was NOT invented by William Shakespeare, but
is named for him because he is its most famous
practitioner. Its rhyme scheme is abab cdcd efef
Short Story- Narrative
prose fiction that is shorter than a novel. Short
stories vary in length. Some are no longer than five
hundred words; other run to forty or fifty thousand
words. An extended short story is sometimes referred
to as a novelette, or when slightly longer, as a
novella. The major difference between a short story
and longer fictional forms, such as the novel, is
that the main literary elements-plot, setting,
characterization- are used with greater compression
in the short story than in the longer forms.
Simile- A comparison
made between two dissimilar things through the use of
a specific word of comparison such as Like, as, than,
or resembles. The comparison must be between two
essentially unlike things.
Soliloquy- A speech,
usually lengthy, in which a character, alone on
stage, expresses his or her thoughts aloud. The
soliloquy is a very useful dramatic device, as it
allows the dramatist to convey a character’s
most intimate thoughts and feelings directly to the
fourteen-line lyric poem, usually written in rhymed
iambic pentameter (in lines of ten syllables with a
stress on every other syllable). Sonnets vary in
structure and rhyme scheme, but are generally of two
types: the Petrarchan, or Italian, sonnet and the
Shakespearean, or English sonnet. Sonnets usually
attempt to express a singles theme or idea.
Speaker- The voice in
a poem. The speaker may be the poet or a character
created by the poet. The speaker may also be a thing
or an animal.
Stanza- A group of
lines forming a unit in a poem. Many stanzas have a
fixed pattern-that is, the same number of lines and
the same rhyme scheme." A stanza may be as short as
the couplet, two rhyming lines. A favorite form of
many English poets has been the heroic couplet, two
rhyming lines of iambic pentameter. The triplet is a
stanza of three lines often with one rhyme. The
quatrain is a four line stanza with many patterns of
rhyme and rhythm. In ballads, the second and fourth
lines are usually rhymed while the first and third
lines are unrhymed.
Static Character- A
character who remains the same throughout a
narrative. Static characters do not develop or change
beyond the way in which they are first presented.
action that is interwoven with the main action in a
play or story. Several subplots are not uncommon in a
novel. The effect of one or more subplots maybe to
provide some comic relief from a more serious main
plot, or to create a certain atmosphere or mood, such
as suspense or intrigue.
Suspense- That quality
of a literary work that makes the reader or audience
uncertain or tense about the outcome of events.
Suspense makes the reader ask "What will happen
next?". Suspense is greatest when it focuses
attention on a sympathetic character. Thus, the most
familiar kind of suspense involves a character
hanging form the lee of a tall building, or tied to a
railroad tracks as a train approaches.
Syllabus- An outline
or abstract containing the major points included in a
book, a course of lectures, an argument or a program
Symbol- Any object,
person, place, or action that has a meaning in itself
and that also stands for something larger than it
does, such as a quality, an attitude, a belief, or a
value. For instance, a rose is often a symbol love
and beauty while a skull is often a symbol of
Synecdoche- A form of
the metaphor in which the part mentioned signifies
the whole. A good synecdoche is based on an important
part of the whole, the part most directly associated
with the subject under discussion.
arrangement of words to form phrases, clauses and
sentences; sentence construction. Syntax is also both
the patterns of the aforementioned arrangements and
the function of a word, phrase, or clause within a
combination of two or more elements into a unified
whole. Synthesis is the opposite of analysis, which
involves detailed consideration of the separate
elements or parts of a work. Synthesis is also the
outcome of the dialectic process: thesis and
antithesis combine to produce a synthesis.
Tale- A simple
narrative. A tale is a more general term than a short
story, since the latter is applied to a narrative
that follows a fairly technical pattern, and the
former denotes any short narrative.
Terza Rima- A
three-line stanza form borrowed from the Italian
poets. The rhyme scheme is: aba, bcb, cdc, ded,
Tetrameter- A line of
verse containing four feet
Tetrapody- A group of
words or a line of verse containing four feet
Theme- The main idea
or the basic meaning of a literary work. The theme of
a work is not the same as the works’ subject.
Not all literary works can be said to express a
theme. Theme generally is not a concern in those
works that are told primarily for entertainment; it
is of importance in those literary works that comment
on or present some insight about the meaning of life.
In some literary works the theme is expressed
directly, but more often, the theme is implicit-that
is, it must be dug out and thought about. A simple
theme can often be stated in a single sentence. But
sometimes a literary work is rich and complex, and a
paragraph or even an essay is needed to state the
Thesis- An attitude or
position on a problem taken by a writer or speaker
with the purpose of proving or supporting it.
Tome- A volume forming
part of a larger work
Tone- The attitude a
writer takes toward his or her subject, characters,
and readers. Through tone, a writer can amuse, anger,
or shock the reader. Tone is created through the
choice of words and details.
Tragedy- In general, a
literary work in which the central character meets an
unhappy or disastrous end. Unlike comedy, which often
portrays a central character of weak nature, tragedy
often involves the problems of a central character of
dignified or heroic stature. Through a related series
of events, this main character, the tragic hero or
heroine, is brought to a final downfall. The causes
of the character’s downfall vary. In
traditional dramas, the cause is often an error in
judgement or a combination of inexplicable outside
forces that overwhelm the character. In modern
dramas, the causes range from moral or psychological
weaknesses to the evils of society. The tragic hero
or heroine, though defeated, usually gains a measure
of wisdom and/or self-awareness. There may be more
than one central character in a tragedy.
Transition- In a piece
of writing, the passing from one subject or division
of a composition to another. A good prose style
accomplishes transition between sentences; paragraphs
and chapters by proceeding smoothly and logically
from one point to the next, so that the relationships
appear clear and natural.
Triad- A group of
three. More specifically, the strophe, antistrophe,
and epode of the Pindaric ode.
Trilogy- A literary
composition, usually a novel or a play, written in
three parts, each of which is a complete unit in
Trimeter- A line of
verse consisting of three feet.
Tristich- A stanza of
Trochee- A metrical
foot consisting of an accented and an unaccented
syllable, as in the word "happy". The trochee is
often used as the meter for the supernatural.
Understatement- A form
of irony in which something is intentionally
represented as less than it is in fact.
Utopia- A place in
which social, legal, and political justice and
perfect harmony exist.
domestic or native language of the people of a
particular country or geographical area.
Verse- A line of
poetry. "Verse" is a general term for metrical
Verse Drama or Verse
Play- A play written mostly or entirely in
verse. Verse plays are often written in blank verse
(unrhymed iambic pentameter).
Vice- An evil habit or
wicked tendency present in characters in a literary
work or poem.
Whimsical- A critical
term for writing what is fanciful or expresses odd
Xanaduism- Research to
discover the sources that have contributed to a work
Xenophanic- A term
used to describe a wandering poet who writes witty,
satirical verse. Xenophanes was a Greek poet who
lived in the sixth century B.C., traveled widely
throughout the Greek world and wrote verse satirizing
Yarn- A tale or story.
Yarns are usually improbable and most likely
characteristic thought, preoccupation or spirit of a