Literary Terminology

There are several terms and concepts I have been introduced to as a result of my English Language and Literature education, and I thought I would share some of them with you to provide some insight in regards to common literary terminology and techniques. These are not necessarily terms you would use in everyday conversation, however some persons may find them useful to know.

Simile: A comparison using ‘like’ or ‘as’, for example, “She swims like a fish”

Metaphor: A direct comparison, for example, “She is a fish”

Anthropomorphism: Giving an animal human-like characteristics, for example, “The cat laughed”

Personification: Giving an inanimate object human-like characteristics, for example, “The wind whispered”

Onamatopeia: The structure of a word resembles the sound it makes when spoken, for example, “POW”

Pathetic Fallacy: When weather reflects mood, for example a thunderstorm scene in a horror movie

Hamartia: A character’s fatal flaw, commonly recognizable in Shakespeare plays

Pathos: Tragic description

Hyperbole: Exaggeration

Oxymoron: The pairing together of two words that are contrasting in meaning, for example, “Jumbo shrimp”

Anaphora: The reputation of a word, sentence or phrase at the beginning of multiple different sentences or phrases, for example Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech

Ballad: A poem passed down through generation orally, often taking the form of a song

Prose: Everyday language

Poetry: Rhythmical language

Iambic Pentameter: The most common rhyme structure in poetry

Sonnet: A fourteen-line poem

Irony: A refraction of meaning

  • Verbal Irony: When something is said but its meaning is misinterpreted
  • Dramatic Irony: When persons in the audience of a production are aware of something that persons in the production itself are not aware of
  • Situational Irony: When something completely unexpected occurs

Caesura: A pause created in a line of poetry or prose by a mark of punctuation, for example a hyphen or semi-colon

Enjambment: When a line of poetry carries over into the next line


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