Poetry Terms A-H

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Last updated: December 11, 2019

Accent
when a syllable is given a greater amount of force in speaking than is given to another; also called a stress

Allegory
a narrative in either verse or prose in which characters, events, and in some cases setting represent abstract concepts apart from the literal meaning of the story

Alliteration
the repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of words

Allusion
an indirect reference to a person place or thing—fictitious, historical, or actual

Anapest
a metrical foot consisting of three syllables, two unaccented followed by one accented

Anaphora
the repetition of the same word or phrase at the beginning of several successive clauses, verses, or paragraphs

Apostrophe
a figure of speech in which a character or narrator directly addresses an abstract concept, an inanimate object, or a person who is not present

Assonance
the repetition of similar vowel sounds in stressed syllables or words

Ballad
a narrative song or poem passed on orally

Blank verse
verse written in unrhymed iambic pentameter

Caesura
a light but definite pause within a line of poetry

Chiasmus
a rhetorical device in which words or phrases initially presented are restated in reverse order; for example, “do not live to eat, but eat to live.”

Conceit
an elaborate, extended, and often surprising comparison made between two very dissimilar things that exhibits the author’s ingenuity and cleverness

Concrete poem
a poem in which the visual arrangement of the letters and words suggests its meaning

Connotation
the emotional associations that surround a word, as opposed to its denotation

Couplet
two successive lines of verse that have the same meter and in many cases rhyme

Dactyl
a three-syllable metrical foot consisting of a stressed syllable followed by two unstressed syllables

Denotation
the literal meaning of a words—its “dictionary definition” that does not take into account any other emotions or ideas the reader may associate with it

Dialect
variety of language spoken by a social group in a certain locality that differs from the standard speech in pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammatical form

Diction
the author’s choice of words and phrases; involves both denotation and connotation

Didactic poetry
poetry whose purpose is to teach the reader some kind of lesson

Elegy
a lament or sadly meditative poem, sometimes written on the occasion of a death; usually formal in language and structure and solemn or melancholy in tone

End rhyme
rhyming words at the ends of lines of poetry

End stopped line
a line poetry that contains a complete thought, usually ending with a period, colon, or semicolon, and therefore ends in a full pause; the opposite of a run-on line

Enjambment
the employment of run-on lines of poetry, whereby the meaning of a statement is carried from one line to the next without pause

Epic
a long narrative poem describing the deeds of a great hero, great adventures, and matters of national or global significance and sometimes featuring supernatural forces

Epigram
a short poem that ends in a witty or ingenious turn of thought, to which the rest of the composition is intended to lead up

Eye rhyme
rhyme in which two or more words look the same and are spelled similarly but have different pronunciations, for example, “have” and “grave”; also called sight rhyme

Feminine ending
an unaccented syllable at the end of a line of poetry

Figurative language
language used in a non-literal way; figurative language uses figures of speech such as similes, metaphors, personification, hyperbole, synecdoche, etc.

Foot
a division of verse consisting of a number of syllables, one of which has the principal stress; the basic unit of meter in poetry

Free verse
poetry that does not have a fixed meter or rhyme scheme

Haiku
a Japanese poetic form that is comprised of three unrhymed lines of five, seven, and five syllables respectively

Heroic couplet
two rhymed lines of iambic pentameter

Hyperbole
a figure of speech in which exaggeration or overstatement is used for special effect

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