A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | Z
  • Anaphora

    (Greek, ‘a carrying up or back’)

    Successive phrases, clauses, or lines start with the same word or words. Emily Brontë's "Remembrance," for example, repeats its opening phrase, "Cold in the earth."

  • Antepenultima

    The second last word of a line, or the second last syllable of a word.

  • Anthropomorphism

    A figure of speech where the poet characterizes an abstract thing or object as if it were a person. See also Personification.

  • Antibacchic

    Classical Greek and Latin foot consisting of long, long, and short syllables / ' ' ~ / . An English example is the word "Goddamit."

  • Antiphon

    A sacred poem with responses or alternative parts.

  • Antispast

    Greek and Latin metrical foot consisting of short, long, long, and short syllables (i.e., an iambus and a trochee) / ~ ' ' ~ / . A possible English example is "unblackguarded."

  • Antistrophe

    (Greek, ‘counter-turn’)

    (1) A reply to the strophe, and the second stanza in a Pindaric ode; or (2) the repetition of the same word or phrase at the end of successive lines or clauses.

  • Antithesis

    Contrasting or combining two terms, phrases, or clauses with opposed or antithetical meanings.

  • Antonomasia

    (Greek, ‘name instead’)

    Using an epithet or a title in place of a proper name.

  • Antonymy

    Semantic contrasts.

  • Aphesis

    The omission of the initial syllable of a word. See also Apocope.

  • Aphorism

    One writer's citation of another, known author's truism or pithy remark.

  • Apocope

    The omission of the last syllable of a word. See also Aphesis.

  • Aporia

    Explained by Samuel Johnson, in his great dictionary (1755), as "a figure in rhetorick, by which the speaker shews, that he doubts where to begin for the multitude of matter, or what to say in some strange and ambiguous thing; and doth, as it were, argue the case with himself."

  • Aposiopesis

    An interruption of an expresion without a subsequent restarting. See also Anacoluthon.

  • Apostrophe

    (Greek, ‘to turn away’)

    An address to a dead or absent person or personification as if he or she were present.

  • Archaism

    Using obsolete or archaic words when current alternatives are available.

  • Archetype

    Something in the world, and described in literature, that, according to the psychologist Karl Jung, manifests a dominant theme in the collective unconscious of human beings. Northrop Frye in his Anatomy of Criticism argues for a taxonomy of consciously literary archetypes in Western literature. See Symbol.

  • Asclepiad

    A Classical metrical line made up of a spondee, two or three choriambs, and one iamb or spondee, i.e., / ' ' / ' ~ ~ ' / ' ~ ~ ' / ~ ' / (named after the Greek poet Asclepiades, ca. 290 B.C.). Examples of accentual asclepiads in English include Sir Philip Sidney's "O sweet woods, the delight of solitariness" from Arcadia, and W. H. Auden's "In Due Season."

  • Assonance

    (Latin, ‘to answer with the same sound’)

    The rhyming of a word with another in one or more of their accented vowels, but not in their consonants; sometimes called vowel rhyme.

  • Asyndeton

    (Greek ‘unconnected’)

    Lists of words, phrases, or expressions without conjunctions such as ‘and’ and ‘or’ to link them. George Herbert uses this figure of speech in "Prayer (1)."

  • Atmosphere

    The mood or pervasive feeling insinuated by a literary work.

  • Aubade


    A medieval love poem welcoming or lamenting the arrival of the dawn. An example is John Donne's "The Sun Rising."

  • Augustan

    English literature at the beginning of the 18th century by poets such as Addison, Pope, and Swift, who emulated Ovid, Horace, or Virgil, the great Latin poets of the reign of the emperor Augustus (27 B.C. - 14 A.D.).

  • Aureate language

    Polysyllabic Latinate poetic diction employed especially by the Scottish Chaucerians. See Poetic diction.