Guide to Literary Terms Introduction

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Introduction

eNotes provides 141 guides to literary terms, including the definition and usage of each term, and examples of how different literary terms are used in famous works of writing. eNotes also houses 71,400 unique pages of information regarding literary terms, including specific Q&A content, regarding literary terms and their usage in specific works of writing.

What is a Literary Term?

From metaphor to hyperbole and everything in between, the way we tell stories is made up of different literary devices. When writing a work of fiction, we employ extended metaphor, building a parallel to the real world through allusion. In poetry, we play with alliteration and assonance, utilizing meter and rhyme scheme to change how the audience reads or hears the poem. Each literary term describes an element of wordplay, a literary device that transforms simple words into complex thoughts, emotions, and images.

A literary device is a way of shaping words, either literally or figuratively, in order to stir a particular response in the reader or listener. These devices can be found in the oldest records of poetry and story-telling around the world, from imagery in Japanese renga and haiku to motif in The Epic of Gilgamesh. We even use literary devices in conversation, such as hyperbole and allusion. Literary terms are how we define different elements of the written and spoken word, enabling us to better understand the intent of the artist. Below, see a breakdown of each literary term, how it’s used, and where it can be found in literature.

  1. (the) Absurd
  2. Allegory
  3. Alliteration
  4. Allusion
  5. Ambiguity
  6. Anachronism
  7. Analogy
  8. Anaphora
  9. Antagonist
  10. Anticlimax
  11. Antithesis
  12. Anthropomorphism
  13. Aphorism
  14. Apology
  15. Apostrophe
  16. Archetype
  17. Atmosphere
  18. Black Comedy
  19. Blank Verse
  20. Bombast
  21. Canon
  22. Canto
  23. Catharsis
  24. Character
  25. Characterization
  26. Chorus
  27. Chronicle
  28. Climax
  29. Closure
  30. Colloquialism
  31. Comedy
  32. Comic Relief
  33. Connotation
  34. Context
  35. Couplet
  36. Denotation
  37. Denouement
  38. Dialect
  39. Dialogue
  40. Diction
  41. Digression
  42. Direct Characterization
  43. Drama
  44. Elegy
  45. Epic
  46. Epigram
  47. Epilogue
  48. Epithet
  49. Essay
  50. Euphemism
  51. Exegesis
  52. Exposition
  53. Fable
  54. Fantasy
  55. Farce
  56. Fiction
  57. Figure of Speech
  58. Folklore
  59. Folk Tale
  60. Flat and Round Characters
  61. Formula
  62. Free Verse
  63. Foreshadowing
  64. Literary Genre
  65. Haiku
  66. Homily
  67. Hubris
  68. Hyperbole
  69. Idiom
  70. Imagery
  71. In medias res
  72. Interior Monologue
  73. Indirect Characterization
  74. Irony
  75. Kenning
  76. Lampoon
  77. Legend
  78. Limerick
  79. Litany
  80. Literature
  81. Malapropism
  82. Melodrama
  83. Metaphor
  84. Monologue
  85. Morality Play
  86. Mood
  87. Myth
  88. Narrative
  89. Novel
  90. Ode
  91. Onomatopoeia
  92. Oratory
  93. Oxymoron
  94. Palindrome
  95. Parable
  96. Paradox
  97. Parallelism
  98. Paraphrase
  99. Parody
  100. Pastoral
  101. Persona
  102. Personification
  103. Plot
  104. Poetry
  105. Point of View
  106. Prologue
  107. Prose
  108. Protagonist
  109. Proverb
  110. Pun
  111. Pyrrhic
  112. Realism
  113. Refrain
  114. Rhetoric
  115. Rhetorical Question
  116. Rhyme
  117. Riddle
  118. Saga
  119. Satire
  120. Scene
  121. Science Fiction
  122. Short Story
  123. Simile
  124. Static and Dynamic Characters
  125. Soliloquy
  126. Sonnet
  127. Spoonerism
  128. Stanza
  129. Story
  130. Style
  131. Subplot
  132. Symbols and Symbolism
  133. Synopsis
  134. Syntax
  135. Understatement
  136. Theme
  137. Thesis
  138. Tone
  139. Tragedy
  140. Verse
  141. Voice