Guide to Literary Terms Complete Index

Start Your Free Trial

Download Guide to Literary Terms Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Complete Index

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...

(The entire section is 283 words.)