1. Basic Terms
denotation: the dictionary meaning of a word
connotation: the implied or suggested meaning connected with a word
literal meaning: limited to the simplest, ordinary, most obvious meaning
figurative meaning: associative or connotative meaning; representational
meter: measured pattern of rhythmic accents in a line of verse
rhyme: correspondence of terminal sounds of words or of lines of verse
2. Figurative Language
apostrophe: a direct address of an inanimate object, abstract qualities, or a person not living or present.
Example: "Beware, O Asparagus, you've stalked my last meal."
hyperbole: exaggeration for emphasis (the opposite of understatement)
Example: "I'm so hungry I could eat a horse."
metaphor: comparison between essentially unlike things without using words OR application of a name or description to something to which it is not literally applicable
Example: "[Love] is an ever fixed mark, / that looks on tempests and is never shaken."
metonymy: a closely related term substituted for an object or idea
Example: "We have always remained loyal to the crown."
oxymoron: a combination of two words that appear to contradict each other
paradox: a situation or phrase that appears to be contradictory but which contains a truth worth considering
Example: "In order to preserve peace, we must prepare for war."
personification: the endowment of inanimate objects or abstract concepts with animate or living qualities
Example: "Time let me play / and be golden in the mercy of his means"
pun: play on words OR a humorous use of a single word or sound with two or more implied meanings; quibble
Example: "They're called lessons . . . because they lessen from day to day."
simile: comparison between two essentially unlike things using words such as "like," as," or "as though"
Example: "My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun"
synecdoche: a part substituted for the whole
Example: "Friends, Romans, countrymen: lend me your ears"
3. Poetic Devices
irony: a contradiction of expectation between what is said and what is meant (verbal irony) or what is expected in a particular circumstance or behavior (situational), or when a character speaks in ignorance of a situation known to the audience or other characters (situational)
Example: "Time held me green and dying / Though I sang in my chains like the sea"
imagery: word or sequence of words representing a sensory experience (visual, auditory, olfactory, tactile, and gustatory)
Example: "bells knelling classes to a close" (auditory)
synesthesia: an attempt to fuse different senses by describing one in terms of another
Example: the sound of her voice was sweet
symbol: an object or action that stands for something beyond itself
Example: white = innocence, purity, hope
alliteration: the repetition of consonant sounds, particularly at the beginning of words
Example: ". . . like a wanderer white"
assonance: the repetition of similar vowel sounds
Example: "I rose and told him of my woe"
elision: the omission of an unstressed vowel or syllable to preserve the meter of a line of poetry
"Th' expense of spirit in a waste of shame"
onomatopoeia: the use of words to imitate the sounds they describe
Example: "crack" or "whir"
allusion: a reference to the person, event, or work outside the poem or literary piece
Example: "Shining, it was Adam and maiden"
4. Poetic Forms
open: poetic form free from regularity and consistency in elements such as rhyme, line length, and metrical form
closed: poetic form subject to a fixed structure and pattern
stanza: unit of a poem often repeated in the same form throughout a poem; a unit of poetic lines ("verse paragraph")
blank verse: unrhymed iambic pentameter
free verse: lines with no prescribed pattern or structure
couplet: a pair of lines, usually rhymed
heroic couplet: a pair of rhymed lines in iambic pentameter (tradition of the heroic epic form)
quatrain: four-line stanza or grouping of four lines of verse
sonnet fourteen line poem in iambic pentameter with a prescribed rhyme scheme; its subject is traditionally that of love
English (Shakespearean) Sonnet: A sonnet probably made popular by Shakespeare with the following rhyme scheme: abab cdcd efef gg
Italian (Petrarchan) Sonnet: A form of sonnet made popular by Petrarch with the following rhyme scheme: abbaabba cdecde OR cdcdcd
Its first octave generally presents a thought, picture, or emotion, while its final sestet presents an explanation, comment, or summary.
stress: greater amount of force used to pronounce one syllable over another
pause: (caesura) a pause for a beat in the rhythm of the verse (often indicated by a line break or a mark of punctuation)
rising meter: meter containing metrical feet that move from unstressed to stressed syllables
iambic (iamb): a metrical foot containing two syllables--the first is unstressed, while the second is stressed
anapestic (anapest): a metrical foot containing three syllables--the first two are unstressed, while the last is stressed
falling meter: meter containing metrical feet that move from stressed to unstressed syllables
trochaic (trochee): a metrical foot containing two syllables--the first is stressed, while the second is unstressed
dactylic (dactyl): a metrical foot containing three syllables--the first is stressed, while the last two are unstressed
spondee: an untraditional metrical foot in which two consecutive syllables are stressed
iambic pentameter: a traditional form of rising meter consisting of lines containing five iambic feet (and, thus, ten syllables)