abecedarian - A poem where each verse begins with successive letters of the alphabet.

acatalectic - Describes a line of verse which has the metrically complete number of syllables in the final foot. For instance "Sing a | song of | sixpence" ( , ( | , ( | , ( ) is acatalectic as it retains the final unstressed syllable. (See also catalectic, hypercatalectic)

accent - The rhythmic stress which gives some syllables more prominence than others. This is a product of the poem’s rhythm and not simply the emphasis of the reader. The use of stressed syllables in a line of poetry helps to define the metre of the poem. Single syllable words are often unaccented. Stress is normally shown by the symbol , , while unaccented syllables are indicated by the symbol ( . (See also cadence, ictus, modulation, rhythm)

accentual verse - This is verse in which the metrical system is formed by the naturally occurring pattern of accented syllables. (See also syllabic verse)

acrostic poem - In an acrostic poem the first letter of each line can be read downwards to reveal a word or message which relates to the poem as a whole. This may be a person’s name, for example. There are variations in which letters other than the first are used to form the message. There is speculation that the original purpose may have concerned ritual magic. (See also mesostich, telestich)

adage - A traditional saying which is held to be a truism. (See also aphorism, dictum, maxim)

adhortation - A variation of exhortation, incitement through words.

adnominal - Attached to a noun.

Adonic - A verse form believed to have developed from songs sung by women during the festival of Adonis. It consists of a dactyl followed by either a trochee or a spondee.

adynaton - (uh-DYE-nuh-tahn) An extreme form of exaggeration or hyperbole which describes an impossibility.

aeolic ode - The Greek form of the Roman Horatian Ode. An ode in the style of the poet Horace. Structured round an elaborate metrical system and rhyme scheme. (See also ode)

affective fallacy - This is the belief, considered to be mistaken, that the affective or psychological influence of a work on the reader is more important than the work itself. Wimsat and Beardsley, who introduced the term, hold that this "ends in impressionism and relativism", the work itself tending to disappear in peripherals.

afflatus - The divine creative inspiration of a poet. Often called divine afflatus. (See also Muse)

Alcaic verse - A lyrical metre used by the Greek poet Alcaeus. There are two forms. The greater Alcaic, written in pentameter, consists of a spondee (or iamb) followed by an iamb, a long syllable and two dactyls ( , , / ( , | ( , | , | , ( ( | , ( ( ) . The lesser Alcaic, in tetrameter, is two dactylic feet followed by two iambic feet ( , ( ( | , ( ( | ( , | ( , )

Alexandrine - A verse form named after a French poem written about 1180, called Alexandre le Grand, which is the first recorded use of the form. It consists of an iambic line of twelve syllables (six feet) with a caesura after the sixth syllable. Similar to iambic pentameter in English poetry. (See also caesura)

allegory - Narrative description of a subject or set of circumstances as a story relating to other circumstances which have similar properties. The use of a fictional setting and characters to explore a subject which is often religious or political. Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan and a good example of an allegorical work. (See also metaphor, symbol, fable)

alliteration - The repetition of the initial consonant sounds in words which are adjacent or close to each other. For example "To sit in solemn silence..." by W S Gilbert. (See also assonance)

allude - To make a passing reference. (See also allusion)

allusion - An implied reference. (See also allude)

ambiguity - (ambiguous) Having a double meaning. A phrase which could have more than one meaning. (See also denotation, connotation)

amphibology - (r) A sentence or phrase made ambiguous through its construction. As in "The chairperson used the casting vote for tea".

amphimacer - (am-FIM-uh-suh) A metrical foot of three syllables, one long, one short and one long ( , ( , ). Another word for a cretic foot. As in "Live thy life| Young and old,| Like yon oak| Bright in spring| Living Gold" by Tennyson. (See also cretic foot)

amplification - To extend a simple statement and inflate its importance.

anabasis - (uh-NAB-uh-sis) In Greek this means "the going up", it is used to refer to the action in a story as it moves towards a climax.

anachronism - An element which is incorrect in its temporal or chronological context. For example in Caesar’s time there were no public clocks, yet Shakespeare mentions the time shown by a clock in his Julius Caesar.

anacoluthon - (r) (an-uh-kuh-LOO-thuhn) Indicates a change in the grammatical construction within the same sentence or a lack of grammatical sequence. For example "We will not change our minds on this - Are we to keep our viewpoint in spite of what the other side say?"

anadiplosis - (r) (an-uh-dip-LOW-sis) A "doubling back" or repeating the word that ends one clause at the start of the next. "We will not give in to tyrants, tyrants who try to subjugate us."

analogue - Items can be said to be in an analogous relationship when they share properties or attributes. "Jones is like the vicar, always turning up unannounced."

analogy - see analogue.

anamnesis - (an-ehm-KNEE-sis) The reminiscence of things past.

anapaest - (or anapest) A metrical foot of two short syllables followed by a long one ( ( ( , ). A reversed dactyl as in " Oh, he flies| through the air | with the grea|test of ease..." (See also dactyl)

anaphora - (r) (uh-NAF-uh-rah) A repetition of a word at the start of a series of phrases, clauses or lines.

  • "We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender." Churchill.
  • anastrophe - (eh-NAS-truh-fee) A change in the normal word order, often in the prepositions and the words they control. For example, " So rested he by the tum tum tree." (See also hyperbation)

    anecdote - A short story about an interesting event. Usually previously unheard or unreported but of general interest.

    antagonist - An adversary. In a story this is the opponent to the protagonist or hero (See also protagonist)

    antanaclasis - (an-tuh-NAK-lah-sis) The use of the same word twice with but with a different sense.

    anticlimax - Failure of a story to resolve in a satisfying way. Although often unintentional it is sometimes used purposefully in humour.

    antimetabole - (an-ti-muh-TAB-uh-lee) Words which are reused in a reversed order to give emphasis or changed meaning. "Remember March, the ides of March remember." (Shakespeare)

    antistrophe - (an-TIS-truh-fee) Repetition of the same word or phrase at the end of successive clauses.

  • In 1931, ten years ago, Japan invaded Manchukuo -- without warning. In 1935, Italy invaded Ethiopia -- without warning. In 1938, Hitler occupied Austria -- without warning. In 1939, Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia -- without warning. Later in 1939, Hitler invaded Poland -- without warning. And now Japan has attacked Malaya and Thailand -- and the United States --without warning.

    Franklin D. Roosevelt

  • It can also refer to the repetition of words in reversed order.

    antithesis - (an-TI-thuh-sis)The contrast of ideas through a parallel construction:

  • Pursuit of profit is not a crime, pursuit of poverty is not a virtue.
  • antonomasia - (an-tuh-nuh-MAY-zyuh) The use of an epithet or title to stand in place of a name, as in "The Iron Duke." Or the use of a name to stand for a quality as in "a Soloman."

    aphaeresis - (uh-FIRE-uh-sis) Taking away a letter or syllable at the start of a word. " ‘Ave you got it?"

    aphorism - A short and easily expressed statement of a principle or any easily expressed precept or observation. (See also maxim)

    apocopate - Cutting off the last letter or syllable of a word. "Alrigh’, I said Alrigh’."

    apocopated rhyme – A rhyme between a word ending and the first syllable of the rhyming word, as in "...pain, ...gaining."

    apocope - (uh-POC-uh-pee) The loss of a letter or letters at the end of a word. (See also apocopate)

    Apollonian - A distinction made in The Birth Of Tragedy by Nietzsche according to which the human spirit and consequently literature are ruled by either of two principles - the Apollonian and the Dionysian. The former is classical, detached, cerebral, measured and disciplined, as represented in the writing of Racine, Pope and Locke. The latter is romantic, involved, emotional, wild and frenzied, though the writing of it can be disciplined as in Shelley and Byron. (See also romantic)

    aporia - (r) A feigned doubt. As in "What shall become of us?"

    aposiopesis - (r) (uh-poss-i-owe-PEE-sis) An ellipse in which the speaker comes to a halt overcome by passion or modesty. (See also ellipsis)

    apostrophe - (ah-POSS-truh-fee) Turning aside in talking to a general audience to address a small group or person. Often an aside to God. (See also aside)

    Arcadia - A pastoral scene. The word is derived from the name of an idyllic area of ancient Greece.

    archaism - An old or obsolete form, sometimes introduced for effect. Ye Olde Café.

    archetype - A primitive or universal theme. For example both Pilgrim’s Progress and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner contain the archetypal idea of man’s journey through adversity. Jung maintained that such "primordial images" lie in the "collective unconsciousness." Later work by Cambell, Vogler, Bennett and others on literary structures tends to support this view. (See also stereotype)

    aside - Literally a turning aside from the dialogue or argument to make another point. Often asides are made to appeal directly to the reader or an audience, or to God. (See also apostrophe)

    assonance - Repetition of the same vowel sound in words appearing close to each other.

    (See also alliteration, consonance)

    asyndeton - (ah-SIN-duh-tuhn|) Lack of conjunctions between phrases, clauses or words. As in "I came, I saw, I conquered." J Caesar

    aubade - (oh-BARD) A song sung at dawn by departing lovers. As in "It was the lark, the herald of the morn " from Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare.

    autobiography - The life story of a person written by that person. (See also biography)

    auxesis - (ork-SEE-sis) Hyperbole. The amplification of a word, for example referring to a shrub as a great tree.

    avant-garde - From the French expression meaning vanguard. Thus if we think of the literary and artistic world in terms of an army on the march, the avant-garde are the precursors, those who go before and prepare the way; the ranks trudging up behind are the imitators of trends and the art consumers; while the rearguard are the academicians, those who do not recognise their own century, let alone the unborn one foreshadowed by the avant-garde. The other slant on the word is more cynical and conceives of the avant-guardists as self-consciously acting out the role of trail-blazers with a sort of "my, aren’t we adventurous" swagger.