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English Literary Terms

Alliteration: a series of similar consonant sounds

Ex. The smelly slithery snake slithered slowly.

Antagonist: the “bad” person in a novel.

Aside: remark by a character in a play intended to be heard by the audience but not by the other

Assonance: The repetition of vowel sounds, but not consonants.

Blank Verse: Verse without rhyme, esp. that which uses unrhymed iambic pentameter

Aptonym: a name that suggests a person’s character

Ex. Curio- suggests a curious nature.

Cacophony: Harsh, discordant sounds.

Classical Allusion: a reference to Greek OR Roman mythology

Ex. Like Acteon….

Character (development): In most stories, some of the characters are given positive, heroic portrayals.
Others have negative villainous portraits. Still others may begin with more negative qualities and
gradually become more and more positive. The author gives us details about characters physical
appearance, actions, speech, behavior, and interaction with others that help us figure out who is “good”
and who is “bad”.

Characterization (four principle methods): Methods used by the author to reveal the character’s
personalities to the reader.
Four principle methods refer to the methods by which a writer creates a character:
What others say about the character
What the character does
What the character says
What the character things

Climax: The most intense, exciting, or important point of something

Connotation: An idea or feeling that a word invokes for a person in addition to its literal or primary

Conflict: a struggle. The four central types of conflict:

Person against person (interpersonal conflict)
Person against self (internal conflict)
Person against nature (threat by element of nature)
Person against society (conflict with society)

Consonance: The repetition of consonant sounds, but not vowels.

Denotation: The literal or primary meaning of a word, in contrast to the feelings or ideas that the word

Dramatic Irony: The reader of audience knows something a character does not know.

Euphemism: A mild or indirect word or expression for one too harsh or blunt when referring to
something unpleasant or embarrassing.

Euphony: Soothing, pleasant sounds.

Foreshadowing: Occurs when the author gives a hint of what is to happen.

Free Verse: No rhyme

Hyperbole: A description that is exaggerated for emphasis.

Imagery: A word or a group of words in a literary word which appeal to one or more of the senses.

Malapropism: Comic misuse of a word.

Metaphor: A direct comparison not using “like” or “as”

Onomatopoeia: The formation of a word from a sound associated with what is named (e.g.
cuckoo, sizzle).

Oxymoron: A figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction (e.g. faith
unfaithful kept him falsely true).

Pathos: A feeling of great sympathy generated towards a character.

Personification: When you describe an object like a person.

Plot: A story commonly begins with an exposition, an explanation of the situation and the condition of
the character. A story ends with a resolution, the sense at the end of the story that it is complete.

Prose: Written or spoken language.

Protagonist: The central character. Protagonist is a term neutral in connotation, in some instances; the
protagonist might not be heroic.

Pun: a play on words where in a word is used to convey the two meanings at the same time.

Rhyming couplet: A couplet is a pair of lines of meter in poetry. It usually consists of two lines that
rhyme and have the same meter.

Soliloquy: An act of speaking one's thoughts aloud when by oneself or regardless of any hearers, esp. by
a character in a play.
Simile: An indirect comparison using “like” or “as”.

Situational Irony: A discrepancy between the expected result and the actual result.

Suspense: The quality of a literary work that makes the reader or audience uncertain or tense about the
outcome of events.

Symbolism: Giving special meaning to objects, things, events etc.

Synecdoche: A figure of speech using a word that is a part to represent a whole.

Theme: The subject of a talk, a piece of writing, a person's thoughts, or an exhibition; a topic: "the
theme of the sermon was reverence".
Verbal Irony: A writer or speaker says one thing but means another.

Stereotype: A conventional formulaic and oversimplified conception, opinion or image.