Poetry Terms

Alliteration

The repetition of identical or similar consonant sounds, normally at the beginning of words.

Apostrophe

Direct address, usually to someone or something that is not present.

Assonance

The repetition of identical or similar vowel sounds.

Cacophony

A mixture of harsh, unpleasant or discordant sounds.

Conceit

A poetic device using elaborate comparisons, such as equating a loved one with the grace and beauties of the world.

Connotation

The implications of a word or phrase, as opposed to its exact meaning.

Consonance

The repetition of consonant sounds, normally at the ends of words and following different vowel sounds.

Denotation

The dictionary meaning of a word.

End-stopped

A line with a pause at the end.

Enjambment or run-on line

A line having no end punctuation but running over to the next line.

Euphony

Pleasing, harmonious sounds.

Hyperbole

Deliberate exaggeration, overstatement.

Imagery

The images of a literary work; the sensory details of a work; the figurative language of a work.

Irony

A figure of speech in which intent and actual meaning differ.

Litotes

A figure of speech in which affirmation is expressed by the negation of the opposite.

Metaphor

A figurative use of language in which a comparison is expressed without the use of a comparative term like "as", "like", or "than".

Metonymy

A figure of speech in which one thing is represented by another that is commonly and often physically associated with it.

Onomatopoeia

The use of words whose sound suggests their meaning.

Simile

A comparison of two things, indicated by some connective, usually like, as or than.

Sibilance

A type of alliteration involving repetition of the consonant s to produce a soft or hissing sound such as "Sally sells sea shells by the seashore".

Stanza

A recurring pattern of two or more lines of verse, poetry's equivalent to the paragraph in prose.

Symbol

Something that is simultaneously itself and a sign of something else.

Synecdoche

A figure of speech in which a part of something is used to represent to whole or, occasionally, the whole is used to represent the part.

Synesthesia

When one kind of sensory experience evokes the feeling of another.

Tone

The manner in which an author expresses his or her attitude; the intonation of the voice that expresses meaning.

Verse

Can refer to any single line of poetry and/or any composition in lines of more or less regular rhythm.

Accent

The emphasis given to a syllable

Anapest

A metrical foot in verse in which two unstressed syllables are followed by a stressed syllable.

Ballad

A poem written in four-line stanzas characterized by swift action and narrated in a direct style.

Ballad Meter

A four-lined stanza rhymed abcb with four feet in lines one and three and three feet in lines two and four.

Blank verse

Unrhymed iambic pentameter

Caesura

A pause in a line of verse

Clerihew

A comic verse form named for its inventor, Edmund Clerihew Bentley. A clerihew begins with the name of a person and consists of two metrically awkward, rhymed couplets.

Closed-form

Poetry written in some preexisting pattern of meter, rhyme, line or stanza.

Couplet

A two-line stanza in poetry, usually rhymed, which tends to have lines of equal length.

Dactyl

A metrical foot of three syllables, an accented syllable followed by two unaccented syllables.

Didactic poetry

Kind of poetry intended to teach the reader a moral lesson or provide a model for proper behavior.

Dramatic poetry

Any verse written for the stage, as in the plays of ancient Greece, the Renaissance, and neoclassical periods.

Elegy

A lament or sadly meditative poem, often written on the occasion of a death or other solemn theme.

Epic

A long narrative poem usually composed in an elevated style tracing the adventures of a legendary or mythic hero.

Exact rhyme

A full rhyme in which the sounds following the initial letters of the words are identical in sounds.

Eye Rhyme

Eye-rhyming words look as though they should rhyme exactly but do not.

Falling Meter

Meter in which first syllable is accented, followed by one or more unaccented syllables.

Feminine Rhyme

A rhyme of two or more syllables with a stress on a syllable other than the last, as in turtle and fertile.

Foot

A rhythmic unit into which a line of metrical verse is divided.

Free verse

Poetry which is not written in a traditional meter but is still rhythmical.

Heroic Couplet

Two end-stopped iambic pentameter lines rhymed aa, bb, cc with the thought usually completed in the two-line unit.

Hexameter

A line containing six feet.

Iamb

A two-syllable foot with an unaccented syllable followed by an accented syllable.

Internal rhyme

Rhyme that occurs within a line, rather than at the end.

Limerick

A short and usually comic verse form consisting of five anapestic lines usually rhyming aabba.

Lyric poem

A short poem expressing the thoughts and feelings of a single speaker.

Masculine Rhyme

Either a rhyme of one syllable words or - in multi-syllable words - a rhyme in on the stressed final syllables.

Meter

A recurrent, regular, rhythmic pattern in verse.

Narrative poetry

A poem that tells a troy.

Octave

A stanza of eight lines often used in relation to the first eight lines of certain sonnets.

Open form

Verse that has no set formal scheme - no meter, rhyme, or even set stanzaic pattern - always in free verse.

Pentameter

A line containing five feet

Pyrrhic

A foot consisting of two unaccented syllables.

Quatrain

A stanza consisting of four lines.

Rhyme

Two or more words that contain an identical or similar vowel sound, usually accented, with following consonant sounds identical as well.

Rhyme scheme

A recurrent pattern of rhyme within an individual poem or fixed form.

Rhyme royal

A 7 line stanza of iambic pentameter rhymed ababbcc, used by Chaucer and other medieval poets.

Rhythm

The pattern of stresses and pauses in a poem.

Rising Meter

A meter whose movement rises from an unstressed syllable to a stressed syllable.

Scansion

Examining a poem for meter.

Sestet

A poem or stanza of six lines

Sestina

A complex verse form in which six end words are repeated in a prescribed order through six stanzas.

Slant Rhyme

Words that almost rhyme, usually with different vowel sounds and similar consonant sounds.

Sonnet

Normally a 14 line iambic pentameter poem.

Spondee

Two successive, equally heavy accents.

Tercet

A group of three lines of verse, usually all ending in the same rhyme.

Terza rima

A three-line stanza rhymed aba, bcb, cdc.

Tetrameter

A line of four feet

Trochee

A metrical foot in which a stressed syllable is followed by an unstressed syllable as in the words sum-mer and chor-us.

Villanelle

A fixed-form developed by French courtly poets of the Middle Ages in imitation of Italian folk songs. consists of six rhymed stanzas in which two lines are repeated ina prescribed pattern