Glossary of LIterary and Rhetorical Terms

  1. Allegory
    • Allegory
    • A story, fictional or nonfictional, in which characters, things, and events represent qualities or concepts. The interaction of these characters, things, and events is meant to reveal an abstraction or a truth. These characters, etc. may be symbolic of the ideas referred to.
  2. Alliteration
    • Alliteration
    • Repetition of initial identical consonant sounds of two or more words in close proximity. The consonant sound may also appear in the middle of words.
  3. Allusion
    • Allusion
    • An indirect reference to something (usually a literary text) with which the reader is supposed to be familiar. Allusion is often used with humorous intent, to establish a connection between writer and reader, or to make a subtle point.
  4. Analogy
    • Analogy
    • An analogy is a comparison to a directly parallel case. When a writer uses an analogy, he or she argues that a claim reasonable for one case is reasonable for the analogous case.
  5. Anaphora (a-‘na-fo-rah)
    • Anaphora (a-‘na-fo-rah)
    • Repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of two or more clauses in a row. This is a deliberate form of repetition and helps make the writer’s point more coherent.
  6. Antithesis
    • Antithesis
    • A balancing of two opposite or contrasting words, phrases, or clauses.
  7. Apostrophe
    • Apostrophe
    • A figure of speech that directly addresses an absent or imaginary person or a personified abstraction, such as liberty or love. The effect may add familiarity or emotional intensity. William Wordsworth addresses John Milton as he writes, “Milton, thou shouldst be living at this hour: England hath need of thee.”
  8. Assonance
    • Assonance
    • Repetition of vowel sound within two or more words in close proximity.
  9. Asyndeton
    • Asyndeton (a-‘sin-deh-ten)
    • Commas used (with no conjunction) to separate a series of words. The parts are emphasized equally when the conjunction is omitted; in addition, the use of commas with no intervening conjunction speeds up the flow of the sentence. Asyndeton takes the form of X, Y, Z as opposed to X, Y, and Z.
  10. Chiasmus
    • Chiasmus (kie-‘az-mus)
    • The repetition of words, sounds, concepts or syntactic structures in reverse order for surprise and emphasis. For example, “Fair is foul and foul is fair” in Macbeth and “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country” from one of JFK’s famous speeches.
  11. Ellipsis
    • Ellipsis
    • Omission of a word or of words that are nonetheless understood given the context of the sentence.
  12. Hyperbole
    • Hyperbole
    • Conscious exaggeration used to heighten effect. Not intended literally, hyperbole is often humorous.
  13. Irony
    Irony is an implied contrast. In verbal irony, the contrast is between what is said and what is intended, as when one says in disgust, “That’s just great.” In dramatic irony, a character in a play, short story, or novel expects one outcome of a situation that the audience knows will end in a different way. In situational irony, the opposite or something very different happens than what is expected.
  14. Litotes
    • Litotes (lie-‘toe-teez)
    • Understatement employed for the purpose of enhancing the effect of the ideas expressed. Contains a negative. A form of meiosis.
  15. Meiosis
    • Meiosis
    • The opposite of hyperbole. It is a kind of irony that deliberately represents something as being much less than it really is: e.g., I could probably manage to survive on a salary of two million dollars a year.
  16. Metaphor
    • Metaphor
    • An implied comparison of two unlike things based on some commonality between the two. A figurative verbal equation results where both “parts” illuminate one another.
  17. Metonymy
    • Metonymy
    • The use of the name of one thing for that of another associated with or suggested by it. For example, “the White House” for the “President.”
  18. Onomatopoeia
    • Onomatopoeia
    • The use of a word whose pronunciation suggests its meaning. “Buzz,” “hiss,” “slam,” and “pop” are frequently used examples.
  19. Oxymoron
    • Oxymoron
    • A rhetorical antithesis. Juxtaposing two contradictory terms, like “wise fool” or “eloquent silence.”
  20. Paradox
    • Paradox
    • A seemingly contradictory statement that is actually true. This rhetorical device is often used for emphasis or simply to attract attention.
  21. parallelism
    • Parallelism
    • Sentence construction that places in close proximity two or more equal grammatical constructions. Parallel structure may be as simple as listing two or three modifiers in a row to describe the same noun or verb; it may take the form of two or more of the same type of phrases (prepositional, participial, gerund, appositive) that modify the same noun or verb; itmay also take the form of two or more subordinate clauses that modify the same noun or verb. Or, parallel structure may be a complex blend of single-word, phrase, and clause parallelism all in the same sentence.
  22. Personification
    • Personification
    • Figurative language in which inanimate objects, animals, ideas, or abstractions are endowed with human traits or human form.
  23. Polysyndeton
    Polysyndeton (pa-lee-'sin-deh-ten) Sentence that uses and or another conjunction (with no commas) to separate the items in a series. Polysyndeton appears in the form of X and Y and Z, stressing equally each member of the series. It makes the sentence slower and the items more emphatic than in the asyndeton.
  24. Rhetorical Question or Erotema (er-‘ot-eh-ma)
    • Rhetorical Question or Erotema (er-‘ot-eh-ma)
    • A question that expects no answer. It is used to draw attention to a point and is generally stronger than a direct statement: e.g., “If Mr. Ferchoff is always fair, as you have said, why did he refuse to listen to Mrs. Baldwing’s arguments?”
  25. Simile
    A direct comparison of two unlike things based on some commonality between the two, using the connecting words “like” or “as”.
  26. Synecdoche
    • Synecdoche (sin-‘ek-deh-kee)
    • A form of a metaphor where a part of something is used to signify the whole: e.g., All hands on deck. Also, the reverse, whereby the whole can represent a part, is synecdoche: e.g., Canada played the United States in the Olympic hockey finals. Another form of synecdoche involves the container representing the thing being contained: e.g., The pot is boiling. In one last form of synecdoche, the material from which an object is made stands for the object itself: e.g., The quarterback tossed the pigskin.
  27. Ambiguity
    An event or situation that may be interpreted in more than one way. Also, the manner of the expression of such an event or situation may be ambiguous. ARtful language may be ambiguous. Unintentional ambiguity is usually vagueness.
  28. Anadipolsis
    The repetition of a key word especially the last one, at the beginning of the next sentence or clause. For example, "He gave his lifel life was all he could give
  29. Anathema
    a thing or person accursed or damned; a thing or person greatly detested; a formal curse or condemnation excommunicating a person from a church of damning something; any strong curse.
  30. Anecdote
    a brief recounting of a relevant episode from a person's experience. Anecdotes are often inserted into fiction or nonfiction texts as a way of developing a point or injecting humor
  31. anthimeria
    one part of speech, usually a verb, substitutes for another, usually a noun.
  32. anticlimax
    using a sequence of ideas that abruptly diminish in dignity or importance at the end of a sentence, generally for satirical effect.
  33. antimetabole
    figure of emphasis in which the words in one phrase or clause are replicated, exactly or closely in reverse grammatical order in the next phrase or clause; a chiasmus on the level of words (A-B, B-A). For example, "and so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country"
  34. Aphorism
    a terse statement of known authorship that express a general truth or moral principle. (If the authorship is unknown, the statement is generally considered to be a proverb). An aphorism can be a memorable summation of the authors point.
  35. Archetype
    the origional pattern, or model, form which all other things of the same kind are made; a perfect example of a type or group
  36. argument
    the mode of writing that appeals to the readers' reason and emotions in order to win agreement with a claim or compel some action
  37. authority
    arguments that draw on recognized experts or persons with highly relevant experience are said to rest on authoritative backing or authority. Readers are expected to accept claims if they are in agreement with an authority 's view.
  38. bathos
    an abrupt change form the lofty to the ordinary or trivial in writing or speech; anticlimax
  39. cacophony
    harsh sounding., jarring sound; dissonance
  40. caesura
    A grammatical pause introduced into the reading of a line by a mark of punctuation or a rhetorical pause, unmarked by punctuation, that occurs naturally due to the phrasing or syntax of the line
  41. casual relationship
    in a casual relationship, a writter assers that one thing results form another. To show how one thing produces or brings about another is often relevant in establishing a logical argument.
  42. cliche
    an overused, worn-out, hackneyed expressed that used to be fresh but is no more. "Blushing bride" and "clinging vine" are cliches used to described people. Cliche deadens writting rather than enlivening it.
  43. climax
    arranging words, clauses or sentences in order of their importance, the least formidable coming first, and the others rising in power until the last
  44. colloquial
    the use of slang or informalities in speech or writting. not generally acceptable for formal writing, colloquialisms give a work a conversational, familiar tone. Colloquial expressions in writing include local and regional dialects.
  45. Common Knowledge
    Shared beliefs or assumptions are often called common knowledge. A writer may argue that if something is widely believed, then readers should accept it.
  46. Conceit
    A fanciful expression, usually in the form of an extended metaphor or surprising analogy between seemingly dissimilar objects. A conceit displays intellectual cleverness due to the unusual comparison made.
  47. Consonance
    Repetition of a consonant sounds within two or more words in close proximity.
  48. Conventional (adj.)
    Following certain conventions, or traditional techniques of writing. An over reliance on conventions may result in a lack of originality. The five-paragraph essay is considered conventional.
  49. Device
    A plan. Something used to produce an artistic effect.
  50. Diction
    Word choice, particularly as an element of style. Different types and arrangements of words have significant effects on meaning. An essay written in academic diction would be much less colorful but perhaps more precise than street slang. For the AP exam, you should be able to describe an author’s diction and understand the ways in which diction can complement the author’s purpose. Diction, combined with syntax, figurative language, literary devices, etc., creates an author’s style.
  51. Didactic (adj.)
    A term used to describe fiction or nonfiction that teaches a specific lesson or moral or provides a model of correct behavior or thinking.
  52. Dirge
    A funeral hymn; a slow, sad song, poem, or musical composition expressing grief or mourning.
  53. Emotional Appeal (Pathos)
    When a writer appeals to an audience’s values, beliefs, or emotions to excite and involve them in the argument. (Over-emotionalism can be the result of an excess of pathos.)
  54. Epanalepsis
    Opening and closing a sentence with the same word or phrase for surprise and emphasis. For example: Buster is deeply concerned to promote the health and well-being of Buster.
  55. Epanorthosis
    Adding words that seem to correct what the writer previously said to give a sense of immediacy. For example: Most of us quickly forget – we want to forget – our moments of childish behavior.
  56. epigraph
    A quotation or aphorism at the beginning of a literary work suggestive of theme.
  57. Epiphany
    A moment of sudden revelation or insight.
  58. Epistle
    An epistle, or literary letter, is a formal composition written in the form of a letter addressed to a distant person or group of people. Unlike common personal letters, which tend to be conversational and private compositions, epistles are carefully crafted works of literature, intended for a general audience.
  59. Epistrophe
    The reverse of anaphora, whereby a word or phrase is repeated at the ends of successive phrases or clauses. Page 76.
  60. Epitaph
    An inscription on a tomb or gravestone in memory of the person buried there; a short composition in prose or verse, written as a tribute to a dead person.
  61. Epithet
    A word or phrase adding a characteristic to a person’s name.
  62. Equivocation
    When a writer uses the same term in two different senses in an argument. Compare with syllepsis.
  63. Ethical Appeal (Ethos)
    When a writer tries to persuade the audience to respect and believe him or her based on a presentation of image of self through the text. Reputation is sometimes a factor in ethical appeals, but in all cases the aim is to gain the audience’s confidence. (Ethos is appeal based on the character of the speaker. An ethos-driven document relies on the reputation of the author.)
  64. Euphemism
    From the Greek for “good speech,” euphemisms are a more agreeable or less offensive concept. The euphemism may be used to adhere to standards of social or political correctness or to add humor or ironic understatement. Saying “earthly remains” rather than “corpse” is an example of euphemism.
  65. Euphony
    The quality of having a pleasing sound; pleasant combination of agreeable sounds.
  66. Explication
    The act of interpreting or discovering the meaning of text. Explication usually involves close reading and special attention to figurative language.
  67. Fable
    A brief story, usually with animal characters, that teaches a lesson, or moral.
  68. Fiction
    A product of a writer’s imagination, usually made up of characters, plot, setting, point of view, and theme. Fiction is often described as lies told with the consent of the reader.
  69. Figurative Language
    A word or words that are inaccurate literally but describe by calling to mind sensations or responses that the thing described evokes. Figurative language may be in the form of metaphors or similes, both of which are non-literal comparisons. Shakespeare’s “All the world’s a stage” is an example of non-literal, figurative language (metaphor, specifically).
  70. Freight-train
    A sentence consisting of three or more very short independent clauses joined by conjunctions.
  71. Homily
    A solemn, moralizing talk or writing; a sermon.
  72. Image
    A verbal representation of sensory experience—that is, of something seen, heard, felt, tasted, or smelled. Through images, a writer touches the readers’ experiences, thus sharpening meaning and adding immediacy.
  73. Hypophora
    Consists of raising one or more questions and then proceeding to answer them, usually at some length. A common usage is to ask the question at the beginning of a paragraph and then use that paragraph to answer it
  74. Imagery
    The use of images, especially in a pattern of related images, often figurative, to create a strong, unified sensory impression.
  75. Inference/Infer
    To conclude or decide from something known or assumed; derive by reasoning.
  76. Invective
    A violent verbal attack; strong criticism, curses; an abusive term.
  77. Juxtaposition
    A poetic and rhetorical device in which normally unassociated ideas, words, or phrases are placed next to one another, creating an effect of surprise and wit: e.g., “The apparition of these faced in the crowd;/Petals on a wet, black bough.”
  78. Maxim
    A concise, pointed statement that gives behavioral advice.
  79. Mock-heroic
    (adj.)Burlesquing or mocking heroic manner, action, or character.
  80. mood
    An atmosphere created by a writer’s word choice (diction) and the details selected. Syntax is also a determiner of mood because sentence strength, length, and complexity affect pacing. The three moods in English are indicative, the most common, which states the action as an actual fact (“Tony hit the ball”), imperative, stating a command “Tony, hit the ball!”), and the subjunctive, which is used to express a wish or a conditional statement: “If I were you…” or “It is required that the applicant be under twenty-one.”
  81. moral
    The lesson drawn from a story. A heavily didactic story.
  82. motif
    A main theme or subject.
  83. myth
    A fictional tale that explains the actions of gods or heroes or the causes of natural phenomena. Some myths are a kind of primitive science, explaining how and why natural phenomena came about. Other myths express the central values of the people who created them.
  84. Negative-positve
    Sentence that begins by stating what is not true, and then ends by stating what is true.
  85. Paean
    (PEE-un)A song of joyful praise or exhortation.
  86. Parable
    A parable is a brief story, usually with human characters, that teaches a moral lesson. The most famous parables are those told by Christ in the Bible.
  87. parenhesis
    A word, phrase, or sentence inserted as an aside in a sentence complete by itself. Pages 74-75.
  88. Parody
    An exaggerated imitation of a serious work for humorous purposes. The writer of a parody uses the quirks of style of the imitated piece in extreme or ridiculous ways.
  89. pedantic
    An unnecessary display of scholarship lacking in judgment or sense or proportion.
  90. Periphrasis (puh-RI-frah-suhs)
    A descriptive word or phrase used to refer to a proper name.
  91. persona
    A writer often adopts a fictional voice (or mask) to tell a story. Persona or voice is usually determined by a combination of subject matter and audience.
  92. Pleonasm
    The needless repetition of words; a tautology on the level of a phrase.
  93. Point of View
    The perspective from which a story is told. First-person, third-person, or omniscient points of views are commonly used.
  94. Proposition
    A debatable claim about a subject; the central idea of an argument.
  95. Prose
    The ordinary form of written or spoken language, without rhyme or meter; speech or writing that is not poetry.
  96. pun
    Play on words that are identical or similar in sound but have sharply diverse meanings. Puns can have serious as well as humorous uses: e.g., When Mercutio is bleeding to death in Romeo and Juliet, he says to his friends, “Ask for me tomorrow, and you shall find me a grave man.”
  97. Rational Appeal (Logos
    In argumentative and persuasive writing, the appeal to the readers’ rational faculties—to their ability to reason logically—in order to win agreement or compel action.
  98. refutation
    When a writer musters relevant opposing arguments.
  99. repetition
    A device in which words, sounds, and ideas are used more than once to enhance rhythm and create emphasis.
  100. Rhetoric
    The art of effective communication, especially persuasive discourse. Rhetoric focuses on the interrelationship of invention, arrangement, and style in order to create felicitous and appropriate discourse.
  101. Rhetorical Modes/or Forms of Discourse
    Narrative, descriptive, expository, and argumentative.
  102. Sarcasm
    A taunting, sneering, cutting, or caustic remark; gibe or jeer. Sarcasm is irony at its most humorless and heavily contemptuous
  103. Satire
    A work that reveals a critical attitude toward some element of human behavior by portraying it in an extreme way. Satire doesn’t simply abuse (as in invective) or get personal (as in sarcasm). Satire targets groups or large concepts rather than individuals. Gulliver’s Travels and Animal Farm are both satires.
  104. Semantics
    The nature, structure, development, and changes of the meanings of speech forms or contextual meaning.
  105. Periodic Sentence
    A sentence in which the writer builds suspense by beginning with subordinate elements and postponing the main clause (but watch for anticlimax). For example: Throwing her prom dress out the window and burning her yearbook, she vowed to spend the rest of her life as a welder.
  106. Loose (or Cumulative) sentence
    A sentence in which the subordinate elements come at the end to call attention to them. For example: He cares about only two things—his page on the Internet and his collection of Beanie Babies
  107. Balanced stntence
    A sentence in which two parallel elements are set off against each other like equal weights on a scale. Both parts of the sentence normally have the same form; that is, they are parallel grammatically, or they give the impression of parallelism. Balanced sentences often lend themselves to antithesis. For example: Faulkner’s imagery is richly evocative, but his syntax is often opaque.Natural OrderIn English, the natural order of a sentence is subject/verb/object.
  108. Inversion sentence
    Variation of the normal word order (subject first, then verb, then complement) that puts a modifier or the verb as first in the sentence. The element that appears first is emphasized more than the subject. This is a device used to create an emphatic or rhythmic effect.
  109. Split Order of a Sentence
    This divides the predicate into two parts with the subject coming the middle: e.g., In California oranges grow.
  110. Solecism
    A violation of grammatical rules (“he don’t” or “between you and I”).
  111. Soliloquy
    Lines in a drama in which a character reveals his thoughts to the audience, but not to the other characters, by speaking as if to himself.
  112. stream of consciousness
    A narrative technique that presents thoughts as if they were coming directly from a character’s mind. Instead of being arranged in chronological order, the events of the story are presented from the character’s point of view, mixed in the character’s feelings and memories just as they might spontaneously occur in the mind of a real person.
  113. Syllepsis
    The linking of one word with two other words in strikingly different ways. For example: The migrants exhausted their resources and exhausted their friends.
  114. Syllogism
    An argument or form of reasoning in which two statements or premises are made and a logical conclusion drawn from them. Example: All mammals are warm-blooded. Whales are mammals. Therefore, whales are warm-blooded.
  115. Symbol
    lA thing, event, or person that represents or stands for some idea or event and is made to mean more than itself. Symbols also simultaneously retain their own literal meanings.
  116. Synesthesia
    Detail that moves from the stimulation of one sense to a response by another sense, as a certain odor induces the visualization of a certain color. Here the act of reading a visual stimulus produces sound: e.g., “the cinnamon beat of the music,” “yellow cocktail music,” “the sparkling odor of jonquils.”
  117. Syntax
    As its simplest level, syntax consists of sentence structure and word order, but analysis of style and meaning never relies of one concept alone. Syntax should not be studied in isolation, but rather it should be examined in conjunction with other stylistic techniques that work together to develop meaning.
  118. Tautology
    Needless repetition of the same idea in different words; pleonasm on the level of a sentence or sentences. A tautology is also a circular argument in logic.
  119. theme
    The central idea of a work of fiction or nonfiction, revealed and developed in the course of a story or explored through argument.
  120. tone
    A writer’s attitude toward his or her subject matter revealed through diction, figurative language, and organization on the sentence and global levels.
  121. trite
    Applied to an expression or idea which, through repeated use or application, has lost its original freshness.
  122. Vernacular
    Using the native language of a country or place; commonly spoken by the people of a particular country or place.
  123. Vignette
    A short, delicate literary sketch.
  124. Zeugma
    Includes several similar rhetorical devices, all involving a grammatically correct linkage (or yoking together) of two or more parts of speech by another part of speech. Thus examples of zeugmatic usage would include one subject with two (or more) verbs, a verb with two (or more) direct objects, two (or more) subjects with one verb, and so forth. The main benefit of the linking is that it shows relationships between ideas and actions more clearly
  125. composition
    arguing that a group must have the same qualities or characteristics as its members. For example, each football player of the all-star team is the best player at his position in the entire country. Therefore, the all-star team is the best team in the entire country
  126. contradictory premises
    the main premises contradict each other. For example, if God can do anything, cna he make a stone as heavy he will not be able to lift it?
Card Set
Glossary of LIterary and Rhetorical Terms
set 1 AP LANG