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A Glossary of Literary Terms

Aphorism: An astute Observation

Atmosphere (mood): The dominant mood or emotional tone surrounding a work of art/movie/novel

Autobiography: A history of a person’s life written by that person

Memoir: A record of events written by a person having large amounts of knowledge about that topic

Bildungsroman: A novel concerning the education of a young protagonist

Character: A person in a book or story, and the traits of that person.


Flat: A one sided character that we don’t know a lot about


Round: A character we learn multiple things about


Motivation: Something that propels the characters motivation


Foil: A character that contrasts with another character


Conflict: A problem or difference between characters that could result in violence

Euphemism: Replacing something harsh with something mellow


Figurative Language: Language that is used to create an image that can be seen through the words that are used, often comparing something to another

Allusion: Comparing something to another story or thing
Ex. Mad as Captain Ahab

Hyperbole: Exaggeration


Metaphor: Comparison not using like or as


Personification: Giving human qualities to a non human thing


Simile: Comparison using like or as


Symbol: Something that is used to represent something


Understatement: Representing something as less than what it really is


Imagery: using words to make a mental image



Irony: Conveying something that is different than its literal meaning


Dramatic Irony: Irony in dramas that isn’t seen by the character, but is seen by the audience
Verbal Irony: Saying something that is the opposite of what it means


Motif: A recurring idea in a literary work

Novel: A made up narrative that tells a story

Plot: The main part of the story that leads up to the end


Rising Action: The sequence of events that makes the story more dramatic


Climax: The highest point of action


Anticlimax: A very weak climax that is not as strong as believed to be

Crisis: Stage of events where the end is determined

Reversal: An adverse change of fortune

Denouement: The final resolution of all the things in a plot

Point of View: The way in which a story is told

Narrator: A person not involved telling the story

First-Person: Author is a character in book that tells the story using I, Me, My

Third-Person: Author referring to characters using he, she, it, they


Limited: When the author only knows the external ideas and feelings of the characters

Omniscient: The author knows everything


Propagandist Literature: Using writing to promote your ideas


Prose: Poetry that does not rhyme, normally spoken language with no rhythm

Protagonist: Leading hero in a literary work

Antagonist: Leading villain in a literary work

Setting: Place and time were the book/literary work occurs

Style: The way you arrange words to say something

Sympathy: Feeling bad for something or someone who has had something unfortunate happen to them/it

Empathy: Feeling similar to a certain object, identifying to that object

Theme: The subject of the literary work

Tone: The prevailing idea/mood that you get from a literary work


  • Writing Terms
    • Thesis Statement/topic sentence- The main point of what the essay or paragraph is going to be about
    • Clincher statement- The final statement of a sentence that sums of the paragraph
    • Major / minor support- Examples and ideas for why the topic sentence is correct
    • Transition- A word or phrase that changes ideas in the topic
    • Coherence/ Unity- How well the paragraphs and sentences fit together
  • Grammar terms
    • 8 parts of speech- Noun, Verb, Adjective, Adverb, Preposition, Conjunction, Pronoun, Interjection
    • Phrases/clauses- A phrase is a group of words with a noun or a verb, A clause is a group of words with a noun and a verb
    • Passive voice- When the subject is acted upon
    • Parallel structure- Making sure the sentences have the same format for all the parts Ex. Running, Walking, and Jumping
  • Literary Terms
Conflict: A problem or difference between characters that could result in violence Allusion: Comparing something to another story or thing Ex. Mad as Captain Ahab
Hyperbole: Exaggeration
Metaphor: Comparison not using like or as
Personification: Giving human qualities to a non human thing
Simile: Comparison using like or as
Symbol: Something that is used to represent something
Imagery: using words to make a mental image
Irony: Conveying something that is different than its literal meaning
Foreshadow- To get a hint of what is to happen by the wording of text before that