• The secondary language arts vertical teams of Moore Public Schools collaborated to create a student friendly list of common literary terms and definitions.  In order to promote consistency throughout the grade levels, teachers are encouraged to use this “master list” to create their own list of grade level appropriate terms.




    Repetition of beginning consonant sounds.  Ex:  While I pondered weak and weary….


    A reference to a well-known person, place, event, character, or other literary work.


    A comparison of two different things that are alike in some way.


    A direct juxtaposition of structurally parallel words, phrases, or clauses for the purpose of contrast: e.g., “Sink or swim.”


    The character or force who opposes the hero (protagonist) in a story. 


    A form of personification in which the absent or dead are spoken to as if present and the inanimate, as if animate.  These are all addressed directly:  e.g., “Milton! Thou shoulds’t be living at this hour.”


    Character, setting, theme, or symbol that demonstrates a universal human experience. Ex:  hero’s journey.

    ·         character archetype:  mentor, hero, outcast

    ·         situational archetype:  the task, the quest

    ·         symbol archetypes:  water, fire, desert, serpent


    Repetition of a vowel sound in a series of words.


    The development of a character through actions and dialogue.

    Authors use two methods:

    ·         direct – author is “directly” telling audience information about character

    ·         indirect – reader must infer character traits through speech, thoughts, effect on others, actions, and looks

    Character types:

    ·         flat – one characteristic developed

    ·         round – many characteristics developed

    ·         dynamic – characters change

    ·         static – characters stay the same

    ·         foil – contrasting characters used to highlight a characteristic of protagonist


    The struggle between opposing forces.

    Types of conflict:

    ·         internal – struggle within (man vs. himself)

    ·         external – struggle outside of character (man vs. man, man vs. nature, man vs. society, man vs. supernatural)


    The feelings and emotions associated with the meaning of a word.


    The repetition of consonant sounds in a series of words.


    The dictionary definition of a word.


    Specific, descriptive information in a literary work. The facts revealed by the author or speaker that support the attitude or tone in a piece of poetry or prose.


    Speech characteristics of a particular region or culture.


    Conversation between characters.


    Word choice intended to convey a certain effect.




    Substituted word or phrase to create a softer tone or to deceive.  Ex:  The dog passed away.

    figurative language

    Words or phrases that describe one thing in terms of something else, not to be taken literally. 

    (Types of figurative language include analogy, hyperbole, imagery, metaphor, personification, simile, and understatement.)


    A scene that interrupts the action of a work to show a previous event.


    The use of hints or clues in a narrative to suggest future action.


    An over exaggeration for effect. 

    Ex:  I’m so hungry I could eat a horse.


    A common expression that has a meaning particular to a language or region.

    Ex:  It’s raining cats and dogs.


    Text that creates a mental picture and appeals to the five senses.

    Ex:  “Blood red were his spurs in the golden noon; wine-red was his velvet coat.”


    When the opposite of what you expect happens.

    Types of irony include:

    ·         verbal irony – occurs when a speaker or narrator says one thing while meaning the opposite. Ex:  It is easy to stop smoking. I’ve done it many times.

    ·         situational irony – occurs when a situation turns out differently from what one would normally expect, though often the twist is oddly appropriate:  e.g., a deep sea diver drowning in a bathtub is ironic.

    ·         dramatic irony – character(s) and audience have insight about something other characters do not.  Ex:  In a scary movie, the audience knows the murderer is behind the door but character doesn’t.


    A comparison of two unlike things not using “like” or “as.”  Ex: “Time is money.”


    The pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in a poem.


    A long uninterrupted speech performed by a single character.


    Atmosphere or emotion in a literary work.  Ex:  the suspenseful mood of a mystery


    The reasons for a character’s behaviors or actions.


    The telling of a story in writing or speaking.


    The speaker or character who tells a story.


    The use of words that mimic the sounds they describe.  Ex:  hiss, buzz, bang


    A pair of opposite terms placed together in a single expression.

    Ex: bittersweet; jumbo shrimp


    A contradiction of ideas in the same statement that reveals a hidden truth and may appear illogical, impossible, or absurd.

    Ex:  It’s a love hate relationship.


    A kind of metaphor that gives inanimate objects or abstract ideas human characteristics. Ex: “The wind cried in the dark.”





    The sequence of events or actions in a short story, novel, play, or narrative poem.

    The parts of plot include:

    ·         exposition – the introduction of the plot (characters, setting, and conflict).

    ·         rising action – the suspense building up to the climax

    ·         climax – turning point in plot marking highest emotional intensity

    ·         falling action – events following the climax in a narrative

    ·         resolution – the final outcome

    point of view

    The perspective from which a narrative is told.

    ·         1st person – told from the perspective of a character in story using pronouns (I or me).  Audience is limited to the viewpoint of that character.

    ·         3rd person omniscient – told from the perspective of an “all knowing” narrator who is not a character.

    ·         3rd person limited – told from the perspective of a narrator revealing the thoughts and knowledge of some but not all characters.


    The main character in a literary work.



    A play on words that are identical or similar in sound but have different 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.”


    The deliberate use of any element of language more than once – sound, word, phrase, sentence, grammatical pattern, or rhythmical pattern.


    The repetition of sounds in two or more words or phrases that appear close to each other in a poem.  Types of rhyme include:

    ·         end rhyme occurs at the ends of lines.

    ·         internal rhyme occurs within a line.

    ·         slant rhyme is approximate rhyme. 

    ·         exact rhyme is when two words sound the same.

    ·         A rhyme scheme is a pattern of end rhyme.

    ·         blank verse is unrhymed verse having a regular meter, usually of iambic pentameter.


    Pattern of beats within a poem.



    The use of verbal irony in which a person appears to be praising something but is actually insulting it. Ex: “As I fell down the stairs headfirst, I heard her say, ‘Look at that coordination.’”


    Exaggeration or ridicule for the purpose of social change.


    The time and place in which events in a short story, novel, play, or narrative poem take place.

    shift or turn

    Refers to a change or movement in a piece resulting from an epiphany, realization, or insight gained by the speaker, a character, or the reader.


    Comparison of two unlike things/ideas using “like” or “as”.

    Ex: the classroom was like a warzone.



    sound devices

    Techniques used to convey meaning through sound. 

    (Types of sound devices include rhyme, assonance, consonance, alliteration, and onomatopoeia). 


    The framework or organization of a literary work. 

    Types of structure may include:

    ·         fiction – plot and chapter division

    ·         drama – acts, scenes, dialogue

    ·         essay – purposeful arrangement of ideas

    ·         poetry – determined by rhyme scheme and stanza form


    Each writer’s distinctive use of language.


    Elements that make the reader uncertain or tense about the outcome.


    Any object, person, place, or action that has both a meaning in itself and that stands for something larger than itself. 

    Ex:  A crown is a symbol of a king’s status and authority.


    A form of a metaphor where part is used to represent the whole.  Ex: Bob got a new set of wheels.


    The arrangement of words and the order of grammatical elements in a sentence.


    The central message in a literary work; the author’s intended message (AIM). 


    The writer’s or speaker’s attitude toward a subject, character, or audience, and it is conveyed through the author’s choice of words and detail.  Tone can be serious, humorous, sarcastic, indignant, objective, etc.


    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 per years.”