Literary Terms

20 Essential Literary Terms
1. Symbol/symbolism– one thing (object, person, place) used to represent something else

2. Theme– the underlying main idea of a literary work. Theme differs from the subject of a literary work in that it involves a statement or opinion about the subject.

3. Tone– the author’s attitude toward the subject of a work.

4. Simile– a direct comparison of dissimilar objects, usually using like or as

5. Personification– figure of speech in which non-human things are given human characteristics

6. Metaphor– an implied comparison between dissimilar objects

7. Imagery– language that appeals to the five senses

8. Irony
Dramatic…when the reader or audience knows something a character does not
Situational…when there is a disparity between what is expected and what actually occurs
Verbal…when the speaker says one thing but means the opposite

9. Genre– type or category to which a literary work belongs

10. Diction-word choice to create a specific effect

11. Figurative Language–language that represents one thing in terms of something dissimilar (non-literal language).Includes simile, metaphor, personification, hyperbole, symbol)

12. Conflict-struggle between two or more opposing forces (person vs. person; nature; society; self; fate/God)

13. Allusion -a reference to something well-known that exists outside the literary work

14. Cause and Effect – relationship where on event directly brings about the other

15. Audience – the person(s) that an author means to reach

16. Inference – a logical guess based on evidence from the text

17. Allegory - a work with two levels of meaning; where objects, people and events stand for abstract ideas or qualities

18. Satire: a literary term used to ridicule or make fun of human vice or weakness, often with the intent of correcting, or changing, the subject of the satiric attack.

19. Connotation - The associations called up by a word that goes beyond its dictionary meaning. Poets, especially, tend to use words rich in connotation.

20. Syntax - The grammatical order of words in a sentence or line of verse or dialogue. The organization of words and phrases and clauses in sentences of prose, verse and dialogue.