Literary Terminology

Literary Terminology
Metonymy (“Name Change”): A term is used in place of another similar term, using a related
substitution. (Elizabeth’s eye was instantly caught on Pemberley House)
Synecdoche: This is similar to metonymy, but is specifically part for whole substitution.
(George Washington helped bring down the crown)
Metaphor: A comparison of seemingly dissimilar things without using explicit comparison
language. (Life is a journey)
Simile: A comparison of seemingly dissimilar things using explicit comparison language. (Life is
like a box of chocolates: you never know what you’re gonna get)
Hendiadys: Used for emphasis, this term defines the separation of a noun-plus-adjective into
two separate nouns. (glorious, powerful kingdom = kingdom and the power and the glory)
Assimilation (“to make similar”): Two or more linguistic sounds that combine based on
phonetic similarities. (don’t be silly = donbe silly)
Apposition: Two noun phrases placed side-by-side, one defining the other. (My brother, the
Hiatus: The failure of two vowels straddling a word boundary to coalesce, as often occurs by
elision. (re-elected, cooperation)
Alliteration: The repetition of a beginning consonant (consonance) or vowel (assonance). (Peter
Piper picked a pickled pepper)
Substantive: For Latin, this most often refers to an adjective standing for an unnamed noun.
(Irata = Angry woman)
Onomatopoeia: A word or group of words that imitate the sound that they describe. (buzz,
boom, bang, quack, etc)
Synizesis: Vowels that ought to form a diphthong do not, instead being shortened into a single
phoneme. This is often due to poetic/metrical necessity. (dehinc = ‘dink’)
Asyndeton: Conjunctions are deliberately omitted so as to create a specific rhetorical
environment/tone. (…a government of the people, for the people, by the people…)
Hyperbole: An extreme literary exaggeration that is NOT meant to be taken literally. (I’m so
hungry that I could eat an entire horse!)
Anaphora: Emphasizing words by repeating them at the beginning of neighboring clauses.
(Soon I will prevail. Soon we will prevail. Soon good will prevail.)
Chiasmus: Inverted parallelism where two or more clauses are related to each other by a reversal
of structure. Specifically A-B-B-A. (He knowingly lied and we followed blindly)
Poetic Plural: Also called the ‘Majestic Plural,’ this term refers to the use of the first person
singular by an individual in high office. (Let us reign as pronounced by the King)
Euphemism: A substitution of either a less offensive term or a more covert reference in order to
avoid revealing some aspect of it. It is often called doublespeak.
Attraction: A grammatical term where an element is attracted to, or absorbed into, an otherwise
unrelated structure. For example, a relative pronoun’s case may be attracted to the case of its
antecedent, which is otherwise ungrammatical.
Greek Forms: In Latin, the use of Greek declensions or conjugations, often because of the
pervasive nature of Greek in Roman culture. This is often used as a literary effect.
Periodic Sentence: A sentence that remains syntactically incomplete until its completion. This
sentence often is complex, using opportunities of subordination to extend its duration.
Parallelism: The grammatical balance of two or more words, phrases, or structures within
Tricolon: A sentence with three clearly defined elements, often placed in a parallel fashion.
Litotes: A clarification of a concept by denying its opposite. This is, by nature, an
understatement. (That sentence is not incomplete)
Prolepsis: A figure of speech in which the future is indicated by anticipation. This is also called
a flash-forward in film.
Ellipsis: An indication of a pause in the text, often representing an unfinished thought or the end
of a sentence.
Synchysis: An interlocked word order, often opposed to chiasmus with an A-B-A-B paradigm.
Golden Line: A word order that was quite common in Latin dactylic hexameter. This order was
Anastrophe: In English, it is a departure from the normal word order. In Latin, it often
represents a separation of an adjective and the noun that governs it. (…Troiae qui primus ab oris)
Pathos: An appeal to the audience’s emotions, either utilizing a hook (an explicit attempt) or a
general feeling of passion.
Ethos: The attempt to establish moral competency, character, and general expertise in a
rhetorical atmosphere.
Logos: The more logical mode of proof, this is the use of data, structure, and evidence to
persuade an audience.