Literary Terms - I through Z


Iamb – a metrical unit of two syllables with the stress on the second syllable.

Iambic pentameter – a poetic meter consisting of five iambs of one short (unstressed) and one long (stressed) syllable. “To err is human, to forgive, divine”. This is a iambic pentameter.

Internal Rhyme – a word rhyming at the end of the line with a word in the middle of the line.


Limerick – A five-line poem in which the first two lines are anapestic trimester, the next two are dimeter, and the last line is trimester.

Literary Ballad> – Four rhyming lines, abcb, with 1 and 3 having eight syllables and lines 2 and 4 having six syllables.

Metaphor – the use of language which is imaginatively but not literally appropriate. The representation of a thing by another thing which resembles it. Comparison of two unlike items.

Motif – an object, concept, or structure repeated throughout a work, there by giving it symbolic meaning.

Neo-classical – A style of prose or poetry from the 17th and 18th centuries that revives the style of the classical Greek and Roman cultures.

Octave – Poetic verse of eight lines of iambic pentameter.

Ode – Lyrical verse with a serious topic and tone.

Open form – Poetry that does not follow strict rules. Freedom in form.


Paradox – a statement that appears contradictory or absurd but in truth is accurate.

Pathetic Fallacy – the assigning of human emotions to natural objects.

Personification – A figure of speech where human characteristics are given to inanimate objects or animals.

Point of View – The perspective by which the author is telling the story.

Prose – Written narratives that follow natural speaking patterns. The most common form of narratives.

Protagonist – The lead character in a given work. From ‘agon’ – to struggle.

Quatrain – Four lines of verse in a poem.



Setting – The time and place of a story. The circumstances by which a story takes place.

Simile – figure of speech comparing two unlike items.

Sonnet – a poem of fourteen lines, the classical of which forms in two sections: an eight line octave coupled with a six line sestet.


Tetrameter – a line of four units.

Tone – the sound, pitch, pace and intensity of a poem considered as expressing a particular emotion.

Trimeter – a line of three feet.

Trochee – a metrical unit with one stressed (long) and one unstressed (short) syllable.


Social Media

This site is optimized for Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Opera. It does not play well with Internet Explorer.