Elements of Literature In English



  1. Litotes: the use of negative statement to present positive opinion. Example= God is not imperfect (God is perfect).
  2. Synecdoche: using a part to represent a whole or vice versa. Example= two heads are better than one (two people are better than one)
  3. Epigram: a short witty saying. Example= more haste, less speed
  4. Rhetorical Question: question that requires not answer. Example= why am I in this mess?
  5. Climax: systematic arrangement of idea or expression in descending order.
  6. Anti-climax: the opposite of climax
  7. Repetition: occurrence of expression more than once.
  8. Theme: main idea in a literary work
  9. Plot: arrangement of events or actions (either linear or non-linear)
  10. Tone: attitude of the writer towards the work of art
  11. Mood: attitude of the reader towards the work of art
  12. Flashback: relating the past to present occurrence
  13. Dilemma: to be confronted with situation to make choice.
  14. Setting: when and when action or event take place
  15. Didactic: literary work that teaches lesson
  16. Monologue: speech by a single person
  17. Soliloquy: thought expressed aloud
  18. Aside: speech addressed to self or audience
  19. Allusion: partial reference to character, history, mythology or work of art
  20. Satire: work positioned to ridicule some vices
  21. Melodrama: drama with high emotional effect
  22. Mime: actions without words
  23. Fable: short story told to teach moral lesson
  24. Parable: a story involving human being which teaching moral or religious lesson.
  25. Invective: direct abusive, vituperative, denunciatory attack
  26. In Media Res: starting a story at the middle of crucial action
  27. Epidectic Poetry: verse for either praise or blame
  28. Eulogy: praise poem such as ode, encomium, epithalamium, panegyric, etc
  29. Palilogy: repetition
  30. Caricature: ridicule person by distorting or exaggerating the features
  31. Dues ex Machina: hope of recovery out of trouble
  32. Poetaster: a quack poet
  33. Burlesque: work aimed at provoking laughter in other to ridicule
  34. Carpe Diem: motif in poetry which refers to the view that one should enjoy life to the fullest while one is able
  35. Bard: poet in modern usage
  36. Belles-Lettres: genre of literature different from scientific writing
  37. Catharsis: change of emotion resulting from strong feeling of sorrow, fear, pity, or laughter
  38. Travesty: work aim to arouse laughter by imitation of a serious work
  39. Hamartia: tragic flaw
  40. Lampoon: violent and satirical attack against a person or institution
  41. Genre: form of literature
  42. Hubris: pride of tragic hero
  43. Fantasy: creation of unreal world and people that look like real one
  44. Rhetoric: language of a work and its style
  45. Roman a Clef: novel where characters are real people but disguised
  46. Periphrasis: roundabout expression, verbosity, circumlocution
  47. Poetic licence: the right of poets to distort language, history, geography for the sake of art
  48. Pastoral: work of art written to represent life of shepherd or country life
  49. Idyll: short poem that describes an incident or interesting scene or event
  50. Image: picture in the mind
  51. Imagery: painting picture of the mind
  52. Farce: extremely funny comedy with ridiculous action
  53. Parody: imitation of another work of art
  54. Poetic Justice: term used to convey the idea that evil is punished appropriately and good rewarded
  55. Poetic Diction: usage of language
  56. Poesy: the making of a poem
  57. Tirade: a violent speech, long and denunciatory
  58. Picaresque: novel that tells adventure of a wandering rogue or rascal
  59. Causerie: informal essay or article on literary topics
  60. Cento: term used for collection of bits and pieces from various writers
  61. Catalects: literary works which detached from main body of a writer’s work
  62. Prologue: introductory speech at the beginning of work of art
  63. Epilogue: concluding speech at the end of work of art
  64. Epimythium: summary of moral lesson placed at the end of a fable
  65. Promythium: summary of moral lesson placed at the beginning of a fable
  66. Lake Poet: poets like Wordsworth, Coleridge, Southey
  67. Local Colour: describing details peculiar to certain region or environment in order to add interest and authenticity to a narrative
  68. Logomachy: a dispute or fight about words
  69. Roman Feuilleton: novel published serially in newspaper or journal
  70. Verisimilitude: story that has resemblance to the truth and therefore has the appearance of being true or real even when it is a fantasy
  71. Triplet (Tercet): three stanza poem
  72. Triads: group of three stanzas
  73. Epithalamion: poem about wedding praise
  74. Harangue: a lengthy and aggressive speech
  75. Ballad: short folk poem about heroic deeds that is lyrical
  76. Trochee: a foot consisting of stressed syllable followed by unstressed
  77. Dactyl: a foot consisting of one stress syllable followed by two unstressed
  78. Anapaest: a foot consisting of two unstressed followed by stressed
  79. Spondee: a foot consisting of two stressed followed by stressed
  80. Saga: a work of art about culturally historical narration of lineage
  81. Limerick: witty five line poem with specific end rhyme
  82. Metanoia: retracting of statement made
  83. Allegory: a work of art that used symbolized events or characters
  84. Chiasmus: the use of parallel statement where one is invasion. Example= the first shall be last and the last first
  85. Canto: division of stanzas into multiple groups
  86. Rhythm: the count of meters
  87. Meter: measure of stressed and unstressed syllable
  88. Enjambment: run-on-line
  89. Polysyndecton: the use of many conjunction amidst a statement
  90. Tmesis: insertion of a word between another word. Example= some maybe thing (maybe inserted in something)
  91. Symbolism: representation of idea. Example= Piano and Drums in Gabriel Okara’s poem (symbolises modern and primitive)
  92. Rhyme: sameness of sound between lines
  93. Rhyme Scheme: the sequences in which rhyme occurs at the end of lines in poem.
  94. Quatrain: four successive lines in poetry.
  95. Refrain: any repeated word, phrase or expression
  96. Subject Matter: the basis of a narration or story. It can also be considered as the background story.
  97. Paradox: an absurd statement which is meaning in deeper sense example= money spent is money saved.
  98. Stage Directions: this is the written instruction of the playwright which guide every act and scene
  99. Character: the instrument of the writer or the creator of any work of art
  100. Characterization: the formation or configuration of character
  101. Onomatopoeia: using sound to signify action. Example= the zooming bus
  102. Metonymy: calling something by its related attribute. Example= I haves read all Shakespeare (instead of saying I have read all books written by William Shakespeare).
  103. Irony: saying one thing and meaning another. Example= The thief barked at the dog
  104. Euphemism: replacing harsh or irritating statement with mild and simple one
  105. Dialogue: exchange of idea between two or more character
  106. Action: the activeness or inactiveness of character in literary work_ mostly drama
  107. Hyperbole: the exaggeration of statement or opinion
  108. Suspense: the state of anxiety or expectation in the reader or audience
  109. Conflict: the bone of contention or the cause of disagreement
  110. Cast: a list of selected participants for performance with specific roles to play
  111. Hypophora: the use of response to a rhetorical question.
  112. Apostrophe: this is a rhetorical call which demands no response
  113. Anaphora: this is use of repeated word or phrase at the beginning of a line. Example= God is able. God is abundantly capable. God is the alpha and omega.
  114. Anagram: the rearrangement of words or phrases to form another word or phrase. Example= bad credit forms debit card
  115. Acrostic: the first letter of line in total spells a word. Example= Cuddly, Acrobatic, Tenacious, Softly purring..
  116. Poetic Drama: this’ a play written in verse form. Example= Murder in the Cathedral by T. S. Eliot
  117. Dramatic irony: the reader or audience already knows what one or more characters do not know
  118. Protagonist: also called the hero_ plays the most prominent roles
  119. Antagonist: also called villain_ opposes the protagonist
  120. Anti-hero: very prominent character but lacks the qualities expected of hero
  121. Sarcasm: insincere praise to ridicule someone or something.
  122. Pun (Paranomasia): play on words. Example= the congregation prays while the pastor preys on them.
  123. Peripeteia: the beginning of a character’s downfall
  124. Personification: giving human qualities to inanimate objects. Example= trees groan as they fell
  125. Proscenium Arch: the space between the stage and where the audience sit.
  126. Chorus: this is a group of actors in a drama pronouncing a singular opinion.
  127. Malapropism (Catachresis): the intentional misuse of word for the purpose of creating literary effect.
  128. Deunuement: the point of solution in a drama after so much conflict.
  129. Motivation: the consistent reason for a character’s actions.
  130. Portmanteau Word: the fusion of two meanings into a single word. Example= slithy (meaning lithe and slimy).
  131. Prompter: this is the person who reminds the actors or actresses of their forgotten lines through whisper. Also called the-actor-off-the-stage.
  132. Anachronism: the intentional displacement of time in a literary work.
  133. Anastrophe (hyperbaton): the use of inversion.Example= to thine own self be true
  134. Flies: space over the stage for storing things such as drop curtain, scenery, etc.
  135. Scenery: object for creating fictional setting on a stage.
  136. Wings: the spaces at the edge of stage where preparing performers stay before entering the stage.
  137. Crew: the totality of non acting members who supervise the activities.
  138. Pathetic Fallacy: attributing human feelings to inanimate or animals. Example= the sad trees screamed for freedom.
  139. Transfer Epithet: the use of wrong adjective to qualify something. Example= I rested on my emotional pillow (instead of, I emotionally rested on my pillow) .
  140. Meosis: the use of understatement. Example= Mr. Tunji lives in a matchbox.
  141. Aphorism: a sharp observation which accepted to be true. Example= a penny saved is a penny earned.
  142. Colloquialism: use of informal language such as slang in a work of literature.
  143. Frame Story: a story within a story. It’s a companion to the main story.
  144. Anthropomorphism: the projection of non-human like human. Example= a cat wearing a wristwatch.
  145. Zoomorphism: giving characteristics of animal to human.
  146. Motif: image, idea, sound, word that helps in explaining the theme.
  147. Assonance: the successive use of vowel sounds in a line of close proximity. Example= thou still unravished bride of quietness. (the repetition of “I” sound)
  148. Alliteration: the successive use of consonant sounds in a line of close proximity. Example= the furrow followed free.
  149. Bathos: the unintentional overuse of empathy which becomes ridicule.
  150. Bildungsroman: the novel for growth or information
  151. Parallelism: the presentation of two similar phrase or clause for the purpose of creating balance. Example= my country is in hardship; my countrymen are in poverty.
  152. Antithesis: the presentation of two opposite phrase or clause for the purpose of creating balance. Example= those that I guide, I do not love. Those that I fight I do not hate.
  153. Audition: the stage examination for the purpose of selecting actors for a certain play.
  154. Producer: the person in charge of the financing and organization of drama.
  155. Genre: the division of literature.
  156. Aphorism: a simple saying that is generally accepted truth.
  157. Exposition: introduction of actions that will lead to conflict
  158. Tragic hero: the protagonist in a tragic drama.
  159. Hero: the protagonist in a work of art.
  160. Heroine: the female protagonist in a work of art.
  161. Projection: this is the opposite of flashback.
  162. Metaphor: use of indirect comparison. Example= she is boiling with fury
  163. Simile: use of direct comparison. Example= she is furious like a boiling water
  164. Isocolon: the use of words with similar length. Example= we want, we ask, we get.
  165. Tautology: this is the overuse of words that has just a single meaning. Example= I have a twin brother. (Instead of I have a twin or I’m a twin).
  166. Oxymoron: placing two contrasting words side by side. Example= such sweet sorrow
  167. Juxtaposition: this is the comparison made between two ideas
  168. Mixed Metaphor: this is use of two metaphors that have the same meaning in a line or sentence
  169. Extended Metaphor: this is the use of two metaphors in a line or sentence.
  170. Synaesthesia: displacement of qualities. Example= the odious sun is no more.
  171. Dramatis Personae: the sum total of participants in a drama
  172. Atmosphere: psychological background of a literary work.
  173. Couplet: two successive rhyming lines in poem.
  174. Stanza: group of lines in poem.
  175. Verse: metered stanza
  176. Playwright: writer of drama or play

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