English 9 Honors Literary Terms Directions



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Directions:  Review all definitions. Be able to recognize and identify terms as they are used in literary passages. 
Group 1

  1. Alliteration - Repetition of an initial consonant sound in poetry

  2. Irony - A striking discrepancy between what is expected and what actually exists or occurs

    1. Dramatic irony - The audience or reader knows an important fact that the character does not know

    2. Verbal irony - A figure of speech in which what is said is the opposite of what is meant

  3. Imagery – Descriptive language that appeals to the senses in order to create a specific effect

  4. Metaphor - Speaking of one thing in terms of another living thing so as to imply a comparison between the two without using the words like or as

  5. Onomatopoeia - Words that sounds like sounds or sound like the thing or phenomenon they describe

  6. Paradox - A seeming contradiction which is nonetheless true

  7. Personification - Imparting human or lifelike characteristics to an inanimate object

  8. Simile - Comparison of two unlike objects that uses the words like or as

  9. Symbol - A thing that represents an idea; an image, object, or action with another (larger and more important) meaning than itself

  10. Oxymoron - A fusion of two contradictory ideas: jumbo shrimp, civil war, or government intelligence

Group 2

  1. Pun – A figure of speech in which two words which sound alike or resemble one another are substituted or interchanged for some comic effect

  2. Hyperbole – Exaggeration for comic or dramatic effect

  3. Allusion - A reference to a famous person, place, or piece of literature or film. 

  4. Eponym - When a name stands for an idea or concept:  Romeo = lover, Satan= evil, Bill Gates= rich, nerdy dude

  5. Illusion - A misleading image which causes misinterpretation, a mirage or hallucination

  6. Analogy - A comparison of two things which are essentially unlike but have similar properties

  7. Litotes - A figure of speech in which an affirmative is expressed by negation of its opposite, an understatement: This is no small problem

  8. Apostrophe - A speaker directly address an absent person or personified concept

  9. Anachronism - Something that doesn’t belong in particular time and place, like a clock in ancient Rome

  10. Assonance - The repetition of vowel sounds in a line or lines of poetry

Group 3

  1. Antagonist - A character in conflict with the main character in a piece of literature

  2. Climax - The high point of the plot; the whole story will lead up to this central moment of greatest narrative tension

  3. Conflict - Opposition or tension between forces (man versus man, man versus nature, man versus society, man versus himself, man versus fate, man versus technology)

  4. Denouement - The same thing as the resolution or ending of a story

  5. Falling action - The part of a story’s plot that takes place after the climax and leads to the resolution

  6. Mood - The atmosphere or emotional reaction generated by the author’s choice of words in a literary work

  7. Point of View - The perspective from which a narrative is told

  8. Protagonist - The central character in a narrative

  9. Rising action - The part of a plot that leads to the climax

  10. Setting - The time and place of a work

Group 4

  1. Turning point - The same as the climax: the high point of the story’s suspense or conflict

  2. Epiphany - A sudden realization of a previously hidden truth or concept; a “eureka” moment

  3. Foil - A character whose personality traits are contrasted with those of another character; usually a minor character who “sets off” a major character

  4. Flashback - A plot trick in which the forward-moving flow of the plot is interrupted to show what happened before as if the story were taking the reader back in time to show previous events

  5. Foreshadowing - A plot trick in which the author hints to the reader suggesting or implying what will happen next

  6. Character - A person in a story. There are basically two types:

    1. Static character - A character who stays the same and does not change

    2. Dynamic character - A character whose personality undergoes significant change

  7. Realism - A literary and artistic movement that valued presenting life as it really is, but without some of the sordidness and harshness of naturalism

  8. Naturalism - A literary movement that valued the literal, unvarnished depiction of real life in all of its sordid depravity and harshness

  9. Classicism - A literary movement that modeled itself on the ideals of ancient Greece, valuing clear logical expression of thoughts, controlled emotion, order, and structure

  10. Romanticism - A literary and artistic movement that valued imagination, beauty, the rights of individuals, the attractiveness of pastoral life, and the corruption of cities or society

Group 5

  1. Anthology - A collection of selected literary pieces

  2. Autobiography - A story of a person’s life written by that person

  3. Biography - A story of a person’s life written by someone else

  4. Essay - A factual prose composition dealing with one subject

  5. Genre - The distinct type or category into which a literary work can be grouped

  6. Novel - An extended fictional prose narrative

  7. Poetry - Concentrated writing with condensed images and focused language which makes heavy use of imagery and/or other devices such as meter, rhythm, and sound to create an emotional effect

  8. Prose - Written work which is not a poem

  9. Short story - A fictional prose work with (usually) one central character and one major conflict; it is usually brief (5000-10,000 words) and can be read in a single setting

  10. Tragedy - A serious word featuring a protagonist whose downfall is brought about because of his tragic flaw (a serious personality problem; usually hubris: excessive pride or self-confidence, arrogance)

Group 6

  1. Satire - A type of literature which makes fun of people’s or society’s vices or hypocrisies so as to drive home an underlying point about human nature

  2. Myth - An ancient tale created to explain natural phenomena or religious conflicts within a society

  3. Allegory - A type of literary work with two or more levels of meaning (literal and symbolic); the characters stand for ideas or concepts

  4. Anecdote - A short history of a humorous or interesting incident; secret or undivulged particulars of history of biography

  5. Farce - A play containing very broad humor, slapstick, mistaken identities, missed connections, and other oft-used tricks to get laughs

  6. Parable - A brief story that allegorically provides a moral or illustrates a central truth, usually religious or spiritual in nature

  7. Dirge - A poem lamenting death, sometimes sung at a funeral

  8. Elegy - A poem lamenting death written in a very specific poetic form

  9. Free verse - Poetry written without the use of rhyme or a regular metrical pattern

  10. Fable - A short allegorical story that teaches one important moral or lesson and uses animals to dramatize the lesson being taught

Group 7

  1. Aside - A statement delivered by an actor to the audience; other characters on stage do not hear of this

  2. Connotation - The implied meaning of a word, how a word “feels”

  3. Denotation -  The literal or dictionary meaning of a word

  4. Cacophony - Pronounced “kuh-KAW-fo-nee” this word means “harsh, discordant, or grating sounds

  5. Couplet - A pair of rhyming lines

  6. Carpe diem - Latin for “seize the day”- that is, live and party now because life is too short to sit around

  7. Deus ex machina – Literally, “the god from the machine.” A literary trick involving some event or person occurring or appearing at the last minute to save a character from death or to provide a solution to a seemingly insoluble problem, usually used by authors who have painted themselves into a corner by devising a plot problem that cannot be solved with any realistic device

  8. Refrain - A group of words repeated at intervals in a poem or song, usually at the end of a stanza

  9. Chorus - A character in classical drama who observes and comments upon other characters’ actions

  10. Soliloquy - A speech given by an actor while alone onstage (as opposed to a monologue, which is a long character’s hidden thoughts or inner conflict)

Group 8

  1. Bowdlerize - To censor, to remove the vulgar or “dirty” parts out of a piece of writing

  2. Plagiarism - Copying someone’s words or ideas and putting them into one’s own work without giving credit to source

  3. Pseudonym - Literally, “false name” – made-up name chosen by an author or artist

  4. Verisimilitude - The appearance of realism or truth in writing; writing which is “true to life”

  5. Archetype - An original model or type after which other similar things are patterned; a classic

  6. Euphemism - The substitution of a pleasant word or term for one considered impolite, blunt, or offensive: “passed away” instead of “died”

  7. Inversion - Transposition or switching of a sentence’s normal word order, often in order to rhyme or for poetic effect: I knew him not instead of I did not know him

  8. Stereotype - An oversimplified conception of a person or group, a cliché idea about a group or race: all blondes are dumb, all women with glasses are smart

  9. Cliché – A saying or phrase or idea which becomes so widely repeated that it becomes boring and meaningless      

  10. Malapropism - A humorous misuse of the language in which an incorrect word takes the place of a correct word for comic effect: Lead the way and we'll precede



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