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English Department - English Terms

Higher Critical Terminology List

Thanks to Mrs Thomson for providing the list below.

Address: A poem in the form of a speech addressed to some person, animal or object.

Allegory: A story in verse or prose, with a double meaning, which can be read and understood on two levels.

Alliteration: The use of the same initial letter in two or more words in close proximity to create a particular effect, usually intensifying the sense of the words.

Allusion: A reference to another event, place, person or piece of literature.

Ambiguity: When a piece of language can be interpreted in more than one way, or where the meaning is unclear; can be used for a humorous effect.

Anthropomorphism: Representation of a God as having the form, personality or attributes of man.

Apostrophe:  A figure of speech in which a thing, a place, an abstract quality, an idea, a dead or absent person is addressed as if present and capable of understanding.

Archaic: Old fashioned; used to describe words which are seldom used any more.

Assonance: The repetition of similar vowel sounds.

Atmosphere:  The mood and feeling, the intangible quality which appeals to sensory perception.

Blank Verse: Unrhymed poetry in iambic pentameter.

Caesura: A break or pause in a line of poetry, often marked by punctuation.

Cliché:  A figure of speech which has lost its impact through overuse.

Climax:  Building up to a high point or important moment.

Colloquial:  Ordinary, everyday speech.

Connotation: The implication or suggestion attached to a word or phrase.

Contrast:  Bringing two objects together to show the difference.

Couplet:  Two consecutive lines of verse that rhyme.

Dialect: A way of speaking in a certain area of the country.

Dramatic monologue:  A poem in which there is one imaginary speaker addressing an imaginary audience.

Enjambement:  A line of verse that runs onto the next line without a pause .

Euphemism:  The substitution of a mild and unpleasant term for a harsh and blunt one. E.g. ‘to pass away’ instead of ‘die’.

Extended Image: A comparison that is repeated in more than one place in a poem and is continued throughout the writing.

Figurative Language:  Language which is symbolic or metaphorical; not meant to be taken literally such as similes, metaphors and personification.

Hyperbole: Exaggeration to emphasise the sense of the words; often used for satirical or humorous effect.

Imagery: The use of words to create images for the reader or listener.

Irony: Saying one thing while meaning another; a word or phrase which has a surface meaning but the opposite meaning is often implied. (An ironic situation is when something seems to be mocked by Fate.)

Jargon:  language which is particular to a profession or occupation or group of people.

Juxtaposition: Placing together two items that are not usually placed together to make a striking combination.

Lexical choice: the actual words chosen to make an effect.

Litotes: the opposite of hyperbole; deliberately understating.

Metaphor: A figure of speech in which two things are compared to make a description more vivid.  The metaphor states that one thing is the other; whereas the simile would say that one thing is ‘like’ or ‘as’ another.

Metre: The pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in a regular verse form.

Monosyllabic: one syllable.

Mood: The overall emotional feeling or atmosphere created by a piece of writing.

Onomatopoeia:  A figure of speech in which the sound of the word copies the sound it is describing.

Oxymoron: A figure of speech which joins together two words of opposite meaning.

Paradox: A puzzle; a statement which appears to be contradicting itself but when considered more closely turns out to be true.

Parody: a work that is written in imitation of another, usually to make fun of the original work.

Pejorative:  A negative implication or suggestion.

Persona: The ‘person’ in the poem- not necessarily the poet.  This is the point of view from which the poem is written.

Personification: Giving human qualities to an inanimate object.

Polysyllabic: Made up of more than one syllable.

Pun: A play on words; using two words which have the same sound but different meanings.

Refrain: Repetition throughout a poem of a phrase, line or verse.

Register: A particular form of language appropriate to a given situation.

Repetition: When a word or phrase is repeated to give a particular effect.

Rhetorical question: A question that does not require an answer because the answer is obvious or it is implied in the question.

Rhyme: Corresponding sounds in words, usually at the end of lines.

Rhyme scheme: The pattern of rhyme in a poem.

Sarcasm: Usually a cruel and cutting remark.

Satire:  A literary form designed to discredit and ridicule men, institutions and ideas.
Simile: A comparison of one thing with another in order to make the description more vivid.  Similes use the words ‘like’ or ‘as’ to make the comparisons.

Sonnet: a 14-line poem. A Petrarchan sonnet has an octave and a sestet and is usually a puzzle followed by an answer.  A Shakespearian sonnet is three quatrains followed by a couplet.  The quatrains are often related and the couplet is the climax or conclusion.

Stanza: The blocks of lines into which a poem is divided.

Stream of Consciousness: A technique in which the writer writes down thoughts and emotions as they come into mind without seeming to bother about a structure.

Structure: The way that a poem has been put together.

Style: The individual way in which a writer uses language to express ideas.

Symbol: A physical object that is used to represent something else.  E.g. a dove symbolising peace.

Syntax: The grammatical arrangement of words within their sentences.  In poetry unusual syntax is used to give particular effects.

Theme: The central idea or ideas that are explored in a piece of literature.

Tone: The author’s voice or overall impression created in a piece of writing.  Think of the tone of voice you would use if you were saying the words aloud.

Transferred Epithet: An adjective that is usually applied to a person is applied to an object to draw attention to a quality.

Verse: A unit of poetry.


e-mail : english@kilmarnockacademy.co.uk                                                 tel: 01563 525509

 N. McIlvanney 2012