Poetic Terms Glossary
Accentual Verse – A verse form where the line length is determined by the number of stressed syllables, regardless of the number of unstressed syllables.
Acrostic – A poem where the first letter of each line forms a word.
Allegory – An extended metaphorical story, where the places, characters and objects have figurative meaning.
Alliteration – Repetition of consonants or vowels throughout a piece of writing.
Allusion – Reference to a historical or literary person, place or event.
Anapest – A metric foot built from two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed syllable.
Anaphora – Repetition of a word or words to begin a series of lines or phrases.
Assonance – Repetition of vowel sounds.
Aubade – A type of love poem lamenting the arrival of dawn, when lovers must part.
Ballad – A narrative song.
Blank Verse – Unrhymed iambic pentameter.
Caesura – A stop in the middle of a line marked with punctuation.
Choriamb – A metric foot built from two stressed syllables with two unstressed syllables in between. In other words, a trochee followed by an iamb.
Common Measure – A quatrain with an ABAB rhyme scheme that alternates iambic tetrameter and iambic trimeter.
Concrete Poetry – Verse that uses typeface and typesetting to convey meaning, such as the lines forming a shape on the page.
Consonance – Repetition of consonant sounds.
Couplet – A pair of lines, similar in length, which rhyme.
Dactyl – A metric foot built from one stressed syllable followed by two unstressed syllables.
Dimeter – A line built from two metric feet.
Dissonance – A collection of sounds that clash and break rhythm.
Elegy – A poem lamenting a death while commemorating a life.
Elision – The contraction of a word by omitting unstressed syllables, usually to fit a metric form. For example: “ere" for “ever" or “am'rous" for “amorous".
End-Stop – A line that ends in a grammatical break or with end punctuation, rather than an enjambment.
Enjambment – A line where a sentence or phrase continues to the next line, unlike an end-stop.
Epic – A long narrative poem describing a quest.
Epigraph – A selection from another written work that is placed below the title of a poem.
Figurative – Expressive and non-literal use of language.
Foot – A unit of measure in metric poetry defined by a specific number and order of stressed and unstressed syllables.
Format-Shift – Rewriting a written work in a different form. For example, making a short-story into a poem or a sonnet into free-verse.
Free-Verse – Poetry not adhering to a rigid structure. Also known as open form.
Haiku – A Japanese poetic form built from unrhymed lines of five, seven and five syllables.
Heptameter – A line built from seven metric feet.
Hexameter – A line built from six metric feet.
Hyperbole – A gigantic exaggeration or overstatement.
Iamb – A metric foot built from an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable.
Irony – A painful or comic contradiction between reality and intention. For example, Oedipus searching for his father's killer when he is the killer; or building an immortality machine that kills you.
Kenning – A figurative compound word that replaces a simple noun, like calling blood “battle-sweat".
Limerick – A poem with an AABBA rhyme scheme built from two long lines, two short lines and another long line, typically bawdy in nature.
Litotes – A deliberate dramatic understatement.
Lyric – Poetry intended to be performed with musical accompaniment, traditionally a lyre.
Metaphor – The comparison of two things without using “like", “as" or “than".
Meter – A pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables.
Metonymy – A figure of speech in which a related term replaces the word itself. For example, referring to the United States' executive branch as “the White House".
Metric Verse - A verse form where the line length is determined by the number and type of feet, such as iambic pentameter or anapestic trimeter.
Occasional Poem – A poem composed for a particular event, such as an inauguration or a wedding.
Octave – An eight line stanza or poem.
Ode – A formal poem celebrating a person or topic.
Onomatopoeia – A word with the same sound as meaning, such as “bang" or “hiss".
Oxymoron – A union of contradictory words, such as “screaming silence" or “wise fool".
Palindrome – A word, phrase or sentence that is the same forward and backward, such as “radar" or “rise to vote, sir".
Paradox – A phrase or idea that seems to contradict itself, yet is somehow true. For example, holding the hand that holds you down.
Parody – A comic imitation of another work.
Pentameter – A line built from five metric feet.
Poetic License – Straying from the typical rules of grammar, logic and syntax to suit the needs of a poem.
Prose Poem – A poetic writing that does not break into verse lines, rather breaking with the edges of the page.
Prosody – The principles of metric structure in poetry.
Pun – A play on words using two identically spelled words, such as calling a taxi for a thirsty bar patron who orders a cab.
Quatrain – A four line stanza.
Refrain – A line or phrase repeated throughout a poem, particularly at the end of stanzas.
Rhyme – Repetition of syllables at the end of words, often at the end of a line.
Rhyme Scheme – A pattern of rhymes used in a poem.
Scansion – Noting the number and placement of stresses in a poem and analyzing its metric structure.
Sestet – A six line stanza.
Simile - The comparison of two things using “like", “as" or “than".
Sonnet – A fourteen line poem with a rhyme scheme typically written in iambic pentameter.
Spondee – A metric foot built from two stressed syllables.
Stanza – A group of lines separated from the rest of the poem by a blank line.
Stress – A syllable delivered with a stronger emphasis, like the first syllable in “poetry".
Syllabic Verse - A verse form where the line length is determined by the number of syllables, regardless of the number or placement of stresses.
Synecdoche – A figure of speech where a part of something replaces the whole, such as “take my hand in marriage".
Tanka – A Japanese poetic form built from unrhymed lines of five, seven, five, seven and seven syllables.
Ten-by-Ten – A ten line poem with ten syllables per line.
Tercet – A three line stanza.
Tetrameter – A line built from four metric feet.
Trimeter – A line built from three metric feet.
Trochee – A metric foot built from a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable.
Villanelle – A verse form consisting of three tercets and a quatrain, where the first and third lines of the beginning stanza repeat alternately at the end of the following tercets and form the final couplet.