M.D Dinesh Nair (Thrissur/Vijayawada)
A GLOSSARY OF POETIC WORDS
I would like to re-submit this exhaustive list of terms associated with poetry and hope that members will make use of the list to understand different kinds of poetry in a better way.
ABSTRACT -a word denoting qualities that do not exist except as
attributes'- beauty, love, despair etc.
ALLEGORY -a narrative in which the subject of a higher spiritual order
is described in terms of that of a lower one.
There are HISTORICAL and POLITICAL allegories and
the allegory of IDEAS.
ALLITERATION -the repetition of a speech sound in a sequence
of words at the beginning or the end.
ALLUSION -a brief reference to a person, a place or an event.
AMBIGUITY -a common usage of a vague/equivocal expression.
ANACHRONISM - anything included in a literary work which belongs
to a period.
ANAGRAM -word or words formed by the rearrangement of the
letters of another word and often to make a comment
upon it. Ex- wait-await
APOSTROPHE -a figure of speech in which a person, a thing or
an imaginary object is addressed.
ASSONANCE -the repetition of the identical or similar vowel sounds.
Ex -'Thou still unrevised bride of quietness,
Thou foster child of silence and slow time.
BALLAD -a tale told in the light rapid metre and in a simple language.
A dance song to be sung by the dancers themselves.
BALLADE -a poem with three stanzas of eight lines each.
BAROQUE -a style in the architecture of the lines of poetry with
obscure over elaboration.
BATHOS -an unintentional descent from the exalted to the ridiculous.
A writer trying to be lofty causes it all of a sudden.
Ex - ‘Ye Gods! Annihilate but space and time
and make two lovers happy'.
BLANK VERSE -unrhymed verse written in iambic penta metre.
It was introduced by the Earl of Surrey in his
translation of the Latin Epic' THE AENEID in 1540.
BOMBAST -inflated high sounding and meaningless words used
to express certain ideas.
BOWDLERIZE -to remove the indecent or indelicate passages from
a work ‘which is unfit to be read by a gentleman in a
company of women'.
BURLESQUE -a literary work designed to ridicule the attitude, the
style or the subject matter. The aim is to trivialise an
elevated subject for the sheer fun of doing it.
CAESURA -a pause in a line of verse dictated not by matrices
CANTO -a major division of a long poem of an epic's stature.
CAROL -a song of praise or joy, especially a Christian hymn.
CAVALIER POETS -the poets associated with the court like Richard
Lovelace, Sir John Suckling and Robert Herrick.
CARPE DIEM -a Latin phrase referring to the shortness of life.
Spencer writes in his ‘FAERIE QUEENE'
‘Gather therefore the Rose, whilst yet is prime'.
CELTIC RENAISSANCE -an Irish literary revival.W.B Yeats,
James Stephens and Oliver St John Gogarty contributed
to the revival by writing in the Celtic dialect.
CLASSICISM -a style of art and literature that is simple and elegant.
It is based on the styles of ancient Greece and Rome.
CLICHE -phrase or expression often admirable when coined but
worn out by over use.Ex - doubting Thomas, better-half etc.
CONCEITS -the terms used to designate a fanciful notion or
conception. They draw striking parallels between two
seemingly dissimilar things…
THE PETRARCHAN conceit is an exaggerated
comparison applied. Ex - A worshipful lover is in despair
because his beautiful mistress is cold and cruel too.
THE METAPHYSICAL conceit is the discovery of
resemblances in things apparently unlike….
Ex - John Donne's parallel between the continuing
relationship of his and his lady's soul despite their
physical parting to the co-ordinated movements of the
two feet of a draughtsman's compass.
CONCRETE -a word denoting a person or thing in all exactness so
as to assert a fact/subject.
CONNOTATION -the variety of the secondary meaning suggested.
Ex - A home cannotates privacy and intimacy whereas
its DENOTATION gives the primary meaning of a
place for living…
CONSONANCE -an agreement between the musical notes or the
lines of a verse.
CONVENTIONS -any accepted literary devices or forms. Ex - the
use of metre in versification or that of the characters
of a BALLAD singing instead of speaking words.
COUPLET -a pair of rhymed lines: -
THE OCTO syllabic COUPLET has lines of eight
syllables, usually of four iambic feet.
THE HEROIC COUPLET is a pair of rhymed iambic
a TRIPLET which is also called TERCET is a stanza
of three lines bound by a single rhyme.
DECADENTS - English literature of the last decade of the 19th century
is known as Decadent literature.It challenged the
Victorian values of art and life. While being realistic
it gave a pessimistic portrayal of the social life and
ECLOGUE - a short pastoral poem in which shepherds converse
with one another.
ELEGY - a poem expressing sorrow, lament or a pensive sadness
SIMPLE ELEGY is a funeral song or poem of lament
for an individual.
ENCOMIASTIC ELEGY is a poet's tribute to some
great man and often a study of his life and character.
ELIZABETHANS - dramatists and other writers like Shakespeare
who were the contemporaries of Queen Elizabeth I
EMPATHY -an experience in which one identifies oneself with an
object or perception and participates in its physical
SYMPATHY denotes a fellow feeling and not a feeling
into.It`s a feeling along with the state of mind and
emotions of another human being.
EPIC -a long narrative poem which tells of heroes and heroic
deeds and even supernatural deeds.Usually the significa-
nce of a nation is involved in it.
EPIC SIMILE -a figure of speech introduced by Homer in which
secondary subjects are developed far beyond the
specific points related to the primary subject. Milton
used it in PARADISE LOST Book I. He described
the fallen angels moving to their new palace by a
compassion to the swarming bees.
EPIGRAM -a short poem of amorous, elegiac, meditative or satiric
element. An epigram ends with a surprising or witty
turn of thoughts.
EPIPHANY -a devise for flaring of an ordinary object or scene into
a revelation. Christian thinkers used/use it to signify the
‘presence' of God in the world.
EPISTLE -a letter in verse form
EPITHALAMATION -a nuptial song or poem that prays for the
prosperity of the bride-groom and the bride.
EPITHET -an adjective or objectivial phrase used to define the
special quality of a person or a thing.
EQUIVOQUE -the use of a phrase which has two different meanings
while denoting the same relevance.
Ex - ‘A bank teller checked his cash,
cashed his checks.
FOLK LORE -songs on legends, superstitions, weather, plants and
animals and nursery rhymes.
FOLK SONGS -love songs, Christmas carols, work songs, religious
songs, drinking songs and children's game songs.
FREE VERSE -verse without regular metre. It depends upon natural
GENRE -a type or class of literary work, form or technique.
GEORGIAN POETS -the contemporaries of GEORGES I to V [1714-.
1936] such as T.S Moore, W.H Davies and Lascelles.
GRAVEYARD POETS -the eighteenth century poets who wrote
meditative poems usually set in a graveyard.
Thomas Parnell and Thomas Gray were such poets.
HAIKU/HOKKU -a lyric form originated in Japan. It has exactly
HARANGUE -a very vehement speech addressed to a large
HOMILY -a sermon either spoken or written.
HYMN -a song of praise addressed to a deity.
HYPERBOLE -a figure of speech with an exaggeration of statement.
Ex - ‘ Belinda smiled, and the world was gay'.
IAMBIC -of a rhythm in which one short or weak syllable is
followed by one long and strong syllable.
IAMBIC PENTAMETRE -in lines of ten syllables, five short and five
IDYLL -a short lyrical poem descriptive of everyday life
amid natural-often pastoral or even romantic
IMAGERY -the visual pictures of other sensory experiences
evoked by the poet. It is used to signify all the objects
and qualities of sense perception referred to in poems
IMAGISM -a form of poetry that flourished in England and
America from 1912 to 1917.The form presents hard
and clear objects with concrete or sharp features.
IMITATION -representation of human action in a new medium or
INVECTIVE -a type of irony used in derogatory epithets.
IRONY -a form of wit in which the opposite of what one really
means is said. The term originated from the Greek
word ‘eiron'[a comedy character who is a dissembler].
JACOBIAN AGE -the period of the reign of JAMES I [1603-1625].
JARGON -an inflated phrase which is unintelligible.
LAI -the octasyllabic couplets written by the medieval
LAKE POETS - Wordsworth, Coleridge and Southey who lived in
the districts of Cumberland and Westmorland.
LAMPOON -crude defamatory satire upon an individual.
LIGHT VERSE -verse written in a speaking voice.
LIMERICK -the poems of light verse first popularised by Edward
Lear in 1846.
LITOTES -an understatement that reduces the effect of a
description made earlier in a line.
LYRIC -a Song intended for music.
MALAPROPISM -the ridiculous misuse of a word.Mrs Malaprop in
Sheridan's play ‘RIVALS' uses it. Hence the term.
METRE/METER -the rhythm regulated by rules of prosody.
The accentuation of the stressed, unstressed or
weak stressed syllables decides the metre.
METAPHOR -an implied comparison or a simile without ‘ like'
or ‘as'. It is a figure of speech.
METAPHYSICAL POETS -the poets of the 17th century like John
Donne, Crashaw and George Herbertt. They were
‘men of learning' who saw acute resemblances
in things apparently unlike. They presented far fetched
images and conceits. Either adoration of God or
obscurity was the sharp feature of their poems.
MONODY -a poem of mourning often spoken by one person.
MOTIF -a device for presenting the transition of a loath lady
into a beautiful princess in folklores.
METONYMY -a figure of speech of using a word with the intention
that it will suggest another. Ex- throne or crown
standing for the idea of kingship.
MYTH -a story handed down from olden times containing
the early beliefs of a race. Most myths involve rituals.
MYTHOLOGY -a system of hereditary stories which were once
believed to be true by a particular cultural group.
OBJECTIVE CORRELATIVE -a devise used to explain how emotion
is best expressed in poetry.T.S Eliot used the term
to refer to a simple transmission of the thoughts in the
mind of the poet to the mind of the reader. The object
in which emotion is bodied forth is external equivalent
or objective correlative.
OCCASIONAL POEMS -the poems written to adorn or memorise an
occasion such as a birthday, a marriage, a death
or a military victory.
ODE -a long lyrical poem which is serious in subject dignified
in style and elaborates in the structure of stanzas.
ONAMATOPOEIA -a figure of speech in which the sound echoes the
required sense. Ex-Tennyson wrote:
‘Cannon to right of them
Cannon to left of them
Cannon in front of them…..'
OTTAV RIMA -a stanza of eight lines in iambic pentameter with
a rhyme scheme of ‘ ab ab ab cc'.
OXYMORON -a figure of speech consisting generally of two
apparently contradictory or incongruous words.
Ex- Fair cruelty, Faith unfaithful, falsely true…etc.
PARODY -imitation of another person's work where ridicule
is the main objective.
PASTORAL -a conventional poem expressing an urban poet's
nostalgic image of the peace and simplicity of
the life of shepherds and other rural folk.
PATHETIC FALLACY -a phrase invented by Ruskin in 1856 to
designate the literary devise by which nature and
inanimate objects are credited with human emotions
PERSONIFICATION -a figure of speech in which an inanimate object
is likened or spoken of as a person.
PLAGARISM -literary theft.
PLATONIC LOVE -a concept that physical beauty is only a sign of
the spiritual beauty. The bodily beauty is at the lowest
rung on the ladder that leads up from the sensual
desire to the contemplation of the Heavenly Beauty.
POETIC JUSTICE -a concept of ideal distribution of rewards and
punishments. A term coined by Thomas Rhymer
a critic of the late 17th century.
POETIC LICENSE -a concept that gives liberty to the poet to use
the language of his choice which is exemplified in
the use of verse which is beyond the severity of
PROSODY -the systematic study of versification, that is the
principle and practice of metre, rhyme, stanza,
alliteration, assonance and euphony.
PROTHALAMION -a nuptial song preceding a marriage.
PUN -a play on words that are either identical in sound or
similar in sound, but are sharply diverse in meaning.
QUARTET/QUATRAN -a stanza of four lines. The ballad stanzas
rhyme ‘ abs cb'.Other quatrain rhyme schemes are
‘ ab ab, ab ba, and aa ba'.
REFRAIN -a line, a part of a line or a group of lines which is
repeated in the course of a poem, sometimes with
RHETORICAL FIGURES -some common figures of speech which
depart from the standard or literal language.
Ex - Alexander Pope writes in THE RAPE OF THE
LOCK ‘Gods! Shall the ravisher display your hair,
while the fops envy, and the ladies stare'.
END RHYMES -at the end of the lines
Ex - ‘I listened motionless and still,
and as I mounted up the hill'.
INTERNAL RHYMES -within a verse
ex - ‘Sister, my sister, oh fleet sweet swallow'.
MASCULINE RHYMES - single stressed syllable
ex - ‘The music in my heart bore
long after it was heard no more'.
FEMININE RHYMES - a stressed syllable followed by an
unstressed syllable.Ex - ‘ ending - bending'
comparison - garrison'.
EYE RHYMES - spelled alike, pronounced differently.
Ex - ‘prove - love ‘.
IMPERFECT RHYMES - the rhymed vowels are either
approximate or different.
Ex - ‘ loads…, lids…., lads…'.
ROMANTICISM -a style and movement in art, literature
and music in the late18th and early 19th
century. It demanded strong feelings and
imagination and a return to nature giving
less importance to reason, order and
SERENADE -a song, usually of love sung by knight under his
SIMILE -a figure of speech by which one thing, action
or a relation is likened or compared with ‘as'
or' like'. Ex - ‘ I wandered lonely as a cloud'.
SEMANTICS -the study of the relation between words and
things or between language, thought and
STYLE -the way of writing or a manner of expression.
‘The style of a man should be the image of
his mind, but the choice and command of lang
uage is in the fruit of exercise', Gibbon says.
SOLILOQUY -a theatrical device whereby an actor expresses
his thoughts to the audience alone.
SONNET -a poem of fourteen lines/iambic pentameters.
PETRARCHAN sonnet is: cd, ec, de or cd, cc, dc.
SHAKESPEAREAN is: ab, ab, cd, cd or ef, ef, gg.
SPENSARIAN is: ab, ba, ab or ba, cd, cd, cd.
SYNECDOCHE -a figure of speech in which a part is mentioned
to signify the whole or a whole is mentioned to
signify a part. Ex - ‘fifty sail' to mean ‘fifty ships'.
‘Cut throat' to mean ‘assassin'
it signifies a species for a genus.Ex - ‘a creature
to mean ‘man'.
SUBLIME -the quality in literary work which exalts or elevates
SYMBOLS -anything which denotes something else.
CONVENTIONAL SYMBOLS are the cross, the lamb
and the shepherd.
PERSONAL SYMBOLS are such like a peacock
for pride and an eagle for heroic act.
TERZA RIMA -a series of interlocking triplets in which the first and
the third lines rhyme together. Here the second line
rhymes with the first and the third lines of the
succeeding triplet. The rhyme scheme is ‘ aba, bcb,
cdc, ded ‘ and so on….
THEME -a term applied to a thesis or doctrine which an imaginary
work is supposed to convey to the reader.
THRENODY -a song of lamentation; a choral dirge.
TRANSFERRED EPITHET -a figure of speech in which an adjective
or an adverb is not used with the word it qualifies, but
is associated with some other word to which it
transfers its meaning.
Ex - ‘ Troy's proud walls lie level with the ground'.
TRAVESTY -a poem which mocks at a particular work for its
lofty subject. It is done in a jocular and undignified
manner and style.
TRIOLET -a poem consisting of a single eight line stanza with
two rhymes arranged as ‘ ab aa ab ab'.
VERISIMILITUDE -a degree to which the poet faithfully creates
the semblance of ‘truth'.
VICTORIAN AGE -the literary period during which Queen
Victoria [1837-1901] ruled England.
Poet's Notes about The Poem
Comments about this poem (A GLOSSARY OF POETIC WORDS by M.D Dinesh Nair )
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