Glossary of Literary Terms and Devices



Irony: awareness by author, character, or reader of a contrast or difference between the way things seem and the way they are

Dramatic: special type of situational irony in which a character perceives his or her plight in one way, while the spectator and one or more of the other characters understand it in a greater perspective

Situational: type of irony emphasizing that human beings are enmeshed in forces beyond their comprehension or control

Verbal: language stating the opposite of what is meant

Cosmic: situational irony that is connected to a pessimistic or fatalistic view of life

Litotes: means of expressing the affirmative by denying the contrary; deliberate understatement, such as “she is not so unkind” to mean “she is kind”

Metaphor: an implied comparison of two usually unlike things

Metonymy: substitution of a word naming an object for another word closely associated with it, such as Washington being used as a metonym for the American government

Onomatopoeia: the use of a word to represent or imitate natural sounds

Oxymoron: two terms that in ordinary usage are contraries; effective combination of contradictory or incongruous words

Parable: brief and often simple narrative designed to illustrate a moral or religious truth

Paradox: concept that seems to be self- contradictory or absurd, yet on closer scrutiny, the apparent contradiction disappears and the statement is found to be truly meaningful

Parallelism: a rhetorical figure in which the same grammatical forms are repeated in two or more phrases, lines of verse, or sentences.

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