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Mrs. Primack's English Class

LITERARY TERMINOLOGY
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FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE

The following is a list of terms that you are required to know and should be able to recognize and discuss. I suggest you print out this list and keep it in your notebook for easy reference.  We will be using these terms frequently throughout the course.

1.      Alliteration is the practice of beginning several consecutive or neighboring words with the same sound, e.g., The twisting trout twinkled below.

 

2.      Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in a series of words, e.g., the words "cry" and "side" have the same vowel sound and so are said to be in assonance.

 

3.      Consonance is the repetition of a consonant sound within a series of words to produce a harmonious effect, e.g., And each slow dusk a drawing-down on blinds.  The "d" sound is in consonance.  as well, the "s" sound is also in consonance.

 

4.      Simile is a comparison of two different things or ideas through the use of the words like or as.  It is definitely stated comparison, where the poet says one thing is like another, e.g., The warrior fought like a lion.

 

5.      Metaphor is a comparison without the use of like or as.  The poet states that one thing is another.  It is usually a comparison between something that is real or concrete and something that is abstract, e.g., Life is but a dream.

 

6.      Personification is a kind of metaphor which gives inanimate objects or abstract ideas human characteristics, e.g., The wind cried in the dark.

 

7.      Onomatopoeia (Imitative Harmony) is the use of words in which the sounds seem to resemble the sounds they describe, e.g., hiss, buzz, bang. when onomatopoeia is used on an extended scale in a poem, it is called imitative harmony. 

 

8.      Hyperbole is a deliberate, extravagant, and often outrageous exaggeration. It may be used either for serious or comic effect; e.g., The shot that was heard 'round the world. 

9.      Understatement (Meiosis) is the opposite of hyperbole. It is a kind of irony which deliberately represents something as much less than it really is, e.g., I could probably manage to survive on a salary of two million dollars per year. 

 

10.  Paradox is a statement which contradicts itself.  It may seem almost absurd. Although it may seem to be at odds with ordinary experience, it usually turns out to have a coherent meaning, and reveals a truth which is normally hidden, e.g., The more you know, the more you know you don't know (Socrates). 

 

11.  Oxymoron is a form of paradox which combines a pair of contrary terms into a single expression. This combination usually serves the purpose of shocking the reader into awareness, e.g., sweet sorrow, wooden nickel. 

 

12.  Pun is a play on words which are identical or similar in sound but which have sharply diverse meanings. Puns may have serious as well as humorous uses, e.g., When Mercutio is bleeding to death in Romeo and Juliet, he says to his friends, "Ask for me tomorrow, and you shall find me a grave man." 

 

13.  Irony is the result of a statement saying one thing while meaning the opposite.  Its purpose is usually to criticize, e.g., It is simple to stop smoking. I've done it many times. 

 

14.  Sarcasm is a type of irony in which a person appears to be praising something while he is actually insulting the thing. Its purpose is to injure or hurt, e.g., As I fell down the stairs headfirst, I heard her say "Look at that coordination." 

 

15.  Antithesis - involves a direct contrast of structurally parallel word groupings generally for the purpose of contrast, e.g., Sink or swim. 

 

16.  Apostrophe is a form of personification in which the absent or dead are spoken to as if present, and the inanimate as if animate. These are all addressed directly, e.g., The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind. 

17.  Allusion is a reference to a mythological, literary, historical, or Biblical person, place, or thing e.g., He met his Waterloo

 

18.  Synecdoche (Metonymy) is a form of metaphor.   In synecdoche, a part of something is used to signify the whole, e.g., All hands on deck. Also, the reverse, whereby the whole can represent a part, is synecdoche, e.g., Canada played the United States in the Olympic hockey finals. Another form of synecdoche involves the container representing  the thing being contained, e.g., The pot is boiling. One last form of synecdoche involves the material from which an object is made standing for the object itself, e.g., The quarterback tossed the pigskin. In metonymy, the name of one thing is applied to another thing with which it is closely associated, e.g. I love Shakespeare.