English Poetry Vocabulary

Sonnet
A lyric poem that is 14 lines long. Italian (or Petrarchan) sonnets are divided into two quatrains and a six-line “sestet,” with the rhyme scheme abba abba cdecde (or cdcdcd). English (or Shakespearean) sonnets are composed of three quatrains and a final couplet, with a rhyme scheme of abab cdcd efef gg.

Assonance
The repetition of vowel sounds, especially in a line of poetry.

Consonance
The repetition of consonant sounds in stressed syllables. Usually the term refers to words which the ending consonants are the same.

Onomatopoeia
The use of a word or phrase that actually imitates or suggests the sound of what it describes.

Oxymoron
A figure of speech that brings together contradictory words for effect, such as “jumbo shrimp” and “deafening silence”.

Narrative Poetry
Verse tells a story.

Lyric Poetry
Poems, usually short, that express strong personal feelings about a subject or an event.

Haiku
Poems, usually short, that express strong personal feelings about a subject or an event.

Alliteration
The repetition of consonant sounds, usually at the beginning of words or syllables.

Limerick
A light humorous poem with a regular metrical scheme and a rhyme scheme of aabba.

Ballad
A short musical narrative song or poem.

Line
A series of words that appear as a single group and may have no end punctuation.

Stanza
A group of lines that form a unit in a poem.

Lyric
The words of a song usually with a regular rhyme scheme.

Rhythm
The pattern created by the arrangement of stressed and unstressed syllables.

Meter
A regular pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables that gives a line of poetry a predictable rhythm.

End Rhyme
Rhyme at the ends of lines.

Internal Rhyme
Rhyme within a line.

Rhyme Scheme
The pattern of rhyme formed by the end rhyme.

Simile
Simile

Symbol
An object, person, place, or experience that means more than what it is.

The use of images to represent internal realities.

Personification
A figure of speech in which an animal, object, or idea is given human form or characteristic.

Idiom
A figure of speech that belongs to a particular language people or region and whose meaning cannot be obtained, and might even seem ridiculous, by joining the meanings of the words composing it.

Metaphor
A figure of speech that compares unlike things by stating it directly; there is no use of connectives such as like or as.

Imagery
Language that emphasizes sensory impressions to help the reader of a literary work see, hear, feel, smell and taste the scenes described in the work.

“Word Pictures”.

Couplet
In a poem, a pair of lines that are the same length and usually rhyme and form a complete thought. Shakespearean sonnets usually end in a couplet.

Quatrain
A stanza or poem of four lines.

Rhyme
The repetition of sounds at the ends of words that appear close to each other in a poem.

Tone
The poet’s attitude toward the poem’s speaker, reader, and subject matter, as interpreted by the reader. Often described as a “mood” that pervades the experience of reading the poem, it is created by the poem’s vocabulary, metrical regularity or irregularity, syntax, use of figurative language, and rhyme.

Free Verse
Poetry that has no fixed pattern of meter, rhyme, line length, or stanza.