Key Ways to know Literary Terms

Key Ways to know Literary Terms


These are mostly identifiable rule of thumb, convention or structure that is employed by writers in telling their stories. It also helps them to express or create an emotional mood, attitude, impression, setting or characterisation to stress a point or idea in a literary piece.

The following are some of the literary terms used by writers to persuade their readers or audience artfully.


ABBEY THEATRE; It is an Irish theatre built purposely for the performance of play by Irish actors. This is the centre of the Irish dramatic movement founded in 1899 by W.B. YEASTS and LADY GREGORY and it was opened in 1904.

ABOVO; This refers to a narrative that starts at the beginning of the plot and then moves chronologically through a sequence of events to the tales conclusion.

ABOLITIONIST LITERATURE; This refers to a form of literature, poetry, pamphlets or propaganda written in the nineteenth century for the express purpose of condemning shareholders, encouraging the release and emancipation of slaves, or abolishing slavery altogether.This literature is mostly in the form of autobiography or fictional accounts like Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Read On: Why Sonnets are Categorised into Two but with Six Types

ABOVE, THE OR ALOFT; This term refers to the gallery on the upper level of the frons scenae. In Shakespeare’s Globe theatre, this area contains the Lord’s rooms, but the center of this location was also used by the actors for short scenes.

ABSTRACT; It is a summarised piece of a longer literary work. It always appears at the beginning of a manuscript or typescript which acts as a point-of-entry for any given academic papers or literary piece.

‘Abstract’ with reference to language is the opposite of ‘Concrete’ and it exist in the thought or as an idea which has no physical or concrete existence .example; hatred, love, anguish etc.

ABSURDIST DRAMA; This also refers to a play that depicts life as meaningless, senseless uncertain etc. such play ends up where it started with nothing accomplished or with nothing gained.

ACATALECTIC; A normal line of poetry with the expected number of syllables in each line as opposed to catalectic line or hypercatalectic.

ACATALEXIS; It is the use of acatalectic lines in poetry.

ACCENT; This refers to the emphasis placed on a syllable in poetry or a rhythmically significant stress in the expression of words in literature. Traditional poetry is commonly known for the accented syllable which is also called feet. Example; to be or not to be: that is the question (from William Shakespeare’s Hamlet)


ACROSTIC; A poem in which the first or last letters of each line vertically form a word. E.g. OPERAACRONYM; A word formed from initial letters in a phrase or a syllable. This is useful to allow the speaker to memorise certain names. Acronyms are quite common in governmental bureaucracies, in businesses, in political jargon and in high-tech products. Examples; AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) IRS (Internal Revenue Service). In general acronyms first appear with periods to indicate the abbreviations e.g. (L.A.S.E.R). As the term becomes more widespread, the periods vanish eg.(LASER), and eventually the capitalization falls away as the word enters common usage.


ACT; It is the main or major divisions of a play. Its sub-divisions are scenes. It was generally consisted of 5. Example; Shakespeare uses five act in most of his literary work.But most of the modern writing consists of two or three acts.

ACTION; This refers to a series of events that constitute the plot in any fictional play. An action play has a starting point, a middle point and an ending point. It is the action of a play that turns the reader or the audience on, it also arouses the mood of that reader or audience.

ACTO; A one- act Chicano theatre piece developed out of collective improvisation by actors. A short realistic play usually in Spanish that dramatises the social and economic problems of Chicanos. Origin from Spanish act.

ACTOR; An actor is a person that acts or performs in a literary work or play. An actor is also a person who portrays a certain or a specific character in any given play.


ADAGE;An adage is a proverb or a wise saying that is generally accepted as the truth. It is a deep intellectual saying that demands deeper understanding and it is descended down from generation to generation. Example; fish and visitors stink after three days familiarity breeds contempt, Man shall not live by bread alone.

ADAGY; The act of speaking or writing in adages.

ADAPTATION; Taking material from an older source and altering it or updating it in a new genre. Example; John Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi is a play adapted from an older Italian Novella. The God’s are not To Blame by Ola Rotimi is an adaptation of Sophocle’s Oedispus Ree that originally had it setting in Greece.

ADDRESS; A speech or written statement serious in intent and somewhat formal in style.

ADVENTURE NOVEL;This is a type of literary work or genre that centers on an action or an adventure which also depict a heroic deeds or a physical danger and in turns end comically. Adventure has been a common theme since the earliest days of written fiction. Example; the scarlet pimpernel by Baroness Orczy The call of the Wild by Jack London The Thirty-Nine steps by John Buchan.


AESTHETICISM; A literary and artistic movement of the nineteenth century. Followers of the movement hold the view that art should not be mixed with social, political or moral teaching.

AFFECTIVE FALLACY; It is a term from literary criticism used to refer to the supposed error of judging or evaluating a literary work on the basis of its emotional effects on a reader. The term was coined by W.K. Wimsatt and Monroe Beardsley as a principle of New Criticism.

AIDED (PLURAL: AIDEDA); A tale in prose or mixed prose and poetry in which a hero, poet or ruler suffers a violent death often occurring at a luminal time or place such as the Samhain festival or at an otherworldly banquet hall. Frequently the ending follows the motif of the threefold death.

According to Dan Wiley’s article in Medieval Ireland. An Encyclopedia, some thirty-five such tales explicitly labeled aideda survive from old or Middle Irish between 650-1250 C.E.AIDOS; The Greek term for the great shame by a hero after failure.

ALARUM;This is a stage direction in a play indicating the coming of a battle; a call to arms.


Joyceline Natally Cudjoe

An Entertainment Columnist, Content Writer, Blogger, Novelist, Poet, and a Publicist. For business or story tip off, contact me on +233 24 646 6866 or email: [email protected]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button