A Posteriori: In rhetoric, logic, and philosophy, a belief or proposition is said to be a posteriori if it can onl
A Priori: In rhetoric, logic, and philosophy, an argument is said to be a priori if its truth can be known or
A-Stem: A declension of Old English nouns. At one point, this declension had a thematic vowel appearing in f
Écriture: In deconstruction, writing as a social institution and as a group of inter-related texts. This resul
Ab Ovo: (Latin, 'from the egg') This phrase refers to a narrative that starts 'at the beginning' of the plot
Abbey Theatre: The center of the Irish Dramatic movment founded in 1899 by W. B. Yeats and Lady Gregory, built with
Ablaut: Jacob Grimm's term for the way in which Old English strong verbs formed their preterites by a vowel
Abolitionist Literature: Literature, poetry, pamphlets, or propaganda written in the nineteenth century for the express purpo
Abstract Diction - Abstract Imagery: Language that describes qualities that cannot be perceived with the five senses. For instance, calli
Abstract Poem: Verse that makes little sense grammatically or syntactically but which relies on auditory patterns c
Abusio: A type of catachresis known as the 'mixed metaphor.' The term is often used in a derogatory manner.
Acatalectic: A 'normal' line of poetry with the expected number of syllables in each line, as opposed to a catale
Acatalexis: The use of acatalectic lines in poetry--see discussion under catalectic.
Accent: (1) A recognizable manner of pronouncing words--often associated with a class, caste, ethnic group,
Acephalous: From Greek 'headless,' acephalous lines are lines in normal iambic pentameter that contain only nine
Acronym: (From Greek acron + onyma, 'tip or end of a name') A word formed from the initial letters in a phras
Acronymy: The act of using or creating acronyms. (See above.)
Acrostic: A poem in which the first or last letters of each line vertically form a word, phrase, or sentence.
Act: A major division in a play. Often, individual acts are divided into smaller units (scenes') that all
Action: A real or fictional event or series of such events comprising the subject of a novel, story, narrati
Acute Accent: A diacritical mark indicating primary stress.
Additive Monster: In contrast with the composite monster, mythologists and folklorists use the label additive monster
Adekah: The adekah is a section of Genesis including Genesis 22:1-19, of foundational importance in the thre
Advanced Pronunciation: In linguistics, John Algeo defines this as an early instance of a historical sound change in progres
Adventure Novel: Any novel in which exciting events and fast paced actions are more important than character developm
Aesc: (also called ash in Anglo-Saxon) A letter in the Old Norse runic alphabet indicating the sound /æ
Aesthetic Distance: An effect of tone, diction, and presentation in poetry creating a sense of an experience removed fro
Affix: James Algeo defines an affix as 'a morpheme added to a baseor stem to modify its meaning' (311). If
Affixation: Making words by adding an affix to a previously existing base word or stem. For instance, the affix
Affricative: A sound stop with a fricative release. Affricatives involve a stop plus a movment through a fricativ
Afro-Asiatic: A family of languages separate from Indo-European languages. The two main branches of Afro-Asiatic a
Agglutinative: (from Latin, 'glued to') In a now outdated linguistic classification, an agglutinative language was
Agrarian Idealism: The conviction that farming is an especially virtuous occupation in comparison with trade, craftsman
Agreement: Having different parts of a sentence agree with each other in grammatical number, gender, case, mood
Aided: (pluralaideda): A tale in prose or mixed prose and poetry in which a hero, poet, or ruler suffers a
Aidos: The Greek term for the great shame felt by a hero after failure.
Alazon: A stock character in Greek drama, the alazon is a stupid braggart who is easily tricked by the cleve
Alba: (Provençal 'dawn') A medieval lyric or morning serenade about the coming of dawn. The alba's refr
Alcaics: A stanza written in alcaics is written in the meter created by the Greek poet Alcaeus. This stanza-f
Alchemy: The medieval and Renaissance precursor to modern chemistry, characterized by mystical philosophy and
Alexandrine: A twelve-syllable line written in iambic hexameter. Alexandrines were especially popular in French p
Allegoresis: The act of reading a story as an allegory.
Allegory: The word derives from the Greek allegoria (speaking otherwise'). The term loosely describes any writ
Alliosis: While presenting a reader with only two alternatives may result in the logical fallacy known as fals
Alliteration: Repeating a consonant sound in close proximity to others, or beginning several words with the same v
Alliterative Prose: Many texts of Old English and Middle English prose use the same techniques as alliterative verse. Ae
Alliterative Revival: The general increase or surge in alliterative poetry composed in the second half of the 14th century
Alliterative Verse: A traditional form of Anglo-Saxon and Old Norse poetry in which each line has at least four stressed
Allomorph: A different pronunciation of a morpheme. For instance, consider the -s plural morpheme. The standard
Allophone: A predictable change in the articulation of a phoneme. For example, the letter t in the word top is
Allusion: A casual reference in literature to a person, place, event, or another passage of literature, often
Alphabet Poem: An acrostic poem of thirteen lines in which each line consists of two words, each word beginning wit
Alphabetic: The adjective alphabetic refers to any writing system in which each unit or letter represents a sing
Alphabetism: A word formed from the initial letters of other words (or syllables) pronounced with the letters of
Altaic: (from the Altai mountains) A non-Indo-European language family including Turkish, Tungusic, and Mong
Alter Ego: A literary character or narrator who is a thinly disguised representation of the author, poet, or pl
Althing: The closest approximation the Icelandic Vikings had to a government/court system/police--a gathering
Alveolar: This adjective refers to any sound made by the tongue's approaching the gum ridge. Examples include
Alveopalatal: This adjective refers to any sound made by the tongue's approaching the gum ridge and the hard palat
Amalgamated Compound: A word originally formed from a compound, but whose form is no longer clearly connected to its origi
Amanuensis: (from Latin, ab manus, 'by hand', plural amanuenses) A servant, slave, secretary, or scribe who take
Ambiance: Loosely the term is equivalent to atmosphere or mood, but more specifically, ambiance is the atmosph
Ambiguity: In common conversation, ambiguity is a negative term applied to a vague or equivocal expression when
Amelioration: A semantic change in which a word gains increasingly favorable connotation. For instance, the Middle
American Dream: A theme in American literature, film, and art that expresses optimistic desires for self-improvement
American English: The English language as it developed in North America, especially in terms of its diction and the sp
Americanism: An expression that is characteristic of the U.S.A. or one which first developed in America.
Ameslan: American Sign Language--a language composed of hand-signs for the deaf.
Amphibrach: In classical poetry, a three-syllable poetic foot consisting of a light stress, heavy stress, and a
Amphimacer: A three-syllable foot consisting of a heavy, light, and heavy stress. Poetry written in amphimacers
Amphisbaenic Rhyme: A poetic structure invented by Edmund Wilson in which final words in strategic lines do not rhyme in
Amphitheater: An open-air theater, especially the unroofed public playhouses in the suburbs of London. Shakespeare
Anachronism: Placing an event, person, item, or verbal expression in the wrong historical period. In Shakespeare'
Anacreontics: Poetry or song-verse modeled on the poetry of the Greek poet Anacreon--i.e., carpe diem poetry prais
Anacrusis: The addition of an extra unstressed syllable or two at the start of a line of verse--but these addit
Anadiplosis: (Greek 'doubling') Repeating the last word of a clause at the beginning of the next clause. As Nietz
Anagnorisis: (Greek for 'recognition'): A term used by Aristotle in the Poetics to describe the moment of tragic
Anagogical: In fourfold interpretation, the anagogical reading is the fourth type of interpretation in which one
Anagram: (Greekwriting back or anew): When the letters or syllables in a name, word or phrase are shuffled to
Analogue: (also spelled analog) A story that contains similar characters, situations, settings, or verbal echo
Analytic: A language is analytic if it requires a certain word order to make grammatical sense--often this req
Analytical Comparison: Comparison using more and most instead of -er and -est.
Analyzed Rhyme: Another term for inexact rhyme. See below.
Anapest: A foot or unit of poetry consisting of two light syllables followed by a single stressed syllable. S
Anaphora: (Greek, 'carried again,' also called epanaphora) The intentional repetition of beginning clauses in
Anapodoton: Deliberately creating a sentence fragment by the omission of a clause: If only you came with me! If
Anaptyxis: In linguistics, anaptyxis is the appearance of an intrusive vowel sound between two consonants when
Anastrophe: Inverted order of words or events as a rhetorical scheme. Anastrophe is specifically a type of hyper
Anatolian: A branch of Indo-European languages spoken in Asia Minor, including Hittite.
Anchoress: A female anchorite. These women were eremites or hermits in the medieval period who would request pe
Anchorhold: In medieval times, an enclosure in the wall of a church where an anchorite or anchoress would be sea
Anchorite: An eremite or hermit in the medieval period who requests permission from the local pastor to be seal
Ancillary Characters: (Latin ancillahelper or 'maid'): Less important characters who are not the primary protagonist or an
Anecdote: A short narrative account of an amusing, unusual, revealing, or interesting event. A good anecdote h
Anglian: The dialects of Old English spoken in Mercia and Northumbria. Not to be confused with the word Angli
Anglican Church: The Protestant Church in England that originated when King Henry VIII broke his ties to the Vatican
Anglo-Frisian: The sub-branch of West Germanic including English and Frisian.
Anglo-Norman: The dialect of Norman French that developed in England after William the First conquered England. Sc
Anglo-Saxon: (1) Historically, the term refers to a group of Teutonic tribes who invaded England in the fifth and
Animal Communication: The exchange of information among animals, especially as contrasted with human language and meta-lan
Animism: The belief that animals, plants, and objects have their own souls or spirits inhabiting them, as in
Annal: Another term for a chronicle, a brief year-by-year account of events.
Anthimeria: Artfully using a different part of speech to act as another in violation of the normal rules of gram
Anthology: (from Grk. Anther+logos, 'flower-words') Literally implying a collection of flowers, the term anthol
Anti-Fraternal Satire: Medieval satire that points out (in humor or anger) the failings and hypocrisies of bad monks, friar
Anti-Semitic Literature: Literature that vilifies Jews or encourages racist attitudes toward them. Much of the religious lite
Anticlimax: (also called bathos) a drop, often sudden and unexpected, from a dignified or important idea or situ
Antifeminist Tradition: While some women writers like Christine de Pisan and Margery Kempe advocated that women should have
Antihero: A protagonist who is a non-hero or the antithesis of a traditional hero. While the traditional hero
Antimetabole: (Greek, 'turning about') A rhetorical scheme involving repetition in reverse order: One should eat t
Antithesis: (pluralantitheses): Using opposite phrases in close conjunction. Examples might be, 'I burn and I fr
Antitype: A figure, event, or symbol in the New Testament thought to be prefigured by a different figure, even
Aphaearesis: (also spelled apheresis, pluralaphaeareses, adj. Apheretic): Rhetorically deleting a syllable--unacc
Aphesis: Linguistically, the omission of an unaccented syllable from the front of a word. Contrast with the m
Apocalypse: From the Greek word apocalypsis (unveiling'), an apocalypse originally referred to a mystical revela
Apocopated Rhyme And Meter: Poetic use of apocope to create a rhyming word at the end of a line or to balance the number of syll
Apocope: Deleting a syllable or letter from the end of a word. In The Merchant of Venice, one character says,
Apologue: Another term for a moral fable--especially a beast fable.
Apophasis: Denying one's intention to talk or write about a subject, but making the denial in such a way that t
Aporia: (Greek: impassable path) The deliberate act of talking about how one is unable to talk about somethi
Aposiopesis: Breaking off as if unable to continue, stopping suddenly in the midst of a sentence, or leaving a st
Apostrophe: Not to be confused with the punctuation mark, apostrophe is the act of addressing some abstraction o
Apotropaic: Designed to ward off evil influence or malevolent spirits by frightening these forces away. In many
Apron Stage: A stage that projects out into the auditorium area. This enlarges the square footage available for a
Arête: The Greek term arête implies a humble and constant striving for perfection and self-improvement c
Aramaic: The Oxford Companion to the Bible discusses Chaldean Aramaic as a Northwest Semitic language closely
Archaism: A word, expression, spelling, or phrase that is out of date in the common speech of an era, but stil
Archetypal Criticism: The analysis of a piece of literature through the examination of archetypes and archetypal patterns
Archetype: An original model or pattern from which other later copies are made, especially a character, an acti
Arena Stage: A theater arrangement in which viewers sit encircling the stage completely. The actors enter and exi
Areopagus: (Greek, 'Hill of Ares.') (1) Also known as 'Mars Hill,' this location near the Acropolis served in c
Argument: A statement of a poem's major point--usually appearing in the introduction of the poem. Spenser pres
Arras: In Renaissance drama, a hanging tapestry or a curtain that covered a part of the frons scenae. It hi
Arsis: In classical metrical analysis, Greeks referred to the stressed syllable in a metrical foot as a the
Artificial Language: Not to be confused with what linguists call grammatically synthetic (inflected) languages, artificia
Ascertainment: The Enlightenment's desire for and obsession with standardization and regulation of the English lang
Ash: (also spelled aesc or asc when referring to runes) The letter used in Old English to indicate the so
Aside: In drama, a few words or a short passage spoken by one character to the audience while the other act
Asimovs Three Laws Of Robotics: Science fiction author Isaac Asimov originally posited Asimov's three laws in his short stories coll
Ask Word: In linguistics, Algeo defines this as any of the words whose historical /æ/ sound becomes the vow
Aspiration: (adjective form, aspirated) A puff of breath made along with a consonant sound while vocalizing.
Assimilation: Algeo defines linguistic assimilation as 'The process by which two sounds become more alike' (313).
Assonance: Repeating identical or similar vowels (especially in stressed syllabes) in nearby words. Assonance i
Asteismus: A sub-category of puns. See discussion under pun.
Asterisk: A typographical symbol (*) that linguists use to show a hypothetical, abnormal, or nonoccurring form
Asyndeton: The artistic elimination of conjunctions in a sentence to create a particular effect. See schemes fo
Athematic Verb: Algeo defines this as 'An Indo-European verb stem formed without a thematic vowel' (313). The letter
Atmosphere: (Also called mood) The emotional feelings inspired by a work. The term is borrowed from meteorology
Aubade: (also called a dawn song) A genre of poetry in which a short poem's subject is about the dawn or the
Aube: A dawn-song or aubade, but specifically one sung by a friend watching over a pair of lovers until da
Auctor - Auctoritas: The Latin word auctor is the source for the modern English word author, but the medieval word carrie
Audience: The person(s) reading a text, listening to a speaker, or observing a performance.
Auditory Imagery: Descriptive language that evokes noise, music, or other sounds. See imagery.
Aufklärung: The German term for the philosophical movement called in English 'the Enlightenment' or the Neoclass
Augustan: This adjective has two meanings, the second of which is most pertinent to English students. (1) Clas
Aureate Diction: (alias AUREATE TERMS) As Simon Horobin puts it, 'An elevated rhetorical style of writing characteriz
Austronesian: A family of Pacific and Indian ocean languages separate from the Indo-European family. These include
Authorial Voice: The voices or speakers used by authors when they seemingly speak for themselves in a book. (In poetr
Auto Sacramental: (Sacramental Act') A drama of one act symbolizing the sacrament of Eucharist in Spanish literature b
Auto-Da-Fé: (Portuguese, 'act of faith'--equivalent to Span. Auto-de-fe) The late medieval church's ceremonial e
Autobiographical Novel: In contrast with the autobiography, an autobiographical novel is a semi-fictional narrative based in
Autobiography: A non-fictional account of a person's life--usually a celebrity, an important historical figure, or
Autograph: While fans and collectors in pop culture uses the term to refer to a celebrity's signature of his or
Auxesis: Another term for rhetorical climax. See climax, rhetorical, below.
Awdl: (from Middle Welsh odl) The term in Welsh poetry has come to acquire several meanings. In its earlie
Babuin: A fanciful monster, silly creature, or a leering face drawn in the margins of a medieval manuscript.
Bachic Foot: A three-syllable foot of poetry consisting of a light stress followed by two heavy stresses. This ve
Bachic Meter: Poetry in which each foot is a three-syllable foot consisting of three heavy stresses. It is rare in
Bachius: Another term for a bachic foot.
Back Vowel: A vowel made with the topmost portion of the tongue in the back of the oral cavity. These include th
Back-Formation: (1) The process of creating a new word when speakers (often mistakenly) remove an affix or other mor
Bad Quarto: In the jargon of Shakespearean scholars, a 'bad quarto' is a copy of the play that a disloyal actor
Ballad: In common parlance, song hits, folk music, and folktales or any song that tells a story are loosely
Ballad Measure: Traditionally, ballad measure consists of a four-line stanza or a quatrain containing alternating fo
Ballad Opera: An eighteenth-century comic drama featuring lyrics set to existing popular tunes. The term originate
Ballade: A French verse form consisting most often of three eight-line stanzas having the same rhyme pattern,
Baltic: An east-European branch of the Indo-European language family--usually grouped with the Slavic langua
Balto-Slavic: A branch of Indo-European including the Slavic and Baltic languages.
Bard: (Welsh Bardd, Irish Bard) (1) An ancient Celtic poet, singer and harpist who recited heroic poems by
Base Morpheme: A free or bound morpheme, to which other meaningful sounds can be added to form words. Examples of b
Bathos: (Grk, 'depth') Not to be confused with pathos, bathos is a descent in literature in which a poet or
Battle Of Hastings: This battle in 1066 CE marks the rough boundary between the end of the Anglo-Saxon (Old English) per
Beast Fable: A short, simple narrative with speaking animals as characters designed to teach a moral or social tr
Beasts Of Battle: A motif common in medieval Germanic literature (including Anglo-Saxon, Old Norse, and continental Ge
Beat: A heavy stress or accent in a line of poetry. The number of beats or stresses in a line usually dete
Bed-Trick: The term for a recurring folklore motif in which circumstances cause two characters in a story to en
Beheading Game: A motif from Celtic literature that appears in diverse works such as the Middle Irish Briciu's Feast
Bel Inconnu: (The Fair Unknown,' from Breton French le bel inconnu) A motif common to fairy tales, folklore and m
Beot: (Anglo-Saxonvow, becomes Modern English 'boast'): A ritualized boast or vow made publicly by Anglo-S
Bereshith: (Hebrew, 'in the beginning') (1) The opening words of the Torah (or the first five books of the Tana
Berserker: (Old Norse Ber-sirk, 'bear-skin', becomes Modern English 'berserk') The Icelandic, Scandinavian, and
Besterman: A typical protagonist or anti-hero from the science fiction stories of Alfred Bester, such as Ben Re
Bestiary: A medieval treatise listing, naming, and describing various animals and their attributes, often usin
Bilabial: In phonetics, a sound such as /p/, /b/, or /m/ that requires both the upper and lower lip to articul
Bildungsroman: (Germ. 'formation novel') The German term for a coming-of-age story. Also called an Erziehungsroman.
Biographical Fallacy: The error of believing, as George Kane phrases it in Chaucer studies, that 'speculative lives' of na
Biography: (Greek, bios+graphe 'life writing') A non-fictional account of a person's life--usually a celebrity,
Black Vernacular: The ethnic dialect associated with Americans of African ancestry is often called black vernacular or
Blank Verse: (also called unrhymed iambic pentameter) Unrhymed lines of ten syllables each with the even-numbered
Blending: Making a neologism by taking two or more existing expressions and shortening at least one of them. E
Blocking: The spatial grouping and movement of characters on stage. Typically, good blocking ensures that all
Blocking Agent: A person, circumstance, or mentality that prevents two potential lovers from being together romantic
Blood-Feud: (OE fae∂u) The custom among certain Germanic tribes like the Anglo-Saxons or the Vikings of se
Bob-And-Wheel: A metrical devise in some alliterative-verse poetry, especially that of the Pearl Poet and that of f
Boethian: Having to do with the philosophy of Boethius, i.e., a philosophy of predestination suggesting all ev
Border: In medieval manuscripts, a border is, as Kathleen Scott puts it, 'A type of book decoration placed a
Borrowing: As Simon Horobin defines it, 'The process by which words are adopted into one language from another'
Bound Morpheme: A morpheme used exclusively as part of a larger word rather than one that can stand alone and retain
Bourgeoisie: (French, 'city-dwelling') The French term bourgeoisie is a noun referring to the non-aristocratic mi
Boustrophedon: (Greek, 'as the ox turns while plowing') A method of writing in which the text is read alternately f
Bow-Wow Theory: In linguistics, the idea that language began when humans imitated animal noises or other natural sou
Bowdlerization: A later editor's censorship of sexuality, profanity, and political sentiment of an earlier author's
Bowdlerize: To censor or alter an earlier writer's work. See discussion under bowdlerization, above.
Box Set: A theatrical structure common to modern drama in which the stage consists of a single room setting i
Bradshaw Shift: Not to be confused with the Great Vowel Shift, the Bradshaw Shift is a suggested alteration to the o
Branch: One of the four groupings of Welsh tales in The Mabinogion. Tradition divides The Mabinogion into a
Breton: A Celtic language spoken in the northwestern part of France. Not to be confused with a Briton with a
Breton Lai: (also spelled Breton lay) Another term for a lai. See lai.
Bretons: The Celtic inhabitants of Brittany (Little Britain') in northeast France who speak the Breton langua
Breve: A mark in the shape of a bowl-like half circle that indicates a light stress or an unaccented syllab
Briticism: An expression or word that developed in Britain after the American colonies separated politically fr
British English: The English language in the British isles, especially in contrast with Canadian, Australian, or U.S.
Briton: An inhabitant of Britain--especially a Celtic one. Do not confuse it with a Breton, a Celtic inhabit
Broad Transcription: Imprecise phonetic transcription for general comparative purposes.
Brothers-In-Arms: Individuals in medieval warfare who have sworn a military partnership with each other, agreeing to r
Brythonic: (also spelled Brittanic) One of the two branches of the Celtic family of languages descended from Pr
Burlesque: A work that ridicules a topic by treating something exalted as if it were trivial or vice-versa. See
Business: (also called stage business) The gestures, expressions, and general activity (beyond blocking) of ac
Buskins: Originally called kothorni in Greek, the word buskins is a Renaissance term for the elegantly laced
Byronic Hero: An antihero who is a romanticized but wicked character. Conventionally, the figure is a young and at
Cacophony: (Greek, 'bad sound') The term in poetry refers to the use of words that combine sharp, harsh, hissin
Cadel: (Dutch cadel and/or French cadeau, meaning 'a gift, a little something extra') A small addition or '
Cadence: The melodic pattern just before the end of a sentence or phrase--for instance an interrogation or an
Caesura: (pluralcaesurae): A pause separating phrases within lines of poetry--an important part of poetic rhy
Calligraphic Work: In medieval manuscripts, this is (as Kathleen Scott states), 'Decorative work, usually developing fr
Calque: An expression formed by individually translating parts of a longer foreign expression and then combi
Cancel: A bibliographical term referring to a leaf which is substituted for one removed by the printers beca
Canon: (from Grk kanon, meaning 'reed' or 'measuring rod') Canon has three general meanings. (1) An approve
Canticle: A hymn or religious song using words from any part of the Bible except the Psalms.
Canto: A sub-division of an epic or narrative poem comparable to a chapter in a novel. Examples include the
Canzone: In general, the term has three meanings. (1) It refers generally to the words of a Provençal or I
Captivity Narrative: A narrative, usually autobiographical in origin, concerning colonials or settlers who are captured b
Cardinal Virtues: (also called the Four Pagan Virtues) In contrast to the three spiritual or Christian virtues of fide
Carpe Diem: Literally, the phrase is Latin for 'seize the day,' from carpere (to pluck, harvest, or grab) and th
Case: The inflectional form of a noun, pronoun, or (in some languages) adjective that shows how the word r
Caste Dialect: A dialect spoken by specific hereditary classes in a society. Often the use of caste dialect marks t
Catachresis: (Grk. 'misuse') A completely impossible figure of speech or an implied metaphor that results from co
Catalectic: In poetry, a catalectic line is a truncated line in which one or more unstressed syllables have been
Catalexis: In poetry, a catalectic line is shortened or truncated so that unstressed syllables drop from a line
Cataloging: Creating long lists for poetic or rhetorical effect. The technique is common in epic literature, whe
Catastrophe: The 'turning downward' of the plot in a classical tragedy. By tradition, the catastrophe occurs in t
Catchword: This phrase comes from printing, it refers to a trick printers would use to keep pages in their prop
Catharsis: An emotional discharge that brings about a moral or spiritual renewal or welcome relief from tension
Caudate Rhyme: Another term for tail-rhyme or rime couée. See discussion under tail-rhyme.
Cavalier: A follower of Charles I of England (ruled c. 1625-49) in his struggles with the Puritan-dominated pa
Cavalier Drama: A form of English drama comprising court plays that the Queen gave patronage to in the 1630s. Most c
Cavalier Poets: A group of Cavalier English lyric poets who supported King Charles I and wrote during his reign. The
Cedilla: A diacritical mark used in several languages, such as the ç in French.
Cellerage: The hollow area beneath a Renaissance stage--known in Renaissance slang as 'hell' and entered throug
Celtic: A branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Celtic includes Welsh and Breton. Celtic language
Celtic Revival: A literary movement involving increased interest in Welsh, Scottish, and Irish culture, myths, legen
Cenotaph: A carving on a tombstone or monument, often in the form of a verse poem, biblical passage, or litera
Censorship: The act of hiding, removing, altering or destroying copies of art or writing so that general public
Censorship Ordinance Of 1559: This law under Queen Elizabeth required the political censorship of public plays and all printed mat
Centum Language: One of the two main branches of Indo-European languages. These centum languages are generally associ
Chòree: Another term for trochee. See trochee.
Chain Of Being: An elaborate cosmological model of the universe common in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. The G
Chanson À Personnages: (French, 'song to people') Old French songs or poems in dialogue form. Common subjects include quarr
Chanson De Geste: (French, 'song of deeds') These chansons are lengthy Old French poems written between the eleventh a
Character: Any representation of an individual being presented in a dramatic or narrative work through extended
Characterization: An author or poet's use of description, dialogue, dialect, and action to create in the reader an emo
Charactonym: An evocative or symbolic name given to a character that conveys his or her inner psychology or alleg
Chaucerism: In the Renaissance, experimental revivals and new word formations that were consciously designed to
Cheke System: As summarized by Baugh, a proposed method for indicating long vowels and standardizing spelling firs
Chiasm: A specific example of chiasmus, see below.
Chiasmus: (from Greek, 'cross' or 'x') A literary scheme in which the author introduces words or concepts in a
Chicano - Chicana Literature: Twentieth- and twenty-first-century writings and poetry by Mexican-American immigrants or their chil
Chivalric Romance: Another term for medieval romance. See also chivalry, below.
Chivalry: An idealized code of military and social behavior for the aristocracy in the late medieval period. T
Choragos: (often Latinized as choragus) A sponsor or patron of a play in classical Greece. Often this sponsor
Choric Figure: Any character in any type of narrative literature that serves the same purpose as a chorus in drama
Chorus: (1) A group of singers who stand alongside or off stage from the principal performers in a dramatic
Christian Novel: A novel that focuses on Christianity, evangelism, or conversion stories. Sometimes the plots are ove
Christological Figure: In theology, Christology is the study of Jesus' nature, i.e., whether Christ had both a human and di
Chronicle: A history or a record of events. It refers to any systematic account or narration of events that mak
Chronology: (Greeklogic of time): The order in which events happen, especially when emphasizing a cause-effect r
Chthonic: Related to the dead, the grave, the underworld, or the fertility of the earth. In Greek mythology, t
Church Summoner: Medieval law courts were divided into civil courts that tried public offenses and ecclesiastical cou
Cinquain: A five-line stanza with varied meter and rhyme scheme, possibly of medieval origin but definitely in
Circular Structure: A type of artistic structure in which a sense of completeness or closure does not originate in comin
Clang Association: A semantic change caused because one word sounds similar to another. For instance, the word fruition
Classical: The term in Western culture is usually used in reference to the art, architecture, drama, philosophy
Classical Haiku: Another term for the hokku, the predecessor of the modern haiku. See hokku and haiku.
Clause: In grammatical terminology, a clause is any word-construction containing a nominative and a predicat
Clerihew: In light verse, a funny poem of closed-form with four lines rhyming ABAB in irregular meter, usually
Cliché: A hackneyed or trite phrase that has become overused. Clichés are considered bad writing and bad
Cliché Rhyme: Cliché rhymes are rhymes that are considered trite or predictable. They include love and dove, mo
Click: A sound common in some non-Indo-European languages in Polynesia made by clucking the tongue or drawi
Cliffhanger: A melodramatic narrative (especially in films, magazines, or serially published novels) in which eac
Clip: To form a word by abbreviating a longer expression, or a word formed by the same process. For instan
Close Reading: Reading a piece of literature carefully, bit by bit, in order to analyze the significance of every i
Closed Poetic Form: Poetry written in a a specific or traditional pattern according to the required rhyme, meter, line l
Closure: (Latin clausura, 'a closing') Closure has two common meanings. First, it means a sense of completion
Clown: (1) A fool or rural bumpkin in Shakespearean vocabulary. Examples of this type of clown include Lanc
Code-Switching: In bilingual or multilingual speech, rapidly changing from the vocabulary, grammar, and patterns of
Codicology: (from Latin codex, 'book') The study of books as physical artifacts.
Cognate: Cognates are words that (1) match each other to some degree in sound and meaning, (2) come from a co
Collective Pronoun Collective Noun: A noun such as team or pair that technically refers to a collective group of individuals or individu
Collective Unconscious: In twentieth-century Jungian Psychology, this term refers to a shared group of archetypes (atavistic
Collocation: The frequency or tendency some words have to combine with each other. For instance, Algeo notes that
Colloquialism: A word or phrase used everyday in plain and relaxed speech, but rarely found in formal writing. (Com
Colonial Period: American and British historians use this term somewhat differently. American scholars usually use th
Colonialism: The term refers broadly and generally to the habit of powerful civilizations to 'colonize' less powe
Comedy: (from Greekkomos, 'songs of merrimakers'): In the original meaning of the word, comedy referred to a
Comedy Of Humors: A Renaissance drama in which numerous characters appear as the embodiment of stereotypical 'types' o
Comedy Of Innocence: (1) In anthropological terms, a comedy of innocence is a ritualized symbolic behavior (or set of suc
Comedy Of Manners: A comic drama consisting of five or three acts in which the attitudes and customs of a society are c
Comedy Of The Absurd: A modern form of comedy dramatizing the meaninglessness, uncertainty, and pointless absurdity of hum
Comic Opera: An outgrowth of the eighteenth-century ballad operas, in which new or original music is composed spe
Comic Relief: A humorous scene, incident, character, or bit of dialogue occurring after some serious or tragic mom
Coming-Of-Age Story: A novel in which an adolescent protagonist comes to adulthood by a process of experience and disillu
Comitatus: (Latin: companionship or 'band'): The term describes the tribal structure of the Anglo-Saxons and ot
Commedia Dellarte: A genre of Italian farce from the sixteenth-century characterized by stock characters, stock situati
Common Measure: Also called common meter, common measure consists of closed poetic quatrains rhyming ABAB or ABCB, i
Common Meter: Another term for common measure (see above).
Commonization: The linguistic term for an eponym--a common word that is derived from the proper name of a person or
Compert: (pluralcomperta): Specifically, birth-tales in Old Irish literature that detail the conception and b
Completeness: The second aspect of Aristotle's requirements for a tragedy. By completeness, Aristotle emphasizes t
Composite Monster: (in architecture, often called a chimera after the Greek monster) The term is one mythologists use t
Compositor: A typesetter in a Renaissance print shop. To speed the printing process, most of Shakespeare's plays
Compounding: A term from linguistics used to describe the creation of a new word (neologism') that comes about by
Compurgation: In addition to trial by ordeal, compurgation was the medieval law practice among Christianized Anglo
Conceit: (also called a metaphysical conceit) An elaborate or unusual comparison--especially one using unlike
Concrete Diction - Concrete Imagery: Language that describes qualities that can be perceived with the five senses as opposed to using abs
Concrete Poetry: Poetry that draws much of its power from the way the text appears situated on the page. The actual s
Conflation: In its more restricted literary sense, a conflation is a version of a play or narrative that later e
Conflict: The opposition between two characters (such as a protagonist and an antagonist), between two large g
Confucian Classics: Five ancient Chinese writings commonly attributed to Confucius, though it is likely they are actuall
Connotation: The extra tinge or taint of meaning each word carries beyond the minimal, strict definition found in
Consonance: A special type of alliteration in which the repeated pattern of consonants is marked by changes in t
Consonant: A speech sound that is not a vowel. To download a PDF file listing consonants and their symbols in t
Consuetudinal Be: Uninflected use of the verb be to indicate habitual or frequent action. This grammatical structure i
Contemporary Literature: Literature written 'at the present moment.' Although the writers in every century would consider the
Contextual Symbol: A unique or original symbol an author creates within the context of an individual work or an author'
Contraction: The squeezing together of sounds or words--especially when one word blurs into another--during fast
Contrapassio: (counter-suffering) A thematic principle involving situational irony in which a punishment's nature
Contrastive Pair: Another term for a minimal pair.
Control Text: A specific text upon which a modern edition is based. For instance, there are at least three dominan
Convention: A common feature that has become traditional or expected within a specific genre (category) of liter
Conventional: A conventional linguistic trait is an arbitrary one learned from others, not one determined by some
Corpus Christi Play: A religious play performed outdoors in the medieval period that enacts an event from the Bible, such
Correspondences: An integral part of the medieval and Renaissance model of the universe known as the 'Chain of Being.
Cosmic Irony: Another term for situational irony--especially situational irony connected to a fatalistic or pessim
Cothurni: The Greek word for the elevator-shoes worn by important actors on stage. See discussion under buskin
Cotton Nero A.X: The Middle English manuscript that includes Pearl, Cleanness, Patience, Sir Gawain and the Green Kni
Cotton Vitellius A.Xv: The Old English manuscript that includes The Passion of Saint Christopher, The Wonders of the East,
Counting: A technique of determining stylistic qualities of a piece of writing by counting the numbers of word
Couplet: Two lines--the second line immediately following the first--of the same metrical length that end in
Court Of Love: In medieval convention, a court of love is an assemblage of women presided over by a queen or noblew
Courtly Love: (Medieval Frenchfin amour or amour courtois): Possibly a cultural trope in the late twelfth-century,
Cradle Trick: A sub-category of the 'bed-trick,' this is a folk motif in which the position of a cradle in a dark
Creole: A native language combining the traits of multiple languages, i.e., an advanced and fully developed
Crescendo: Another term for rhetorical climax. See climax, rhetorical, above.
Crisis: (pluralcrises): The turning point of uncertainty and tension resulting from earlier conflict in a pl
Critical Reading: Careful analysis of an essay's structure and logic in order to determine the validity of an argument
Crossed Rhyme: In long couplets, especially hexameter lines, sufficient room in the line allows a poet to use rhyme
Crossed-D: Another term for the capital letter eth.
Cthulhu Mythos: (also spelled Cthulu and Kutulu, pronounced various ways) Strongly influential in pulp science ficti
Cultural Symbol: A symbol widely or generally accepted as meaning something specific within an entire culture or soci
Cyberpunk Movement: (1) A loose school of science fiction authors including William Gibson, Bruce Stirling, Rudy Rucker,
Cycle: In general use, a literary cycle is any group of closely related works. We speak of the Scandinavian
Cyfarwydd: A Welsh professional storyteller. The equivalent Irish term is an ollamh. Cf. Bard and sceop.
Cyhydedd Hir: A syllabic verse form in ancient Welsh poetry. The octave stanza consists two quatrains of four line
Cyhydedd Naw Ban: A syllabic verse form in ancient Welsh poetry in which some lines are composed of nine syllables. Th
Cynghanedd: (pronounced kun HAN neth, lit. Welsh for 'symphony') A Welsh term that loosely denotes sound similar
Cyning: A king, another term for an Anglo-Saxon hlaford.
Cyrch A Chwta: A Welsh verse form consisting of an octave stanza of six rhyming or alliterating seven-syllable line
Cyrillic: The alphabet used to write Russian, Serbian, and Bulgarian. The name comes from the Greek missionary
Cywdd Deuair Hirion: In Welsh prosody, the term refers to a form of light verse consisting of a single couplet with seven
Cywydd: (plural, cywyddau) A fourteenth-century metrical form of Welsh lyric poetry consisting of rhyming co
Cywydd Llosgyrnog: A type of Welsh verse consisting of a sestet stanza in which the syllable count is eight, eight, sev
Dactyl: A three-syllable foot consisting of a heavy stress and two light stresses. Examples of words in Engl
Danegeld: The practice of paying extortion money to Vikings to make them go away, often associated in particul
Danelaw: (Anglo-Saxon, Dena lagu) The region of northeast England up to the southern part of Scotland that wa
Dans Macabre: (French, 'morbid dance') A gruesome motif or trend that spread through late medieval Europe's visual
Dark Lady Sonnets: Sonnets 127-147 of the Shakespearean collection published in 1609 are known loosely as the 'Dark Lad
Dawn Song: (also called an aubade) A genre of poetry common to Europe in which the poem is about the dawn or co
Dead Language: In linguistics, a dead language is one that does not change any more over time--it is 'frozen' histo
Declined Language: Also called a synthetic language, or an inflected language, a declined language is one in which word
Deconstruction: An interpretive movement in literary theory that reached its apex in the 1970s. Deconstruction rejec
Decorated Initial: In medieval manuscripts, this term refers to an introductory letter of a text division, embellished
Decorum: The requirement that individual characters, the characters' actions, and the style of speech should
Deduction: The process of logic in which a thinker takes a rule for a large, general category and assumes that
Deep Structure: In Noam Chomsky's transformational grammar, the biological 'hardwiring' in the brain that gives chil
Defamiliarization: The literary theoretical term 'defamiliarization' is an English translation for Viktor Shklovsky's R
Deism: (From Latin Deus, 'God') An intellectual religious movement en vogue through the late seventeenth ce
Demesure: (French, 'lack of measure') In French chivalric literature, the equivalent of Latin immoderatio--exc
Denotation: The minimal, strict definition of a word as found in a dictionary, disregarding any historical or em
Denouement: A French word meaning 'unknotting' or 'unwinding,' denouement refers to the outcome or result of a c
Dental Suffix: A -d or -t ending typically added to English weak verbs (i.e, 'regular verbs') in the past tense and
Descartean Reasoning: Logic of the sort championed by French philosopher René Descarte (1596-1650). This logic involves
Descent Into The Underworld: An archetype or motif in folklore, religion, mythology, or literature in which the protagonist must
Descriptivist: A grammatical treatise or dictionary is said to be descriptivist if it has the goal of describing no
Detective Novel: A mystery novel focusing on a brilliant investigator--often a detective--solving a crime. See myster
Deus Ex Machina: (from Greek theos apo mechanes) An unrealistic or unexpected intervention to rescue the protagonists
Deuteragonist: A sidekick who accompanies the main protagonist, the main character or hero, in a narrative. In The
Deuteronomic Law: The belief that God could choose to wait several generations before punishing a sinful race for the
Diachronic: (Grk, 'across time') An analysis of literature, history, or linguistics is diachronic if it examines
Diacope: (from Greek, 'cleft' or 'gash', also called Epizeuxis or repetition) Uninterrupted repetition, or re
Diacritic: An accent or change to a normal alphabetical letter to differentiate its pronunciation.
Dialect: The language of a particular district, class, or group of persons. The term dialect encompasses the
Dialogue: The lines spoken by a character or characters in a play, essay, story, or novel, especially a conver
Diamante: (Italian via French, 'sparkling decoration,' cognate with diamond, pronounced dee oh MON tay) A genr
Diaper Work: In spite of how unpleasant the word sounds, diaper work is actually a common, beautiful design in me
Diary: An informal record of a person's private life and day-to-day thoughts and concerns. Conventionally,
Diction: The choice of a particular word as opposed to others. A writer could call a rock formation by many w
Didactic Literature: Writing that is 'preachy' or seeks overtly to convince a reader of a particular point or lesson. Med
Dieresis: (also called an umlaut) A diacritic mark (¨) to show that vowels represent sounds of different qu
Différance: Jacque Derrida's French term (untranslatable in English), which puns on the verb différer meaning
Digraph: Any use of two alphabetical letters to indicate a single phonetic sound. For instance, in phonograph
Dimeter: A line containing only two metrical feet. See meter and foot.
Dimidiation: The heraldic practice of combining two animals in a coat-of-arms into a single composite creature.
Diminutive: Any affix meaning 'small.' It can suggest cuteness or an emotional attachment. An example is the wor
Ding-Dong Theory: The linguistic theory that language began as instinctive responses to stimuli (Algeo 316).
Dionysia: The Athenian religious festivals celebrating Dionysus in March-April. Dionysus (Roman Bacchus) was t
Diphthong: (from Greek dipthongus) A complex speech sound in which a speaker begins to articulate one vowel and
Dipody: In classical prosody, dipody describes the combination of two feet into another single metrical unit
Dipthongization: The change of a normal vowel into a diphthong.
Discovery Space: According to Stephen Greenblatt, this is 'A central opening or alcove concealed behind a curtain in
Displacement: This term in linguistics refers to the ability of language to indicate or signify things not physica
Dissimilation: A linguistic development in which two sounds become less alike. Algeo (317) offers the example of di
Distych: The technical term for a two-line group in which a pair of metrical lines of different lengths toget
Dithyramb: An ancient Athenian poetic form sung during the Dionysia (see above). The first tragedies may have o
Dog Latin: Unidiomatic or crude pidgin Latin intermixed with local tongues. An example of dog latin appears in
Dolce Stil Nuovo: (Italian, 'sweet new style') Dante uses this term to describe the style of lyric poetry he sought to
Donatism: The term donatism is an eponym taken from a bishop in North Africa named Donatus. During the patrist
Donnée: (French, 'given') The assumptions upon which a writer constructs a work of literature. Some common e
Dosbarth Gwynedd: Also known as the Venodotian Code or the 'four and twenty measures,' the Dosbarth Gwynedd are an anc
Double Dactyl: A comic verse written with two quatrains, with each line written in dactylic dimeter. The second lin
Double Entendre: (French, 'double meaning') The deliberate use of ambiguity in a phrase or image--especially involvin
Double Negative: Two (or more) negatives used for emphasis, e.g., 'I don't want no candy' as opposed to 'I don't want
Double Plot: When an author uses two related plots within a single narrative. See futher discussion under subplot
Double Rhyme: A rhyme that involves two syllables rather than one. For instance, rhyming lend/send is a single rhy
Double Superlative: Double use of the superlative degree--such as the word foremost, which uses both the superlative suf
Doublet: In linguistics, a pair of words that derive from the same etymon, but since they were adapted at dif
Doubling: Greenblatt describes this process as, 'The common [Renaissance] practice of having one actor play mu
Draculas Law: A helpful mnemonic phrase, 'blood is good food' useful for remembering sound shifts in the vowel o f
Drama: A composition in prose or verse presenting, in pantomime and dialogue, a narrative involving conflic
Dramatic Monologue: A poem in which a poetic speaker addresses either the reader or an internal listener at length. It i
Dramatis Personae: (Latinpeople of the play): A list of the complete cast, i.e., the various characters that will appea
Dravidian: Once, the aboriginal tongue of all India, but now spoken primarily in only the southern regions of t
Dream Vision: (Visio) A genre of poetry popular in the Middle Ages. By convention, a fictionalized version of the
Dual: In contrast to the singular and plural forms of nouns and pronouns in Modern English, Old English ha
Duanairí: Anthologies of Irish bardic poetry from between 1150-1500 CE. An example is the Yellow Book of Lecan
Dumb Shows: These mimed scenes before a play or before each act in a play summarized or foreshadowed the coming
Duple Meter: Poetry consisting of two syllables to a metrical foot, and one foot to each line. It is a rare form.
Dyfalu: A Welsh term for a form of fanciful conceit in which a string of sequential metaphors compares an ob
Dying Rhyme: Another term for feminine metrical endings. See discussion under meter.
Dynamic Character: Also called a round character, a dynamic character is one whose personality changes or evolves over
Dystopia: (from Greek, dys topos, 'bad place') The opposite of a utopia, a dystopia is an imaginary society in
Early Modern English: Modern English covers the time-frame from about 1450 or so up to the present day. However, linguists
Ease Of Articulation: The linguistic concern for how certain sound changes in words might be motivated by how easy or hard
East Germanic: A sub-branch of the Germanic language family. Gothic was an East Germanic language.
Easter Uprising: On Easter Monday in 1916, about 1,200 Irish revolutionaries armed with only rifles engaged in an abo
Echoic Words: Another term for onomatopoeia, i.e., when the actual sound of the word resembles its referent--like
Eclipsis: (Greek 'leaving out,' cf. Modern English eclipse) A type of enallage in which an author or poet omit
Eclogue: (Greek 'selection') A short poem or short section of a longer poem in the form of a dialogue or soli
Ecphrasis: (plural, ecphrases) A passage of literature or poetry in which the writer disrupts the narrative and
Edh: Another spelling of the word eth.
Eiron: In Greek comedy, the eiron was a stock male character known for his ironic understatement. This char
Ekstasos: (Greek, 'ecstasy') In Greek thinking, ekstasos is a non-rational state of mind that people achieve b
Elegy: In classical Greco-Roman literature, 'elegy' refers to any poem written in elegiac meter (alternatin
Elision: (verb form, elide) (1) In poetry, when the poet takes a word that ends in a vowel, and a following w
Elizabethan: Occurring in the time of Queen Elizabeth I's reign, from 1558-1603. Shakespeare wrote his early work
Ellesmere Manuscript: Usually referred to as 'the Ellesmere,' this book is one of the most important surviving fifteenth-c
Ellipsis: (plural, ellipses) (1) In its oldest sense as a rhetorical device, ellipsis refers to the artful omi
Emblem: Nathaniel Hawthorne's term for a private symbol. He also refers to private symbols as tokens. Exampl
Enallage: (Greek, 'interchange') Intentionally misusing grammar to characterize a speaker or to create a memor
Enclitic: A linguistic formation in which a separate word, during the process contraction, becomes part of the
Enclosing Method: Another term for framing method.
Encyclical: An official statement by the papacy. Individual encyclicals lack titles in the modern sense, and the
End Rhyme: Rhyme in which the last word at the end of each verse is the word that rhymes. This contrasts with i
English Sonnet: Another term for a Shakespearean sonnet. See discussion under sonnet, or click here to download a PD
Englyn: A group of certain Welsh tercets and quatrains written in strict Welsh meters including monorhyme an
Enjambement: (French, 'straddling,' in English also called 'run-on line,' pronounced on-zhahm-mah) A line having
Enlightenment: (also called the neoclassic movement) the philosophical and artistic movement growing out of the Ren
Environmental Writings: Writings focused on nature or man's relationship to nature, especially the transcendental essays and
Envoi: An alternative French spelling for envoy, below.
Envoy: Also spelled, envoi, the word envoy refers to a postscript added to the end of a prose writing or a
Epanados: Repeating a word in the middle of a clause in either the opening or the conclusion of the same sente
Epanalepsis: Repeating a word from the beginning of a clause or phrase at the end of the same clause or phrase: Y
Epenthesis: (also called infixation) Adding an extra syllable or letters in the middle of a word. Shakespeare mi
Epic: An epic in its most specific sense is a genre of classical poetry. It is a poem that is (a) a long n
Epic Simile: A formal and sustained simile (see under tropes). Like a regular simile, an epic simile makes a comp
Epicene Pronoun: A gender-neutral pronoun for human beings. English does have gender-neutral pronouns for objects (it
Epicureanism: The Greek philosophy of Epicurus, who espoused a life of gentle hedonism ameliorated by rational mod
Epigram: (from Greek epigramma 'an inscription') (1) An inscription in verse or prose on a building, tomb, or
Epilogue: A conclusion added to a literary work such as a novel, play, or long poem. It is the opposite of a p
Epimythium: A summary of the moral of the fable appearing at the end of the main narrative. If it is found at th
Epiphany: Christian thinkers used this term to signify a manifestation of God's presence in the world. It has
Episode: A scene involving the actors' dialogue and action rather than the chorus's singing, or sections of s
Episodia: The Greek word for episode. See above.
Episodic: Occurring in a long string of short, individual scenes, stories, or sections, rather than focusing o
Epistle: (1) A poem addressed to a patron, friend, or family member, thus a kind of 'letter' in verse. (2) An
Epistolary: Taking the form of a letter, or actually consisting of a letter written to another. For instance, se
Epistolary Novel: Any novel that takes the form of a series of letters--either written by one character or several cha
Epistrophe: (Greek, 'upon turning') Repetition of a concluding word or word endings: He's learning fast, are you
Epitaph: Not to be confused with epithet or epigram, an epitaph refers literally to an inscription carved on
Epithalamion: (Greek, 'at the Bridal Chamber,' plural epithalamia) A wedding hymn sung in classical Greece outside
Epithalamium: The Latin term for an epithalamion. See above.
Epithet: A short, poetic nickname--often in the form of an adjective or adjectival phrase--attached to the no
Epizeuxis: (also called diacope) Uninterrupted repetition, or repetition with only one or two words between eac
Eponym: A word that is derived from the proper name of a person or place. For instance, the sandwich gained
Eponymous Archon: An official in classical Athens. The holder of this office arranged the production of tragedies and
Eremite: A religious hermit. Eremites are stock character in vitae and in chivalric romances. See discussion
Eremitic Tradition: An eremite is a hermit--one who deliberately lives alone seeking spiritual enlightenment in the dese
Erotema: (also called erotesis) Asking a rhetorical question to the reader, i.e., 'What should honest citizen
Erotosis: Another term for erotema. See erotema, above.
Errata: (singularerratum): Errors or mistakes in a printed text. See discussion under erratum, below.
Erratum: (pluralerrata): An error in a printed text that comes about from transposed letters, missing lines o
Escape Literature: Not to be confused with escapist literature, escape literature (also called literature of escape) in
Escapism: The desire to retreat into imaginative entertainment rather than deal with the stress, tedium, and d
Escapist Literature: Not to be confused with escape literature, escapist literature is designed primarily for imaginative
Eschatological Narrative: Eschatalogy in Christian theology is the study of the end of things, including the end of the world,
Eschatology: The branch of religious philosophy or theology focusing on the end of time, the afterlife, and the L
Estates Satire: A medieval genre common among French poets in which the speaker lists various occupations among the
Eth: (also spelled edh) A letter in the Anglo-Saxon, Old Norse, and modern Icelandic alphabet. As a capit
Ethnic Dialect: A dialect used by a racial or national group, as opposed to a caste dialect or regional dialect.
Etiological Narrative: Etiology is the branch of philosophy dealing with the origins of things or how things came to be. An
Etymological Respelling: Revising spelling to reflect or match how a word's etymon was spelled, or the actual word so altered
Etymology: (1) The origin of a word. (2) The study of word origins and the history of words--especially how wor
Etymon: (plural, etyma) An older word that is a source for a newer one. See etymology.
Eucatastrophe: (Grk. Eu+catastrophe, 'happy or fortunate ending') As Christopher Garbowski describes in the J.R.R.
Euphemism: Using a mild or gentle phrase instead of a blunt, embarrassing, or painful one. For instance, saying
Euphony: (from Greek 'good sound') Attempting to group words together harmoniously, so that the consonants pe
Euphuism: Not to be confused with euphemism, above, euphuism is a highly ornate style of writing popularized b
Eupolidian: (Grk., 'well varied') In classical literature, any varied metrical form such as a tetrameter with mi
Eutrepismus: Adding numbers to the various points in an argument or debate so the audience can better follow the
Exact Rhyme: Exact rhyme or perfect rhyme is rhyming two words in which both the consonant sounds and vowel sound
Excursus: (1) A detailed analysis of a particular point or argument--epecially when added as an appendix at th
Exegesis: (1) In Roman times, the term exegesis applied to professional government interpretation of omens, dr
Exegetical Criticism: Another term for Robertsonian criticism of medieval literature. See discussion under fourfold interp
Exemplum: (pluralexempla): The term exemplum can be used in two general ways. (1) In medieval literature, an e
Exilliteratur: (Ger. 'Exile-literature') German literature written by authors who fled Nazi Germany during World Wa
Existentialism: A twentieth-century philosophy arguing that ethical human beings are in a sense cursed with absolute
Exit - Exuent: Common Latin stage directions found in the margins of Shakespearean plays. Exit is the singular for
Exodos: (Greek 'leaving,' cf. Latin exodus) The last piece of a Greek tragedy, an episode occurring after th
Exordium: In classical rhetoric, this is the introductory part of a speech.
Explosive: (also called a plosive or a stop) In linguistics, a sound made by completely blocking and then quick
Exposition: The use of authorial discussion to explain or summarize background material rather than revealing th
Extra-Textual Meaning: Meaning that originates not in the text being read, but in another related text. The most common typ
Eye Dialect: A type of metaplasmus using unconventional spellings to represent conventional pronunciation: for in
Eye Rhyme: Rhyming words that seem to rhyme when written down as text because parts of them are spelled identic
Fable: A brief story illustrating human tendencies through animal characters. Unlike the parables, fables o
Fabliau: (plural, fabliaux) A humorous, frequently ribald or 'dirty' narrative popular with French poets, who
Facetiae: A bookseller's term for obscene or humorous books.
Fair Copy: A corrected--but not necessarily entirely correct--manuscript that a dramatist might submit to a the
Fairy Tale: In common parlance, a tale about elves, dragons, hobgoblins, sprites, and other fantastic magical be
Fame-Shame Culture: The anthropological term for a culture in which masculine behavior revolves around a code of martial
Familiar Address: Not to be confused with the animal known as a witch's familiar (see immediately below), the familiar
Family Rhyme: In “family rhyme,' rhyming is based on phonetic similarities. For the sake of contrast, consid
Fancy: Before the 19th Century, the word fancy meant roughly the same thing as imagination as opposed to th
Fantasy Literature: Any literature that is removed from reality--especially poems, books, or short narratives set in non
Fantasy Novel: Any novel that is removed from reality--especially those novels set in nonexistent worlds, such as a
Farce: (from Latin Farsus, 'stuffed') A farce is a form of low comedy designed to provoke laughter through
Farsa: A medieval Spanish religious play, usually performed in sets rather than alone, with a comic interlu
Fatrasie: (French, 'medley,' or 'rubbish') Nonsense verse popular between 1200-1400 in medieval France, usuall
Faustian Bargain: A temptation motif from German folklore in which an individual sells his soul to the devil in exchan
Faux Amis: (French, 'false friends') Words in two languages that may technically be cognates with each other (i
Feathering: As Kathleen Scott describes this sort of decoration, it is 'a spray form of decoration, consisting o
Feminist Writing: Writing concerned with the unique experience of being a woman or alternatively writing designed to c
Feudalism: The medieval model of government predating the birth of the modern nation-state. Feudal society is a
Figurative Language: A deviation from what speakers of a language understand as the ordinary or standard use of words in
Figure Of Speech: A scheme or a trope used for rhetorical or artistic effect. See figurative language, above.
Fili: A class of learned Irish poet in pre-Christian and early Christian Ireland. Legally, a fili had simi
Filigree Work: (also called vinework or vinery) A common type of decoration in medieval manuscripts. Scott defines
Filk: A specialized type of folk music or alternative music, often with narrative lyrics, that usually dea
Finno-Ugric: One of several language families outside the Indo-Euorpean family of languages. This family includes
Firmament: (Septuagint Greek, stereoma 'the beaten or hammered thing,' Latin firmamentum, 'the solid thing') In
First Folio: A set of Shakespeare's plays published in 1623. The 'First Folio' included some thirty-six plays, an
First Language: The preferred or normal language a speaker chooses to communicate in--i.e., one's native or fluent l
First Sound Shift: In Grimm's Law, the systematic transformation of the Proto-Germanic Indo-European stop sounds.
Fit: (possibly from Old Norse fit, 'a hem,' or German Fitze, 'a skein of yarn or the thread used to mark
Fixed-Form: Another term for closed-form poetry. See closed poetic form.
Flashback: A method of narration in which present action is temporarily interrupted so that the reader can witn
Flat Character: Also called a static character, a flat character is a simplified character who does not change or al
Flesh Side: In medieval manuscripts, this term refers to the side of a leaf of parchment or vellum that original
Flourisher: In medieval times, this was a professional artist who works in conjunction with illuminators and rub
Flourishing: In medieval codices, this refers to 'Ornamentation in pen-work, often red on a blue initial (but som
Flyting: A contest of wits and insults between two Germanic warriors. Each tries to demonstrate his superior
Focalization: Dutch literary theorist Mieke Bal coined the term focalization to describe a shift in perspective th
Foil: A character that serves by contrast to highlight or emphasize opposing traits in another character.
Folio: A term from the early production of paper and vellum in the medieval period. When a single large she
Folk Etymology: An incorrect but popular explanation for the origins of a word. For instance, popular folk etymology
Folklore: Sayings, verbal compositions, stories, and social rituals passed along by word of mouth rather than
Folkloric Motifs: Recurring patterns of imagery or narrative that appear in folklore and folktales. Common folkloric m
Folktale: Folktales are stories passed along from one generation to the next by word-of-mouth rather than by a
Fool: Originally a jester-at-court who would entertain the king and nobles, the court jester was often a d
Foot: A basic unit of meter consisting of a set number of strong stresses and light stresses. See meter.
Foreshadowing: Suggesting, hinting, indicating, or showing what will occur later in a narrative. Foreshadowing ofte
Forestage: The part of the stage 'in front' or closest to the viewing audience.
Form: The 'shape' or organizational mode of a particular poem. In most poems (like sonnets), the form cons
Fornyrthislag: An Old Norse Eddic metrical form (in alliterative verse) with four-line stanzas in which a caesura s
Forsterian: Informal, ironic, relaxed, and resembling the style, attitude, or tone found in E. M. Forster's writ
Foul Papers: Rough drafts of a manuscript that have not been corrected and are not to be sent to the printers. Th
Fourfold Interpretation: In the twelfth century, fourfold interpretation was a model for reading biblical texts according to
Fourfold Meaning: Another term for fourfold interpretation, this word refers to the medieval idea that every passage i
Fourth Wall: Sometimes referred to as the 'third wall,' depending upon how a stagebuilder numbers the sides of th
Fragment: An incomplete piece of literature--one the author never finished entirely--such as Coleridge's 'Kubl
Frame Narrative: The result of inserting one or more small stories within the body of a larger story that encompasses
Framing Method: Using the same features, wording, setting, situation, or topic at both the beginning and end of a li
Frankenstein Motif: A motif in which a created being turns upon its creator in what seems to be an inevitable fashion. T
Franklin: A medieval profession akin to a cross between a landlord and a real estate agent. In the early medie
Free Indirect Discourse: A style of third-person narration that mingles within it traits from first-person narration, often s
Free Meter: Not to be confused with free verse, free meter refers to a type of Welsh poetry in which the meters
Free Morpheme: Any morpheme that can function by itself as a word, such as the two morphemes it and self found in t
Free Variation: A sound substitution that does not hinder understanding or meaning--such as pronouncing the first sy
Free Verse: Poetry based on the natural rhythms of phrases and normal pauses rather than the artificial constrai
French Scene: A numbering system for a play in which a new scene is numbered whenever characters exit or enter the
Freudian Criticism: A psychoanalytical approach to literature that seeks to understand the elements of a story or charac
Freudian Slip: A slip of the tongue in which a person means to say one thing, but accidentally substitutes another
Freytags Pyramid: A diagram of dramatic structure, one which shows complication and emotional tension rising like one
Freytags Triangle: Another term for Freytag's Pyramid (see above).
Fricative: (also called spirant) In linguistics, any sound made by tightening but not completely closing the ai
Frons Scenae: At the back of the stage, this wall faced the audience and blocked the view of the players' tiring-h
Front Vowel: In linguistics, a vowel made with the ridge of the tongue located near the front of the oral cavity.
Fu Poetry: Flowery, irregular 'prose-poem' form of Chinese literature common during the Han period. It was firs
Full Rhyme: Another term for perfect rhyme, true rhyme, or exact rhyme, see above.
Function Word: A part of speech--usually abstract and existing in a limited number of examples--which marks grammat
Functional Shift: The linguistic equivalent of poetic anthimeria, in which one part of grammatical speech becomes anot
Futhorc: The runic alphabet used by the Norse and other Germanic tribes. The Anglo-Saxon letters ash, thorn,
Gair Llanw: In Welsh poetry such as the strict meters (cynghanedd), a common technique to fill out the necessary
Gallery: The elevated seating areas at the back and sides of a theater.
Gatherers: Money-collectors employed by an acting company to take money at the admissions or entrances to a the
Geasa: (also spelled geisa or geis, plural geissi) A magical taboo or restriction placed on a hero in Old I
Gemel: A final couplet that appears at the end of a sonnet. See couplet and sonnet.
General Semantics: According to Algeo, 'A linguistic philosophy emphasizing the arbitrary nature of language to clarify
Generative Grammar: Another term for transformational grammar.
Genetic Classification: A grouping of languages based on their historical development from a common source.
Genitive: A declension in any synthetic (i.e. Heavily inflected) language that indicates possession. In many O
Genre: A type or category of literature or film marked by certain shared features or conventions. The three
Geographical Dialect: (also called a regional dialect) A dialect that appears primarily in a geographic area, as opposed t
Germanic: The northern branch of Indo-European, often subdivided into (1) East Germanic or Gothic, (2) West Ge
Ghost Characters: This term should not be confused with characters who happen to appear on stage as ghosts. Shakespear
Glide: Also called a semivowel, a glide is a diphthongized sound that accompanies another vowel. These soun
Globe: One of the theatres in London where Shakespeare performed. Shakespeare's acting company built it on
Glottal: Any sound made using the glottis or the vocal cords.
Gogynfeirdd: The court poets in Northern Wales in the years 1000-1299 CE.
Goidelic: One of the two branches of the Celtic family of languages descended from Proto-Indo-European. Goidel
Golden Age Of Greece: The period around 400-499 BCE, when Athens was at its height of prestige, wealth, and military power
Golden Age Of Science Fiction: The period between 1930 and about 1955 in which a growing number of science fiction short stories ap
Gothic: The word Gothic originally only referred to the Goths, one of the Germanic tribes that helped destro
Gothic Literature: Poetry, short stories, or novels designed to thrill readers by providing mystery and blood-curdling
Gothic Novel: A type of romance wildly popular between 1760 up until the 1820s that has influenced the ghost story
Gothic Romance: Another term for a Gothic novel.
Grágas Lawbook: (Old Norse 'greygoose') A section of the Codex Regius text that deals with wergild and Icelandic law
Gradatio: Extended anadiplosis (see above). Unlike regular anadiplosis, gradatio continues the pattern of repe
Gradation: In linguistics, another term for ablaut.
Grammatical Function: A category for words in inflected languages--typical examples include aspect, mood, and tense for ve
Grammatical Gender: A grammatical category in most Indo-European languages. Three genders commonly appear for pronouns,
Grapheme: In a writing system, the smallest written mark or symbol that has meaning, and which cannot be subdi
Great Vowel Shift: A remarkable change in the pronunciation of English, thought to have occurred largely between 1400 a
Grimms Law: A formulation or rule of thumb for tracing a language-shift in the Germanic branch of proto-Indo-Eur
Grisaille: Kathleen Scott tells us that, in the elaborate medieval artwork found in illuminated manuscripts, gr
Groundlings: While the upper class paid two pennies to sit in the raised area with seats, and some nobles paid th
Group Genitive: A genitive construction in which the 's appears at the end of a phrase modifying a word rather than
Grue Language: In linguistic anthropology, any language using a single word to describe both the hue of green and t
Guild: A medieval organization that combined the qualities of a union, a vocational school, a trading corpo
Gustatory Imagery: Imagery dealing with taste. This is opposed to visual imagery, dealing with sight, auditory imagery,
Gvs: The abbreviation that linguists and scholars of English use to refer to the Great Vowel Shift. See G
Gyre: (Latin gyrus, a spiral) A gyre is a spiral or circular motion. W. B. Yeats uses the image of a gyre
Hagiography: (Greek, 'sacred writing', also called hagiology) The writing or general study of the lives of Christ
Haikai: Another term for haikai renga or renku. See discussion under renku and renga.
Haikai Renga: Another term for renku. See discussion under renku and renga.
Haiku: (pluralhaiku, from archaic Japanese): The term haiku is a fairly late addition to Japanese poetry. T
Hair Side: The side of a sheet or parchment or vellum that once carried the animal's hair. It is generally dark
Hallel: (Hebrew, 'celebrate,' possibly adopted as a loanword from Eblaite) A hymn of praise, specifically in
Hallelujah Meter: Verse written in stanzas with each stanza containing six iambic lines, four trimeter lines, and two
Hamartia: A term from Greek tragedy that literally means 'missing the mark.' Originally applied to an archer w
Hapax Legomenon: (pluralhapax legomena): Any word of indeterminate meaning appearing only once in the surviving textu
Harlem Renaissance: A dynamic period of writing, poetry, music, and art among black Americans during the 1920s and 1930s
Head Rhyme: Another term for alliteration--especially alliteration of consonants at the beginning of words, rath
Heavens: Sometimes used synonymously with 'the aloft' and 'the above,' the term refers more specifically to t
Heavy-Stress Rhyme: Another term for a masculine ending in a rhyme.
Hell Mouth: Students should distinguish between the medieval and Renaissance meanings of hell mouth. (1) In medi
Hellenic: In linguistics, the branch of Indo-European including classical and modern Greek.
Hemingway Code: Hemingway's protagonists are usually 'Hemingway Code Heroes,' i.e., figures who try to follow a hype
Hendiadys: As Arthur Quinn defines the term in Figures of Speech, hendiadys is a peculiar type of polysyndeton
Hengwrt Manuscript: (pronounced 'HENG-urt') One of the most important manuscripts of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, along w
Henotheist: The worship of one god without denying the existence of other gods or spiritual powers, as opposed t
Heptameter: A line consisting of seven metrical feet. Also called septenary.
Heptarchy: The seven territories or kingdoms making up Anglo-Saxon England--Northumbria, Mercia, East Anglia, K
Heraldry: The study of coats-of-arms and aristocratic insignia, or the creation of such items according to med
Heresy: (from Greek, 'choice') A 'mistaken' or heterodox religious belief, i.e., one that does not agree wit
Heriot: (Anglo-Saxon here + geatwe, 'army-gear') Heriot has two different meanings, depending upon whether w
Herm: (plural herma or hermai) In Greco-Roman archeology, a herm is a stone, bronze, or terracotta marker-
Heroic Age Of Greece: Also known as the Homeric Age, this is the period of time between 1200-800 BCE. The term is normally
Heroic Couplet: Two successive rhyming lines of iambic pentameter. The second line is usually end-stopped. It was co
Heroicomical: A humorous poem taking the conventions of heroic Greek literature and using them to comic effect. Mo
Hexameter: A line consisting of six metrical feet. Very common in Greek and Latin literature, less common in En
High Comedy: Elegant comedies characterized by witty banter and sophisticated dialogue rather than the slapstick
High Vowel: Any vowel sound made with the jaw almost shut and the tongue elevated near the roof of the oral cavi
His-Genitive: An unusual use of his, her, and their as the sign of the genitive by attaching them to the end of a
Historia: (pluralhistoriae): This Latin word gives us the modern word history, but the connection between the
Historiated Initial: In the artwork of medieval manuscripts, an historiated initial is an enlarged, introductory letter i
Historical Dictionary: A dictionary that traces the changes in a word's meaning by listing its entries chronologically and
Historical Novel: A novel in which fictional characters take part in, influence, or witness real historical events and
Historical Romance: A narrative that takes a small episode or group of episodes from some ancient or famous chronicle an
Hlafdig: (Anglo-Saxon hlaf+dieg, 'loaf-kneader' or 'loaf-deliverer') An Anglo-Saxon wife of a warlord. The te
Hlaford: (Anglo-Saxon hlaf+ord, 'loaf-leader' or 'loaf-giver,' or possibly from hlaf-weard, 'loaf-guardian,'
Hokku: In Japanese poetry, the term hokku literally means 'starting verse.' A hokku was the first starting
Homeric Age Of Greece: Another term for the Heroic Age of Greece.
Homily: A sermon, or a short, exhortatory work to be read before a group of listeners in order to instruct t
Hook: (1) In linguistics, a diacritical mark used in some eastern European languages like Polish and Lithu
Horror Story: A short story, novel, or other work of prose fiction designed to instill in the reader a sense of fe
Hovering Accent: Another term for spondee. See spondee.
Hubris: (sometimes spelled Hybris) The Greek term hubris is difficult to translate directly into English. It
Hugo Award: The familiar nickname for the Science Fiction Achievement Award, given each year since 1954 to an ou
Humanism: A Renaissance intellectual and artistic movement triggered by a 'rediscovery' of classical Greek and
Humility Topos: A common rhetorical strategy in which an author or speaker feigns ignorance or pretends to be less c
Humors: (alias bodily humors) In ancient Greece, Hippocrates postulated that four bodily humors or liquids e
Hut: A structure on the top of the stage cover in the Globe theater. Here, stagehands produced special ef
Hvot Scene: The hvot is a conventional scene in Icelandic sagas in which a grieving or insulted woman incites a
Hybrid Formation: In linguistics, a new expression made by combining together two or more words (or two or more morphe
Hymn: A religious song consisting of one or more repeating rhythmical stanzas. In classical Roman literatu
Hypallage: Combining two examples of hyperbaton or anastrophe when the reversed elements are not grammatically
Hyperbaton: A generic term for changing the normal or expected order of words--including anastrophe, tmesis, hyp
Hyperbole: The trope of exaggeration or overstatement. See tropes for examples.
Hypercatalectic: A hypercatalectic line is a line of poetry with extra syllables in it beyond the expected number due
Hypercorrection: A grammatical form created when grammarians--on the basis of too little information or incorrect gen
Hypertext Novel: Also called hyperfiction, a hypertext novel is one written using some variant of HTML programming la
Hypocrites: (Greek for 'One who plays a part') The classical Athenian word for an actor. Not to be confused with
Hypotaxis: Using clauses with a precise degree of subordination and clear indication of the logical relationshi
Hysteron-Proteron: Using anastrophe in a way that creates a catachresis (see under tropes), an impossible ordering on t
I-Mutation: Also called initial mutation, an i-mutation is a change to the initial sound of a word in response t
Iamb: A unit or foot of poetry that consists of a lightly stressed syllable followed by a heavily stressed
Iambus: Another term for an iamb. See above.
Ictus: (Latin, 'blow,' or 'stroke') An artificial stress or diacritical accent placed over the top of parti
Ideal Reader: The imaginary audience who would, ideally, understand every phrase, word, and allusion in a literary
Identical Rhyme: The use of the same words as a 'rhymed' pair. For instance, putting the words stone/ stone or time/
Ideograph: Also called a logograph or ideogram, this is a written symbol system in which a single marking or co
Idiolect: The language or speech pattern unique to one individual at a particular period of his or her life. B
Idiom: In its loosest sense, the word idiom is often used as a synonym for dialect or idiolect. In its more
Idola: (Latin, 'idols,' singular form idolum) False images of the mind. Francis Bacon's Novum Organum (1620
Idyll: A composition in verse or prose presenting an idealized story of happy innocence. The Idylls of Theo
Imagery: A common term of variable meaning, imagery includes the 'mental pictures' that readers experience wi
Imagism: An early twentieth-century artistic movement in the United States and Britain. Imagists believed poe
Imperfect Enjoyment: Readers commonly associate this motif or poetic genre with 17th-century male poets in France--but it
Imperfect Foot: A metrical foot consisting of a single syllable, either heavily or lightly stressed. See meter, cf.
Imperfect Rhyme: Another term for inexact rhyme or slant rhyme.
Impersonal Verb: A verb without a real subject--see 'impersonal verb construction,' below.
Impersonal Verb Construction: A verb used without a subject or with a largely non-referential 'it' as the subject. For instance, '
Implied Audience: The 'you' a writer or poet refers to or implies when creating a dramatic monologue. This implied aud
Imprimatur: (Latin, 'let it be printed') An official license or official permission to print or publish a book o
In Medias Res: (latinin the middle[s] of things): The classical tradition of opening an epic not in the chronologic
Incorporative: In most languages, different grammatical components reflect different parts of speech. For instance,
Indarba: (Old Irish, 'banishment') A traditional motif of banishment or exile in Celtic literature in which t
Index: In common parlance, an index is a collection of topics, names, or chapter subjects arranged by alpha
Indo-European: The hypothetically reconstructed language that was the ancient ancestor of most European, Middle-Eas
Indo-Germanic: Also called Indo-Aryan, this is an obsolete term for Indo-European.
Indo-Iranian: The branch of Indo-European that includes Persian and Indic.
Induction: The logical assumption or process of assuming that what is true for a single specimen or example is
Inexact Rhyme: Rhymes created out of words with similar but not identical sounds. In most of these instances, eithe
Infant Damnation: A rather grim Protestant doctrine associated with Puritan theologian John Calvin. It is closely asso
Infix: While a prefix is a meaningful syllable or collection of syllables inserted before a main word, and
Infixation: Also called epenthesis, infixation is placing an infix (a new syllable, a word, or similar phonetic
Inflected: An inflective or inflected language is one like Latin, German, or Anglo-Saxon, in which special endi
Inflected Infinitive: In Old English, an infinitive with declension endings attached and used as a noun--a source of much
Inflection: (also spelled inflexion) The alteration of a word to provide additional grammatical information abou
Inflective: An inflective or inflected language is one like Latin, German, or Anglo-Saxon, in which special endi
Informant: In folklore studies, anthropology, and linguistics, an informant is the local individual who tells t
Initial: An enlarged, decorated letter at the beginning of a story, chapter, poem, or section of text in a me
Initial Letter: Another term for an initial. See above.
Initialism: Any word, whether an acronym or an alphabetism, formed from the first letters of other words. See di
Ink: According to Michelle P. Brown, The word [ink] derives from the Latin encaustum (“burnt inâ�
Inkhorn Term: A word--often experimental or pompous--introduced into English during the Renaissance, especially on
Inland Southern: A subdialect of southern. More information: TBA.
Inorganic -E: A spoken -e added to the end of certain Middle English words that, historically, should not be there
Insular Script: (From Latin insula, island) Also called insular hand, this term refers to a compact style of handwri
Intensifier: A word such as very that strengthens or intensifies the word it modifies.
Interactive Novel: A 'choose-your-own-adventure' style novel in which the reader has the option to choose what will hap
Interdental: In linguistics, this term refers to any sound made by placing the tongue between the upper and lower
Interior Monologue: A type of stream of consciousness in which the author depicts the interior thoughts of a single indi
Interlace: Not to be confused with interlaced rhyme (below), some Anglo-Saxon scholars use the word interlace a
Interlaced Rhyme: In long couplets, especially hexameter lines, sufficient room in the line allows a poet to use rhyme
Internal Audience: An imaginary listener(s) or audience to whom a character speaks in a poem or story. For example, the
Internal Rhyme: A poetic device in which a word in the middle of a line rhymes with a word at the end of the same me
Intonation: Patterns of pitch in sentences.
Intra-Textual Meaning: Meaning that originates not within a work itself, but that originates in a related work in the same
Intransitive: An intransitive verb is a verb that does not have a direct object (and often one that by its very na
Intrigue Plot: The dramatic representation of how two young lovers, often with the assistance of a maidservant, fri
Intrusion: In linguistics, the introduction of a sound into a word that, historically, should not have such a s
Intrusive R: A type of linguistic intrusion in which the letter [r] appears in an etymologically unexpected locat
Intrusive Schwa: In linguistics, the addition of a schwa sound where historically it has no etymological basis. For i
Invective: Speech or writing that attacks, insults, or denounces a person, topic, or institution, usually invol
Inventio: (plural, inventiones from Latin invenire, 'to come upon, to discover', cf. Modern English 'invention
Inversion: Another term for anastrophe.
Invocation Of The Muse: A prayer or address made to the one of the nine muses of Greco-Roman mythology, in which the poet as
Irony: Cicero referred to irony as 'saying one thing and meaning another.' Irony comes in many forms. Verba
Irregular Verb: A verb that doesn't follow common verb patterns. For instance, think/thought and be/am/was. Most irr
Isogloss: When linguists create maps showing where dialects are spoken, the isoglosses would be the boundary l
Isolating Language: In now obsolete language studies, linguists used the label 'isolating' to refer to a language with w
Italian Sonnet: Another term for a Petrarchan sonnet. See discussion under sonnet.
Italic: The branch of Indo-European languages giving rise to Latin and Romance languages like Spanish, Frenc
Italics: A style of printing in which the tops of letters and punctuation marks gently slope to the right. It
Italo-Celtic: Together, the Italic and Celtic branches of Indo-European are called Italo-Celtic, the two groups sh
Ivory Tower: A derogatory term for a place, situation, or philosophical outlook that ignores or overlooks practic
Jacobean: During the reign of King James I, i.e., between the years 1603-1625. (Jacobus is the Latin form of J
Jargon: Potentially confusing words and phrases used in an occupation, trade, or field of study. We might sp
Jest-Book: Any collection of jokes or satirical anecdotes, but especially those jokebooks produced in England,
Jig: (possibly from Old French giguer, 'to dance, to kick, to gambol') In Renaissance drama, a jig was a
Jungian Psychology: The term refers to the theories of the Swiss psychologist, Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961). Jung was a
Juvenile: Publishers use the term juvenile or children's literature to designate books suitable for children,
Juvenilia: (Latinthings from youth): Not to be confused with Juvenalian satire or juvenile literature, above, j
Juxtaposition: The arrangement of two or more ideas, characters, actions, settings, phrases, or words side-by-side
Kaidan: Traditional Japanese ghost stories, especially folktales from the Edo period.
Kanji: A set of Japanese ideographs. The Japanese derived them from the older Chinese ideographs.
Katharsis: An alternative spelling of catharsis (see above).
Kechumaran: A family of non-Indo-European languages spoken in the Andes of South America.
Kenning: A form of compounding in Old English, Old Norse, and Germanic poetry. In this poetic device, the poe
Kentish: The Old English dialect spoken in Kent.
Khoisan: A family of non-Indo-European languages spoken in the southwestern regions of Africa.
Kigo: A traditional 'season-word' in Japanese haiku. The kigo must appear within a haiku's text or be stro
Kiltartanese: Lady Augusta Gregory's term for English with Gaelic syntax--i.e., the dialect of English spoken in K
Kinesics: In linguistics, the analysis of how body movements can communicate meaning.
Kleos: (Greek, 'What others hear about you') Renown, honor, glory, and fair reputation achieved through gre
Knight: A military aristocrat in medieval Europe and England who swore service as a vassal to a liege lord i
Koine: (Grk, 'Common') (1) Common or lower-class Greek as it was spoken throughout the Mediterranean region
Kottabos: A rowdy Greek drinking game. After draining the wine in a kylix, the drinker would stick a finger th
Lai: (plural lais, also spelled lay) A short narrative or lyrical poem, usually in octosyllabic couplets,
Laisse: A stanzaic verse paragraph. The Song of Roland, for instance, in written in a series of such units.
Lament: A formulaic expression of grief or sorrow for the loss of a person, position, or culture. It is typi
Lampoon: A coarse or crude satire ridiculing the appearance or character of another person.
Language: A particular system of signs used by members of a group to communicate with each other. These signs
Langue: (French, 'language') In Ferdinand de Saussure's theory of semiology, de Sauusure makes a distinction
Laryngeal: (1) Concerning the larynx. (2) A theoretical sound that probably existed in Proto-Indo-European, but
Late Modern English: English as spoken from about the year 1800 to the present.
Lateral: Any sound made with the air blowing out of the oral cavity on either or both sides of the tongue.
Latino-Latina Writing: Twentieth-and twenty-first-century writing and poetry by Hispanic immigrants or their children. Most
Laws Of Hospitality: Called xenia in Greek, the term refers to the custom in classical Greece and other ancient cultures
Lax Vowel: In linguistics, a vowel made with mostly relaxed tongue muscles [i], [e], [u], and [o], in contrast
Learned Word: (Note how the word learned is pronounced as two syllables in this phrase) A word--often technical in
Leit-Motif: From the German term for 'lead motif,' a leit-motif originally was coined by Hans von Wolzuegen to d
Lenaia: An Athenian religious festival occurring shortly after the Dionysia. While the Dionysia focused on t
Length: Duration of a vowel sound. Vowels can be long or short in English writing--which often uses a single
Lengthening: The change of a short vowel sound into a long one. Vowels can be long or short in English writing--w
Lenition: The softening of a consonant sound, i.e., the replacement of a hard and abrupt sound by a more hissi
Leonine Verse: Verse using internal rhyme in which the middle and end of each line rhyme. More specifically, in the
Leveling: Also called merging, in linguistics, this process is the loss of earlier distinctions in sounds or w
Lexicon: In an over-simplified sense, we might say lexicon is a fancy term scholars use when most people woul
Lexis: Not to be confused with the popular car, a lexis is the complete stock of morphemes, idioms, and wor
Libelli Missae: Books containing liturgical formulae such as Eucharistic prayers.
Licensing Act: By an order of 1581, new plays in Britain could not be performed until they were licensed by the Mas
Ligature: Any written symbol that involves squishing two or more letters into each other. The symbol for the l
Lighting: The placement, type, direction, and brightness or dimness of lights used on stage. Often lighting ca
Lilith: Lilith is alternatively depicted as the first wife of Adam before Eve's creation or a female mother
Limerick: A five-line closed-form poem in which the first two lines consist of anapestic trimeter, which in tu
Liminal: (Latin limin, 'threshold') A liminal space is a blurry boundary zone between two established and cle
Lingua Franca: (Latin, 'Frankish Language') Any language that gains international currency as a language of trade o
Linguistic Analogy: The modification of grammatical usage from the desire for uniformity. For instance, a child who stat
Linguistic Generalization: As Algeo defines it, 'A semantic change expanding the kinds of referents of a word' (319). I.e., in
Linguistics: (from Latin lingua, 'tongue') The study of language as a system, as opposed to learning how to speak
Link: Chaucer scholars use the word 'link' or 'linking passage' to refer to the material connecting the in
Linking R: In his linguistic textbooks, Algeo notes this phenomenon for students. He describes it as an /r/ pro
Liquid: A semi-consonant sound produced without friction and thus capable of being sounded continuously in t
Lists: An arena or field for chivalric combat and tournaments with bleachers or balconies set to one side w
Literal: A literal passage, story, or text is one intended only (or primarily) as a factual account of a real
Literary Climax: (From Greek word for 'ladder') The moment in a play, novel, short story, or narrative poem at which
Literature Of Sensibility: Eighteenth-century literature that values emotionalism over rationalism. This literature tends to pe
Litotes: A form of meiosis using a negative statement. (See more under discussion of meiosis.)
Loanword: A word borrowed or adapted from another language.
Loathly Lady: The motif of a ugly hag who will under set conditions transform into a beautiful maiden, or more rar
Locative: A grammatical case in many Indo-European languages that indicates location.
Locus Amoenus: (Latin, 'pleasant place') A pleasant locale and time, traditionally a green Edenic garden on a tempe
Locus Classicus: (Latin, 'classic place') A passage often cited as authoritative or illustrative on a particular poin
Logocentrism: (lit. 'word-centered') Jacques Derrida's term for a tendency to privilege thinking based on a desire
Lollard: (possibly from Dutch, 'mumbler') Lollards were heretics in the 1300s and 1400s associated with a var
Long S: One Old English variation for writing the letter s that continued to be used in Shakespeare's day--e
Long Syllable: Any syllable with (1) a long vowel or (2) any syllable with a short vowel and two or more consonants
Lords Rooms: During the Renaissance, the most prestigious and costly seating in public playhouses were the lords'
Lost Generation: A group of twentieth-century authors who grew disillusioned after World War I and lived in Europe as
Low Comedy: In contrast with high comedy, low comedy consists of silly, slapstick physicality, crude pratfalls,
Low Vowel: A vowel made with the jaw stretched open and the tongue lowered from the top of the oral cavity.
Lu Shih: (Chinese, 'regulated song') A verse form popular in China in the t'ang and Sung dynasties. It was al
Luddite: The Luddites of the early 1800s were part of an anti-technological, anti-industrial grassroots movem
Lullaby: A song written for children, especially a calming one designed to help an infant go to sleep. The ge
Lyric: (from Greek lyra 'song') The lyric form is as old as Egypt (surviving examples date back to 2600 BCE
Lyric Moment: (from Greek lyra 'song') A timeless period of introspection or memory in which a poetic speaker desc
Lyrics: (1) The words to a song. (2) Samples of lyric poetry, see discussion under lyric.
Märchen: A technical German word used in folklore scholarship to refer to fairy tales. See discussion under f
Mabinogi: (Welsh, 'Four Branches') The four branches or four parts of The Mabinogion, a medieval collection of
Macaronic Text: Any medieval or modern manuscript written in a jumble of several languages--say a mixture of Latin a
Machiavellian: As an adjective, the word refers generally to sneaky, ruthless, and deceitful behavior, especially i
Machievelle: (also spelled machiavel) A villain, especially an Italian aristocratic power-monger, or a deceitful
Macrocosm: (Cf. Microcosm) The natural universe as a whole, including the biological realms of flora and fauna,
Macron: A diacritical mark in the form of a horizontal line indicating the vowel beneath it is long.
Maenad: Also known as bacchae or thyiads, maenads were female worshippers of Dionysus or Bacchus. In the mys
Magic Realism: In 1925, Franz Roh first applied the term 'magic realism' (magischer Realismus in German) to a group
Majuscule: A large letter or a capital letter as opposed to minuscule.
Malapropism: Misusing words to create a comic effect or characterize the speaker as being too confused, ignorant,
Malayo-Polynesian: Another term for Austronesian.
Manet - Manent: Common Latin stage directions found in the margins of Shakespearean plays. Manet is the singular for
Manner Of Articulation: In linguistics, how the speech organs of lips, tongue, and vocal cords must be arranged in order to
Manuscript: A text written by hand, as opposed to one printed with a printing press. (Manus is Latin for 'hand',
Maqama: Picaresque Arabic stories in rhymed prose. The two most famous writers in this genre include Abu al-
Marginalia: Drawings, notation, illumination, and doodles appearing in the margins of a medieval text, rather th
Marked Word: A word that has some limitation or boundary in its meaning when contrasted with an unmarked word wit
Marriage Group: A term coined by George L. Kittredge in 1912 to describe a specific set of stories in Chaucer's Cant
Masculine Ending - Masculine Rhyme: Rhymes that end with a heavy stress on the last syllable in each rhyming word. See under discussion
Mashal: (plural meshalim) In the Hebrew tradition, a mashal is a broad, general term including almost any ty
Masoretic: (from Hebrew Masorah, 'handed over') The Masoretic texts are partly Hebrew and partly Aramaic versio
Masque: Not to be confused with a masquerade, a masque is a type of elaborate court entertainment popular in
Maxim: A proverb, a short, pithy statement or aphorism believed to contain wisdom or insight into human nat
Mead Hall: A structure built by an Anglo-Saxon lord (hlaford or cyning) as a social center for his immediate co
Medieval: The period of time roughly a thousand years long between the fall of the Roman Empire and the emerge
Medieval Estates Satire: A medieval genre common among French poets in which the speaker lists various occupations among the
Medieval Romance: In medieval use, romance referred to episodic French and German poetry dealing with chivalry and the
Meditation: A thoughtful or contemplative essay, sermon, discussion, or treatise.
Meiosis: Understatement, the opposite of exaggeration: I was somewhat worried when the psychopath ran toward
Melodrama: A dramatic form characterized by excessive sentiment, exaggerated emotion, sensational and thrilling
Meme: An idea or pattern of thought that 'replicates' like a virus by being passed along from one thinker
Memoir: An autobiographical sketch--especially one that focuses less on the author's personal life or psycho
Memoir-Novel: A novel purporting to be a factual or autobiographical account but which is completely or partially
Memorial Reconstruction: Renaissance actors reconstructing the text of a play from their own (sometimes faulty) memory. Actin
Memory Play: The term coined by Tennessee Williams to describe non-realistic dramas, such as The Glass Menagerie,
Mendicant Orders: Orders of wandering monks who lived by begging. In the Middle Ages, the clergy was divided into secu
Mercian: The dialect of Old English spoken in the region of Mercia.
Merging: In linguistics, another term for leveling.
Mesure: In French chivalric literature, the equivalent of Latin moderatio--the ability to follow a golden me
Metadrama: Drama in which the subject of the play is dramatic art itself, especially when such material breaks
Metafiction: Fiction in which the subject of the story is the act or art of storytelling of itself, especially wh
Metaliterature: Literary art focused on the subject of literary art itself. Often this term is further divided into
Metaphor: A comparison or analogy stated in such a way as to imply that one object is another one, figurativel
Metaphysical Poets: In his 1693 work, Discourse of Satire, John Dryden used the term metaphysical to describe the style
Metaplasmus: A type of neologism in which misspelling a word creates a rhetorical effect. To emphasize dialect, o
Metapoetry: Poetry about poetry, especially self-conscious poems that pun on objects or items associated with wr
Metathesis: The transposition of two sounds in speech or spelling. This tendency often catches students of Middl
Meter: A recognizable though varying pattern of stressed syllables alternating with syllables of less stres
Metonym: Any specific use or specific example of metonymy, or any symbol in which a specific physical object
Metonymy: Using a vaguely suggestive, physical object to embody a more general idea. The term metonym also app
Metrical: This adjective describes anything written in patterns of meter, as opposed to prose.
Metrical Romance: Any medieval romance written in verse or meter.
Metrical Substitution: A way of varying poetic meter by taking a single foot of the normal meter and replacing it with a fo
Mezozeugma: An alternative spelling of mesozeugma. See discussion under zeugma.
Miasma: Literally referring to a stench or bad smell, the Greek term also metaphorically indicates a sort of
Microcosm: The human body. Renaissance thinkers believed that the human body was a 'little universe' that refle
Mid Vowel: In linguistics, any vowel sound made with the jaw and tongue positioned between the normal articulat
Middle Comedy: Greek comedies written in the early 300s BCE, in which the exaggerated costumes and the chorus of th
Middle English: The version of English spoken after the Norman Conquest from 1066 but before 1450 or so. Before the
Middle Passage: The sea-voyage from Africa to the West Indies and/or the Americas commonly used by slave-traders. It
Miles Gloriosus: The braggart soldier, a stock character in classical Roman drama. The braggart soldier is cowardly b
Miltonic Imagery: Imagery made famous by Milton's poetry--especially Paradise Lost. Examples include the dark angels o
Mimesis: Mimesis is usually translated as 'imitation' or 'representation,' though the concept is much more co
Minimal Pair: Also called contrastive pairs, these are two words that differ by only a single sound, such as gin-p
Minne: The German term for fin amour, i.e., courtly love.
Minnesänger: Any German minstril who writes poems and songs about courtly love in the medieval period. He is usua
Minuscule: A small or lowercase letter, in contrast with majuscule, a large or capital letter. The invention of
Miracle Of The Virgin: A vita or a miracle play that dramatizes some aspect of humanity activity, and ends with the miracul
Miracle Play: Not to be confused with medieval morality plays, a miracle play is a medieval drama depicting either
Mirror Passage: A section of a story that might not contribute directly to the plot (i.e., it contains characters di
Mirror Scene: A scene in a play or novel that does not contribute directly to the plot (i.e., it contains characte
Mla: The acronym for the Modern Language Association. English students primarily know the MLA as the publ
Mock Epic: In contrast with an epic, a mock epic is a long, heroicomical poem that merely imitates features of
Mock Sermon: A medieval genre commonly known as 'une sermon joyeux' or 'une sermon jolie,' the conventions are th
Modern English: The English language as spoken between about 1450 and the modern day. The language you are speaking
Modern Romance: In contrast with medieval and Renaissance romance, the meaning of a modern romance has become more r
Modernism: A vague, amorphous term referring to the art, poetry, literature, architecture, and philosophy of Eu
Moira: Fate or the three fates in Greek mythology. Contrast with wyrd.
Monody: Any elegy or dirge represented as the utterance of a single speaker. Compare with dramatic monologue
Monogenesis: The theory that, if two similar stories, words, or images appear in two different geographic regions
Monologue: An interior monologue does not necessarily represent spoken words, but rather the internal or emotio
Monophthong: In linguistics, Algeo defines this as 'A simple vowel with a single, stable quality' (323) Simon Hor
Monophthongization: The tendency of diphthongs to turn into simple vowels over time, or the actual process by which diph
Monorhyme: A poem or section of a poem in which all the lines have the same end rhyme. The rhyming pattern woul
Monosyllabic: Having only one syllable.
Mood: (1) In literature, a feeling, emotional state, or disposition of mind--especially the predominating
Morality Play: A genre of medieval and early Renaissance drama that illustrates the way to live a pious life throug
Morpheme: Linguistically, the smallest collection of sounds or letters in a spoken or written word that has se
Morphology: The part of a language concerned with the structure of morphemes and how these morphemes combine. Li
Morphosyntax: In linguistics, morphosyntax is an impressive word scholars use when most people would simply say 'g
Mosaic Authorship: The medieval and Renaissance belief that Moses wrote all five books of the Pentateuch.
Motif: A conspicuous recurring element, such as a type of incident, a device, a reference, or verbal formul
Multicultural Novel: As Robert Harris defines the term in his glossary, a multicultural novel is A novel written by a mem
Multiculturalism: In literature, multiculturalism is the belief that literary studies should include writings, poetry,
Music Of The Spheres: In medieval and Renaissance Europe, many scholars believed in a beautiful song created by the moveme
Mutation: A change in a vowel sound caused by another sound in the following syllable. In Old English and in C
Mystery Cult: Unlike the official 'public cults' dedicated to the Olympian gods in ancient Greece and Rome, a numb
Mystery Cycle: A collection of mystery plays in a single manuscript meant to be performed sequentially. See discusi
Mystery Novel: A novel focused on suspense and solving a mystery--especially a murder, theft, kidnapping, or some o
Mystery Play: A religious play performed outdoors in the medieval period that enacts an event from the Bible, such
Mystics: In the word's most general sense, mystics are religious visionaries who experience divine insights.
Myth: While common English usage often equates 'myth' with 'falsehood,' scholars use the term slightly dif
Mythography: The commentary, writings, and interpretations added to myths. Medieval writers, such as the four ano
Mythology: A system of stories about the gods, often explicitly religious in nature, that possibly were once be
Mythos: (1) Approaching the world through poetic narrative and traditional ritual rather than rational or lo
N-Plural: The plural form of a few modern English weak nouns derives from the n-stem declension or n-plural of
N-Stem: A declension of Old English nouns. This stem was common in Old English, though its declension patter
Nam-Shub: (1) An incantation, chant, poem, or speech thought to have magical power in Sumerian texts. The most
Narrative Narration: Narration is the act of telling a sequence of events, often in chronological order. Alternatively, t
Narrator: The 'voice' that speaks or tells a story. Some stories are written in a first-person point of view,
Narrow Transcription: In linguistics, phonetic transcription that shows minute details, i.e., highly accurate transcriptio
Nasal: In linguistics, any sound that involves movement of air through the nose.
Native Language: The first language or the preferred language of any particular speaker.
Natural Gender: The assignment of nouns to grammatical categories based on the gender or lack of gender in the signi
Naturalism: A literary movement seeking to depict life as accurately as possible, without artificial distortions
Nb: Gallnuts aren’t actually nuts. They are swellings that form in the bark of an oak tree after
Nb: Students using MLA format should remember that MLA format requires your papers to be written with a
Near Rhyme: Another term for inexact rhyme or slant rhyme.
Nebula Award: An annual award given by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Association (SFFWA) for
Neo-Latin: Latin forms or words (especially scientific ones) invented after the medieval period, as opposed to
Neoclassic: An adjective referring to the Enlightenment. See Enlightenment for further discussion, or click here
Neoclassicism: The movement toward classical architecture, literature, drama, and design that took place during the
Neologism: A made-up word that is not a part of normal, everyday vocabulary. Often Shakespeare invented new wor
Nephilim: In ancient Hebrew tradition, the Nephilim (singular Naphil) were a race of giants referred to in Gen
New Comedy: The Greek comedy the developed circa 300 BCE, stressing romantic entanglements, wit, and unexpected
New England Short O: In linguistics, this term refers to 'the lax vowel used by some New Englanders in road and home corr
Niger-Kordefanian: A group of languages spoken in the southern part of Africa. This family of languages apparantly has
Nilo-Saharan: A group of languages spoken in the central sections of Africa. This family of languages apparantly h
Noble Savage: Typically, the depiction of Amerindians, indigenous African tribesmen, and Australian bushmen result
Nom De Guerre: Another term for a nom de plume or a pen name. See nom de plume or pen name. (French, 'name of war')
Nom De Plume: Another term for a pen name. The word indicates a fictitious name that a writer employs to conceal h
Non-Distinctive: In linguistics, any two sounds (often quite similar) that are not capable of signaling a difference
Non-Finite Form: In grammar, this category of verbs includes the infinitive and participle forms. Basically, a non-fi
Non-Rhotic: In linguistics, any dialect lacking an /r/. Some dialects of English are non-rhotic. Others only pro
Norman: An inhabitant of Normandy, a region along the northern coast of France. The word Norman comes from a
Norman Conquest: Loosely, another term for the Norman Invasion, though technically some historians prefer to differen
Norman Invasion: Not to be confused with D-Day during World War II, medieval historians use this title for a much ear
Normandy: The region along the northern coast of France. See Norman for more information.
North Germanic: The sub-branch of the Germanic languages that contains Swedish and Old Norse.
North Midland Dialect: A dialect of American English spoke in a strip of land just south of the Northern Dialect. This shou
Northern Dialect: A dialect of American English stretching through the northernmost sections of the United States.
Northumbrian: The Old English dialect spoken in the kingdom of Northumbria (i.e., north of the Umber river).
Nostos: The theme or motif of the homecoming--a return to one's family, community, or geographic origins aft
Nostratic: A hypothetical superfamily of languages that might embrace other large family language groups--inclu
Novel: In its broadest sense, a novel is any extended fictional prose narrative focusing on a few primary c
Novel Of Manners: A novel that describes in detail the customs, behaviors, habits, and expectations of a certain socia
Novella: An extended fictional prose narrative that is longer than a short story, but not quite as long as a
Nowell Codex: The common scholarly nickname for the medieval manuscript that contains Beowulf. The official design
Numerology: Number symbolism, especially the idea that certain numbers have sacred meanings. Classical Hebrew wr
O-Stem: A class of Old English nouns with feminine gender.
O. Henry Ending: Also called a trick ending or a surprise ending, this term refers to a totally unexpected and unprep
Objective Form: A form of pronouns used as the objects of prepositions and verbs. Examples include the pronouns him,
Oblique Form: The various forms or cases of any word in a declined language except the nominative form or nominati
Occasional Poem: A poem written or recited to commemorate a specific event such as a wedding, an anniversary, a milit
Octave: Not to be confused with octavo, below, an octave is the first part of an Italian or Petrarchan sonne
Octavo: Not to be confused with octave, above, octavo is a term from the early production of paper and vellu
Ode: A long, often elaborate stanzaic poem of varying line lengths and sometimes intricate rhyme schemes
Oed: The standard abbreviation among scholars for The Oxford English Dictionary, a huge twenty+ volume se
Oedipal Complex: The late Victorian and early twentieth-century psychologist Freud argued that male children, jealous
Off Glide: In linguistics, the second-half of a diphthong sound.
Off Rhyme: In poetry, another term for inexact rhyme.
Ogam: The term comes from Old Irish, 'Oghma,' probably an eponym of Oghma the Irish god of invention. It r
Old Comedy: The Athenian comedies dating to 400-499 BCE, featuring invective, satire, ribald humor, and song and
Old English: Also known as Anglo-Saxon, Old English is the ancestor of Middle English and Modern English. It is a
Olfactory Imagery: Imagery dealing with scent. See imagery.
Ollamh: An ancient Irish storyteller. The ollamh profession flourished between the sixth and fifteenth centu
Omen: A miraculous sign, a natural disaster, or a disturbance in nature that reveals the will of the gods
Oneiromancy: The belief that dreams could predict the future, or the act of predicting the future by analyzing dr
Onomastic: Related to names. For instance, a character's name might contain an onomastic symbol--if that charac
Onomatopoeia: The use of sounds that are similar to the noise they represent for a rhetorical or artistic effect.
Open Poetic Form: A poem of variable length, one which can consist of as many lines as the poet wishes to write. Every
Open Syllable: Any syllable ending in a vowel, like the word tree.
Open System: A system that can be adjusted for new functions or purposes, and hence produce new and unpredicted r
Open-Air Theater: An amphitheater, especially the unroofed public playhouses in the suburbs of London. Shakespeare's G
Oral Formulaic: Having traits associated with works intended to be spoken aloud before an audience of listeners. Exa
Oral Transmission: The spreading or passing on of material by word of mouth. Before the development of writing and the
Orchestra: (1) In modern theaters, the ground-floor area on the first floor where the audience sits to watch th
Order Of The Garter: An elite order of knights first founded around 1347-1348 by King Edward III. The Knights of the Gart
Organic -E: An that is pronounced and serves a purpose in distinguishing declensions. In Old and Middle Engl
Organic Unity: An idea common to Romantic poetry and influential up through the time of the New Critics in the twen
Original Sin: A theological doctrine arguing that all humans at the moment of conception inherit collective respon
Orphan: In printing, an orphan is a single short line beginning a paragraph but separated from all the other
Orthoepy: In linguistics, the study of pronunciation as it relates to spelling. A linguist who specializes in
Orthography: (1) The linguistic term for a writing system that represents the sounds or words of a particular lan
Outlaw: An individual determined by a council vote to be an outlaw at a thing or an althing was considered o
Outside Speaker: The 'speaker' of a poem or story presented in third-person point of view, i.e., the imaginary voice
Ov Language: A language that tends to place the grammatical object before the verb in a sentence. Japanese is an
Overgeneralization: In linguistics, the introduction of a nonstandard or previously non-existent spelling or verb form w
Oxford English Dictionary: This fat, twelve+ volume work functions as an historical dictionary of English. It is generally cons
Oxymoron: Using contradiction in a manner that oddly makes sense on a deeper level. Simple or joking examples
Paean: Among the earliest Greeks, the word paean signifies 'a dance and hymn with a specific rhythm which i
Palatal: In linguistics, any sound involving the hard palate--especially the tongue touching or moving toward
Palatal Dipthongization: A sound change in which either the ash or the /e/ sound in Old English words became a diphthong when
Palatalization: In linguistics, the process of making a sound more palatal--i.e., moving the blade of the tongue clo
Palatovelar: In linguistics, a sound that is either palatal or velar.
Palindrome: A word, sentence, or verse that reads the same way backward or foreward. Certain words in English na
Palinode: Singing again): A poem, song, or section of a poem or song in which the poet renounces or retracts h
Panglossian: The word is an eponym based on the fictional Dr. Pangloss from Voltaire's satire, Candide. Dr. Pangl
Pantheon: (1) A pantheon is a collective term for all the gods believed to exist in a particular religious bel
Parable: Throwing beside or 'placing beside'): A story or short narrative designed to reveal allegorically so
Paradigmatic Change: In linguistics, these are language changes brought about because a sound or a word was associated wi
Paradox: Using contradiction in a manner that oddly makes sense on a deeper level. Common paradoxes seem to r
Paragram: A sub-type of pun. See discussion under pun.
Paralanguage: The non-verbal features that accompany speech and help convey meaning. For example, facial expressio
Parallelism: When the writer establishes similar patterns of grammatical structure and length. For instance, 'Kin
Paranomasia: The technical Greek term for what English-speakers commonly refer to as a 'pun.' See extended discus
Paraphrase: A brief restatement in one's own words of all or part of a literary or critical work, as opposed to
Pararhyme: Wilfred Owen's term for a slant rhyme. An example appears in his poem, 'Strange Meeting,' in which O
Parataxis: Rhetorically juxtaposing two or more clauses or prepositions together in strings or with few or no c
Paratext: In Gérard Genette's work, Paratext: Thresholds of Interpretation, Genette introduces the idea of
Parchment: Goatskin or sheepskin used as a writing surface--the medieval equivalent of 'paper.' A technical dis
Pardoner: An individual licensed by the medieval church to sell papal indulgences (i.e., 'pardons'), official
Pardons: Another term for papal indulgences. See discussion under pardoner.
Parodos: In Greek tragedy, the ceremonial entrance of the chorus. Usually the chorus at this time chants a ly
Parody: Beside, subsidiary, or mock song): A parody imitates the serious manner and characteristic features
Parole: In Ferdinand de Saussure's theory of semiology, parole is the use of language--i.e., manifestations
Part: An actor's role in a play, the character the actor portrays or pretends to be. The term comes from R
Partible Succession: The opposite of primogeniture, partible succession is the practice in which all the children share e
Parts Of Speech: The traditional eight divisions or categories for words as described by the Latin grammarian Aelius
Passus: William Langland uses the term passus to refer to each numbered subdivision of his poem, The Vision
Pastoral: An artistic composition dealing with the life of shepherds or with a simple, rural existence. It usu
Pathos: In its rhetorical sense, pathos is a writer or speaker's attempt to inspire an emotional reaction in
Patristic Period: The time of the 'church fathers,' i.e., the time of the early Church and the Church's first theologi
Patrologia Latina: A famous (or perhaps infamous) scholarly collection of 228+ fat volumes of biblical and theological
Patronage: The act of giving financial or political support to an artist. A person who provides financial suppo
Peace-Weaver: In Anglo-Saxon culture, a woman who is married to a member of an enemy tribe to establish a peace-tr
Peasants Revolt: Also known as Wat Tyler's Rebellion, this uprising occurred in 1387 when lower-class Londoners and w
Peer-Reviewed Journal: Also called a refereed journal, a juried publication, a scholarly journal, or a critical journal, a
Pejoration: A semantic change in which a word gains increasingly negative connotation. For instance, the word le
Pen Name: Another term for nom de plume. The word indicates a fictitious name that a writer employs to conceal
Penny Dreadful: A sensational novel of crime, adventure, violence, or horror. The term is an English archaism referr
Pentameter: When poetry consists of five feet in each line, it is written in pentameter. Each foot has a set num
Pentateuch: The first five books of the Hebrew Bible--i.e., Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy
Perfect Rhyme: Another term for exact rhyme or true rhyme. See exact rhyme.
Pericope: (1) In biblical studies, a story, brief passage, or selection from gospel narrative or passage found
Periodic Essay: The forefather of modern periodicals like magazines and literary journals, these publications contai
Periodic Sentence: A long sentence that is not grammatically complete (and hence not intelligible to the reader) until
Periodic Style: A style of writing in which the sentences tend to be periodic. See discussion under periodic sentenc
Periodization: The division of literature into chronological categories of historical period or time as opposed to
Periods Of English Literature: The common historical eras scholars use to divide literature into comprehensible sections through pe
Peripetea: Another spelling of peripeteia. See below.
Peripeteia: The sudden reversal of fortune in a story, play, or any narrative in which there is an observable ch
Peripety: Another term for peripeteia. See above. The word was particularly common in older English writing.
Persona: An external representation of oneself which might or might not accurately reflect one's inner self,
Personal Ending: In linguistics and grammar, a verb inflection that shows if the subject is first person, second pers
Personal Symbol: Another term for a private symbol. See below.
Personification: A trope in which abstractions, animals, ideas, and inanimate objects are given human character, trai
Petrarchan Conceit: A conceit used by the Italian poet Petrarch or similar to those he used. In the Renaissance, English
Petrine Doctrine: Roman Catholics (and pretty much all medieval Christians in western Europe) have traditionally belie
Phallic: A phallic symbol or phallus is a sexualized representation of male potency, power, or domination--pa
Phatic Communication: Exchanges or conversation designed primarily not to transmit information, but rather to reinforce so
Philosophy: The methodical and systematic exploration of what we know, how we know it, and why it is important t
Phoneme: The smallest sound or part of a spoken word that serves as a building block in a larger syllable or
Phonetic Transcription: Written symbols that linguists use to represent speech sounds. One common transcription system is th
Phonetics: The study of phonemes, or units of sound in spoken language.
Phonogram: A written symbol that indicates a spoken sound. Students should not confuse this term with a gramoph
Phonology: According to Algeo, 'The units of sound (phonemes) of a language with their possible arrangements an
Picaresque Narrative: Any narrative (including short stories) that has the same traits as a picaresque novel. See discussi
Picaresque Novel: A humorous novel in which the plot consists of a young knave's misadventures and escapades narrated
Picaro: A knave or rascal who is the protagonist in picaresque novels. See discussion under picaresque novel
Pickup Syllable: Another term the unstressed syllable in anacrusis.
Pidgin: A simplified, limited language combining features from many languages and used among persons who sha
Piece-Bien-Fait: The French term for the dramatic genre called the 'well-made play.' See discussion under well-made p
Pietas: In Roman times, pietas is the quality of revering those things that deserve reverence. The word is t
Pilgrimage: An act of spiritual devotion or penance in which an individual travels without material comforts to
Ping Hua: A Chinese yarn or tall tale. The genre typically involves a strong narrative presence and colloquial
Pit: In indoor theaters during the Renaissance, the most expensive and prestigious bench seating was the
Pitch: In linguistics, a semi-musical tone or quality used in some languages to distinguish meaning.
Place Of Articulation: The point in the oral cavity where the position of speech organs (lips, teeth, tongue, etc.) Is most
Plagiarism: Accidental or intentional intellectual theft in which a writer, poet, artist, scholar, or student st
Platonic: In common usage, people often use the word 'platonic' to mean 'intellectual rather than physical.' T
Platonic Form: The ideas, images, or patterns of which physical reality is but an imperfect or transitory symbol or
Play: A specific piece of drama, usually enacted on a stage by diverse actors who often wear makeup or cos
Pleonasm: A habit of speech or writing in which an idea repeats itself in a single sentence, i.e., a redundanc
Plosive: In linguistics, another term for a stop.
Plot: The structure and relationship of actions and events in a work of fiction. In order for a plot to be
Pluck Buffet: Anthropologists suggest that pre-adolescent male children in a variety of cultures share the game of
Poetic Diction: Distinctive language used by poets, i.e., language that would not be common in their everyday speech
Poetic Justice: The phrase and the idea was coined by Thomas Rymer in the late 1600s. He claimed that a narrative or
Poetic License: The freedom of a poet or other literary writer to depart from the norms of common discourse, literal
Poetic Speaker: The narrative or elegiac voice in a poem (such as a sonnet, ode, or lyric) that speaks of his or her
Poetry: A variable literary genre characterized by rhythmical patterns of language. These patterns typically
Point Of View: The way a story gets told and who tells it. It is the method of narration that determines the positi
Point Of View Character: The central figure in a limited point of view narration, the character through whom the reader exper
Polis: The Greek city-state, a small, independent government consisting of a single town and its immediate
Polygenesis: The theory that, if two similar stories, words, or images appear in two different geographic regions
Polysyllabic: Having more than one syllable.
Polysyndeton: Using many conjunctions to achieve an overwhelming effect in a sentence. For example, 'This term, I
Pompé: In classical Greco-Roman culture, many major festivals were marked by a pompé. A pompé was a c
Pooh-Pooh Hypothesis: In linguistics, the idea that language began as emotional outbursts or surprised exclamations, contr
Portmanteau Word: The French term for a linguistic blending.
Portrait En Creux: A rhetorical or literary device in which a writer mentions an absence to evoke the counterpart prese
Post-Structuralism: A collective and loose term for any of the literary theories appearing after the structuralist movem
Postmodernism: A general (and often hotly debated) label referring to the philosophical, artistic, and literary cha
Postpositive: A function word--often a preposition--that must come after its object rather than before it. By defi
Pre-Raphaelite: Pre-Raphaelitism, or the Pre-Raphaelite movement, begins in 1848 as a protest against conventional a
Prefix: A morpheme added to the beginning of a word. For instance, the prefix re- can be added to the word p
Prequel: A novel, play, film, or other narrative usually written after the popular success of an earlier work
Prescriptivist: A grammatical treatise or a lexicon is said to be prescriptivist if it has the goal of fashioning gu
Press Variant: Unlike a deliberately revised edition printed at a later date, a press variant is a minor and usuall
Priestly Text: In biblical scholarship, this refers to material in Genesis and the Hebrew Bible that probably appea
Primary Source: Literary scholars distinguish between primary sources, secondary sources, and educational resources.
Primogeniture: The late medieval custom of allowing the first born legitimate male child to inherit all of his fath
Printing Press: Chinese and Japanese inventors developed simple printing techniques centuries earlier in monasteries
Private Symbol: In contrast with an archetype (universal symbol), a private symbol is one that an individual artist
Problem Play: There are two common meanings to this term. (1) The most general usage refers to any play in which t
Procatalepsis: Procatalepsis is a rhetorical strategy in which the writer raises an objection and then immediately
Profanity Act Of 1606: This law passed under King James I required that any profanity in a publicly performed play or in pu
Prologue: (1) In original Greek tragedy, the prologue was either the action or a set of introductory speeches
Promptbook: A manuscript of a play adapted for performance by a theatrical company--usually with extra stage dir
Promythium: A summary of the moral of a fable appearing before the main narrative. If the summary is found at th
Pronunciation Spelling: A new spelling of an old word that more accurately reflects the current pronunciation than the origi
Propaganda: In its original use, the term referred to a committee of cardinals the Roman Catholic church founded
Proparalepsis: Proparalepses): A type of neologism that occurs by adding an extra syllable or letters to the end of
Props: Handheld objects, furniture and similar items on stage apart from costumes and the stage scenery its
Proscenium: An arch that frames a box set and holds the curtain, thus creating a sort of invisible boundary thro
Prose: Any material that is not written in a regular meter like poetry. Many modern genres such as short st
Proskenion: A raised stage constructed before the skene in classical Greek drama. The proskenion sharply divided
Prosodic Signal: Algeo defines this as the '[p]itch, stress, or rhythm as grammatical signals' (327).
Prosody: The mechanics of verse poetry--its sounds, rhythms, scansion and meter, stanzaic form, alliteration,
Prosopopoeia: A form of personification in which an inanimate object gains the ability to speak. For instance, in
Prosthesis: Adding an extra syllable or letters to the beginning of a word for poetic effect. Shakespeare writes
Protagonist: The main character in a work, on whom the author focuses most of the narrative attention. See charac
Proto-Indo-European: The reconstructed ancestor of all Indo-European languages. Many scholars use this term interchangeab
Providence: The theological doctrine stating God's sovereignty--especially his omniscience--allows complete divi
Prys: The French noun prys, meaning 'worthiness,' is a cognate with the English word 'price.' Prys was ric
Pseudonym: Another term for a pen name.
Psychological Realism: The sense that characters in fictional narratives have realistic 'interiority' or complex emotional
Psychopompos: A spirit-guide who leads or escorts a soul into the realm of the dead. Such a character often appear
Pulp Fiction: Mass market novels printed cheaply and intended for a general audience. The content was usually melo
Pun: A play on two words similar in sound but different in meaning. For example, in Matthew 16:18, Christ
Purgatory: Donald Logan writes: It would be nearly impossible to exaggerate the significance of purgatory in th
Purist Grammar: The belief in an absolute or unchanging standard of correct grammar. (also called Grammatical Purism
Puritan: Most familiar to modern Americans as the religious denomination of the Mayflower colonists, the Puri
Puritan Interregnum: The term refers to both the Puritan government established under Oliver Cromwell after a civil war a
Purple Patch: A section of purple prose or writing that is too ornate or florid for the surrounding plain material
Purple Prose: Writing that seems overdone or which makes excessive use of imagery, figures of speech, poetic dicti
Pyrrhic: In classical Greek or Latin poetry, this foot consists of two unaccented syllables--the opposite of
Q-Text: The term for a hypothetical ur-text or source manuscript that served as the source for the synoptic
Quadrivium: The study of arithmetic, astronomy, geometry, and music, which formed the basis of a master's degree
Qualitative Change: In linguistics, an alteration in the perceived quality of a sound or the basic nature of a sound. Co
Qualitative Meter: Meter that relies on patterns of heavily stress syllables and lightly stressed meters. In English, m
Quantitative Change: In linguistics, an alteration in the length of a sound--particularly vowel sounds. Contrast with qua
Quantitative Meter: Meter that relies not on the alternation of heavily stressed or lightly stressed syllables, but rath
Quarto: A term from early bookmaking. When a single, large sheet is folded once to create two leaves (four p
Quatrain: Also sometimes used interchangeably with 'stave,' a quatrain is a stanza of four lines, often rhymin
Quem Quaeritis: This Latin expression comes from the Vulgate New Testament when the angel addresses the women coming
Quire: A collection of individual leaves sewn together, usually containing between four and twelve leaves p
R-Less Speech: Any dialect in which [r] is pronounced only before a vowel. Examples include Bostonian accents in Am
Räuberroman: The German term for a picaresque novel. (German, 'Robber-novel')
Radical Innocence: The Romantics valued innocence as something pure, wholesome, fulfilling, natural, and individualisti
Raisonneur: A character in continental literature whose purpose is similar to that of a chorus in Greek drama, i
Rash Boon: A motif in folklore and in Celtic and Arthurian literature in which an individual too hastily promis
Realism: An elastic and ambiguous term with two meanings. (1) First, it refers generally to any artistic or l
Rearstage: The section of the stage farthest away from the viewing audience, the back of the visible stage as o
Rebus: A visual pun in which a written sign stands for a different meaning than its normal one--usually bec
Received Pronunciation: The accent used by upper class British citizens--usually considered a prestigious or 'classy' pronun
Reconstruction: A hypothetical earlier form of a word that probably existed, but for which no direct evidence is ava
Reflexive Construction: A verb combined with a reflexive pronoun functioning as the direct object. For instance, in Spanish,
Refrain: A line or set of lines at the end of a stanza or section of a longer poem or song--these lines repea
Regional Dialect: Another term for geographic dialect.
Regional Literature: Literature that accurately seeks to portray or is associated with a particular geographic region or
Register Dialect: A dialectal variation used only for a particular circumstance or for a specific purpose. For instanc
Relic: The physical remains of a saint or biblical figure, or an object closely associated with a saint, bi
Renaissance: There are two common uses of the word. (1) The term originally described a period of cultural, techn
Renaissance Romance: The original medieval genre of metrical romances gradually were replaced by prose works in the 1500s
Renga: Japanese linked verse--a poetic dialogue formed by a succession of waka in which poets take turns co
Renku: An earthier, humorous variant on the courtly renga introduced by Iio Sogi, Yamazzaki Sokan, and Nish
Repertory: A number of plays an acting company had prepared for performance at any given time. Unlike modern dr
Rephaim: The Oxford Companion to the Bible goes into some detail on this term, and I summarize the material f
Representative Character: A flat character who embodies all of the other members of a group (such as teachers, students, cowbo
Restoration: The restoration, also called the Restoration Period, is the time from 1660, when the Stuart monarch
Retarded Pronunciation: An old-fashioned way of pronunciation that lingers in one dialect even after a newer pronunciation h
Retraction: A writing in prose or verse in which the author 'takes back' an earlier statement or piece of writin
Retroflex: In linguistics, any sound produced with the tongue-tip bent or curled backward--such as the sound of
Revenge Play: A Renaissance genre of drama in which the plot revolves around the hero's attempt to avenge a previo
Revenge Tragedy: Another term for a revenge play.
Rhapsodoi: Wandering poet-singers in the Homeric age of Greece--the equivalent of a bard in the Celtic traditio
Rhetoric: The art of persuasive argument through writing or speech--the art of eloquence and charismatic langu
Rhetorical Climax: Also known as auxesis and crescendo, this refers to an artistic arrangement of a list of items so th
Rhetorical Figures: Figures of speech such as schemes and tropes.
Rhetorical Substition: The manipulation of the caesura to create the effect of a series of different feet in a line of poet
Rhotacism: A shift linguistically from [z] to an [r]. (from Greek, rho or 'r')
Rhyme: Also spelled rime, rhyme is a matching similarity of sounds in two or more words, especially when th
Rhyme Royal: A seven-line stanzaic form invented by Chaucer in the fourteenth century and later modified by Spens
Rhyme Scheme: The pattern of rhyme. The traditional way to mark these patterns of rhyme is to assign a letter of t
Rhythm: The varying speed, loudness, pitch, elevation, intensity, and expressiveness of speech, especially p
Riddle: A universal form of literature in which a puzzling question or a conundrum is presented to the reade
Ridicule: Words designed to arouse laughter and contempt for a person, idea, or institution. The rhetorical go
Rime Couée: The French term for tail-rhyme. See discussion under tail-rhyme.
Rime Riche: The French term for identical rhyme. See identical rhyme.
Rime Royal: An alternative spelling for rhyme royal.
Rising Action: The action in a play before the climax in Freytag's pyramid.
Rising Rhyme: Another term for masculine rhyme in which the final foot ends in a stressed syllable. See meter.
Robertsonian: Following or adhering to the exegeticial readings of medieval literature espoused by American schola
Role: Another term for an actor's part in a play.
Roman À Clef: A narrative that represents actual historical characters and events in the form of fiction. Usually
Roman Imperial Period: After long centuries of representative democracy, within only a few generations, power in Roman gove
Roman Republican Period: The period of Roman history between 514 BCE up until 27 CE, when Rome was primarily and (at least of
Roman Stoicism: The philosophy espoused by Marcus Aurelius's Meditations, 'Roman Stoicism' actually originates with
Romantic Comedy: Sympathetic comedy that presents the adventures of young lovers trying to overcome social, psycholog
Romanticism: The term refers to the artistic philosophy prevalent during the first third of the nineteenth centur
Rondeau: A short poem consisting of ten, thirteen, or fifteen lines using only two rhymes which concludes eac
Rondel: A short poem resembling the rondeau. It usually totals fourteen lines containing only two rhyming so
Root: (1) a base morpheme without affixes attached to it. (2) A word in an older language that became the
Root Creation: Creating a new word by inventing its form from scratch--without reference to any pre-existing word o
Round Character: A round character is depicted with such psychological depth and detail that he or she seems like a '
Rounded Vowel: A vowel made with the lips sticking out--i.e., all of the back vowels except [a].
Roundel: A poem in the pattern of the rondeau, but only having eleven lines. Like the rondeau and the rondel,
Roundelay: A term used as a generic label for fixed forms of poetry using limited rhymes--such as the rondeau,
Roundhead: Not to be confused with round character, (see above), a Roundhead is a member or supporter of the pa
Rp: The linguist's abbreviation for received pronunciation, a prestigious British dialect used by the up
Rubaiyat: An Arabic term meaning a quatrain, or four-line stanza. The term is nearly always included in the ti
Rune: In a writing system designed to be scratched or carved on a flat surface such as wood or stone, the
Saga: The word comes from the Old Norse term for a 'saw' or a 'saying.' Sagas are Scandinavian and Iceland
Saints Life: Another term for the medieval genre called a vita. See discussion under vita.
Salic Law: French law stating that the right of a king's son to inherit the French throne passes only patriline
Samoyedic: A non-Indo-European branch of Uralic languages spoken in northern Siberia.
Sapphic Meter: Typically, this meter is found in quatrains in which the first three lines consist of eleven syllabl
Sapphic Ode: Virtually identical with a Horatian ode, a Sapphic ode consists of quatrains in which the first thre
Sapphic Verse: Verse written in Sapphic meter.
Sapphics: Verses written in Sapphic meter.
Sarcasm: Another term for verbal irony--the act of ostensibly saying one thing but meaning another. See furth
Satem Language: One of the two main branches of Indo-European languages. These languages are generally associated wi
Satire: An attack on or criticism of any stupidity or vice in the form of scathing humor, or a critique of w
Satiric Comedy: Any drama or comic poem involving humor as a means of satire.
Satyr Play: A burlesque play submitted by Athenian playwrights along with their tragic trilogies. On each day of
Scansion: The act of 'scanning' a poem to determine its meter. To perform scansion, the student breaks down ea
Scatology: Not to be confused with eschatology, scatology refers to so-called 'potty-humor'--jokes or stories d
Scene: A dramatic sequence that takes place within a single locale (or setting) on stage. Often scenes serv
Scenery: The visual environment created onstage using a backdrop and props. The purpose of scenery is either
Sceop: An Anglo-Saxon singer or musician who would perform in a mead hall. Cf. Bard. (A-S, 'shaper,' also s
Schema Atticum: This popular grammatical construction appears in ancient Attic Greek (and it is later mimicked in Ne
Schema Pindarikon: This popular grammatical construction appears in the ancient Attic Greek of Pindar and later in New
Schism: A schism is a split or division in the church concerning religious belief or organizational structur
Scholasticism: In medieval universities, scholasticism was the philosophy in which all branches of educaton were de
School: While common parlance uses the word school to refer to a specific institute of learning, literary sc
Schwa: The mid-central vowel or the phonetic symbol for it. This phonetic symbol is typically an upside dow
Science Fiction: Literature in which speculative technology, time travel, alien races, intelligent robots, gene-engin
Scop: An alternative spelling of sceop. See sceop. (pronounced like 'shop')
Scribal -E: When a scribe adds an unpronounced -e to words for reasons of manuscript spacing, this is called a s
Scribal Corruption: A general term referring to errors in a text made by later scribes rather than the original authors.
Scribe: A literate individual who reproduces the works of other authors by copying them from older texts or
Scrim: In drama, a flimsy curtain that becomes transparent when backlit, permitting action to take place un
Scriptorium: An area set aside in a monastery for monks to work as scribes and copy books.
Scrivener: Another term for a scribe. The term scrivener became especially common during the 1700s and 1800s fo
Second Language: In addition to a first language (i.e., a native language), a second language is any language used fr
Second Sound Shift: Another term for the High German Shift.
Secondary Source: Literary scholars distinguish between primary sources, secondary sources, and educational resources.
Secondary Stress: A stress less prominent than the primary stress--often indicated by a grave accent mark. See chart o
Self-Reflexivity: Writing has self-reflexivity if it somehow refers to itself. (Critics also call this being self-refe
Semantic Bleaching: The process by which a word loses all its original meaning--a phenomenon quite common in toponyms an
Semantic Change: A change in what a word or phrase means.
Semantic Contamination: Change of meaning that occurs when two words sound alike. Because the words are so similar, often th
Semantic Marking: When the meaning of a word is limited semantically, that word is said to possess a semantic marking.
Semantics: The study of actual meaning in languages--especially the meanings of individual words and word combi
Semiology: Another term for semiotics.
Semiotics: The study of both verbal and nonverbal signs. In Charles Sanders Peirce's thinking, a sign may fall
Semitic: A non-Indo-European family of languages including Arabic and Hebrew.
Semivowel: A sound articulated in the same way as a vowel sound, but which functions like a consonant typically
Senex Amans: A stock character in medieval fabliaux, courtly romances, and classical comedies, the senex amans is
Senryu: The senryu is a satirical form of the haiku. The form originates in Edo with the poet Karai Senryu (
Sentimental Novel: An eighteenth-century or early nineteenth-century novel emphasizing pathos rather than reason and fo
Septenary: Another term for heptameter--a line consisting of seven metrical feet.
Septuagint: A Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) produced in the third century BCE. According
Sequel: A literary work complete in itself, but continuing the narrative of an earlier work. It is a new sto
Serf: A medieval peasant tied to a specific plot of land in the feudal system of government. He was allowe
Series: A number of novels related to each other by plot, setting, character, or some combination of these t
Sermon Joli: Another term for a sermon joyeaux. See discussion under mock sermon.
Sestet: (1) The last part of an Italian or Petrarchan sonnet, it consists of six lines that rhyme with a var
Sets: The physical objects and props necessary as scenery in a play (if they are left on-stage rather than
Setsuwa Tale: A Japanese tale dating to the10th-14th centuries, typically sharing a grotesque mode of representati
Setting: The general locale, historical time, and social circumstances in which the action of a fictional or
Sharers: In the Renaissance, these were senior actors holding business shares in the stock of a theatrical co
Shibboleth: Among linguists, the term refers to any language use that distinguishes between one 'in'-group and a
Shifting: A general term in linguistics for any slight alteration in a word's meaning, or the creation of an e
Shih Poetry: Shih is Chinese for 'songs.' There is no general word for 'poetry' specifically in Chinese, but ther
Short Story: A brief prose tale, as Edgar Allan Poe labeled it. This work of narrative fiction may contain descri
Short Syllable: In linguistics, any syllable containing a short vowel, but followed by only one consonant or no cons
Short Vowel: As Algeo defines it, 'A vowel of lesser duration than a corresponding long vowel' (329).
Shortening: In linguistics, the word has two meanings: (1) creating a new word by omitting part of a longer expr
Sibilant: In linguistics, any hissing sound made with a groove down the center of the tongue.
Sign: In linguistics, Ferdinand de Saussure bases his theory of signification (semiology) upon the sign, a
Simile: An analogy or comparison implied by using an adverb such as like or as, in contrast with a metaphor
Single Effect Theory: Edgar Allan Poe's theory about what constituted a good short story. According to Poe, a good short s
Sino-Tibetan: A group of languages spoken in China, Tibet, and Burma, including Mandarin.
Situational Irony: Another term for universal irony. See discussion under irony.
Skald: The Old Norse or Scandinavian equivalent of a bard or court singer. Most of the surviving skaldic po
Skaz: A Russian yarn or tall tale in which the author dons the voice or persona of a fictitious narrator (
Skene: In classical Greek theaters, the skene was a building in the front of the orchestra that contained f
Slang: Informal diction or the use of vocabulary considered inconsistent with the preferred formal wording
Slant Rhyme: Rhymes created out of words with similar but not identical sounds. In most of these instances, eithe
Slapstick Comedy: Low comedy in which humor depends almost entirely on physical actions and sight gags. The antics of
Slave Narrative: A narrative, often autobiographical in origin, about a slave's life, perhaps including his original
Slavic: An eastern European sub-branch of Indo-European.
Smoothing: In linguistics, the monophthongization of several Old English diphthongs.
Soccus: A soft shoe worn by actors in Latin comedies, in contrast with the buskins or kothorni worn in trage
Social Dialect: In linguistics, a dialect used by a special social group rather than through an entire ethnicity or
Social Realism: In literature, a branch of realism, especially significant in Russian writing, that focuses on the l
Social Satire: Satire aimed specifically at the general foibles of society rather than an attack on an individual.
Socratic Dialogue: An attempt to explore a philosophical problem by presenting a series of speakers who argue about an
Socratic Irony: Adapting a form of ironic false modesty in which a speaker claims ignorance regarding a question or
Solar Myth: Alvin Boyd Kuhn and Max Müller were philologists who attempted to explain the origin of a number
Solecism: The area around the city of Soloi in ancient Cilicia had a population who spoke a nonstandard form o
Soliloquy: A monologue spoken by an actor at a point in the play when the character believes himself to be alon
Song: A lyric poem with a number of repeating stanzas (called refrains), written to be set to music in eit
Sonnet: A lyric poem of fourteen lines, usually in iambic pentameter, with rhymes arranged according to cert
Sonnet Cycle: Another term for a sonnet sequence. See discussion below.
Sonnet Sequence: Also called a sonnet cycle, this term refers to a gathering or arrangement of sonnets by a single au
Sons Of Ben: A school of literature consisting mostly of cavalier poets who were admirers/imitators of Ben Jonson
Soubrette: A maidservant of independent and saucy temperament in the Italian commedia dell'arte. This stock cha
Sound Symbolism: Often, several words with similar meaning may coincidentally have a similar phoneme- combination in
Source: (1) An earlier work of literature or folklore used as the basis of a later work. Scholars use the te
Space Opera: A subgenre of 'soft' science fiction especially popular between 1930-1960, often used in a derogator
Specialization: A semantic change restricting the referents of a word--i.e., a linguistic movement from a more gener
Speculative Fiction: Also called 'alternative history,' speculative fiction is science fiction that explores how the 'rea
Speech Act Theory: An idea set forth by J. L. Austin's How to Do Things with Words, which argues that language is often
Speech Prefix: Often abbreviated 's.p.,' this term in drama refers to a character's name or an abbreviated version
Spelling Pronunciation: An unhistorical way of pronouncing a word based on the spelling of a word.
Spelling Reform: Any effort to make spelling closer to actual pronunciation.
Spenserian Stanza: A nine-line stanza rhyming in an ababbcbcc pattern in which the first eight lines are pentameter and
Spirant: Another term in linguistics for a fricative.
Spirit Guide: A conventional figure in mythology, in the medieval visio and in shamanistic myths that serves as (1
Spiritual Autobiography: An autobiography (usually Christian) that focuses on an individual's spiritual growth. The plot is t
Spondaic: The adjective spondaic describes a line of poetry in which the feet are composed of successive spond
Spondee: In scansion, a spondee is a metrical foot consisting of two successive strong beats. The spondee typ
Spoof: A comic piece of film or literature that ostensibly presents itself as a 'genre' piece, but actually
Spoonerism: The comic (and usually unintentional) transposition of two initial consonants or other sounds. For e
Sprachbund: (Ger. 'speech bond'): A group of languages--often technically unrelated to each other otherwise--tha
Spread Vowel: Also called an unrounded vowel, in linguistics, a vowel made with the corners of the lips retracted
Sprechspruch: This charming alliterative term refers to a short lyrical poem set to music common among the German
Sprezzatura: An Italian term that doesn't translate well into English, the word embodies both the appearance of r
Sprung Rhythm: Also called 'accentual rhythm,' sprung rhythm is a term invented by the poet-priest Gerard Manley Ho
Squire: A knight-in-training, a young boy who has spent several years as a page to learn humility, patience,
Stage: An area set aside or deliberately constructed as a place for actors, dancers, musicians, or singers
Stage Direction: Sometimes abbreviated 's.d.,' the term in drama refers to part of the printed text in a play that is
Standard English: The more prestigious variety of English described in prescriptivist dictionaries and grammars, taugh
Stanza: An arrangement of lines of verse in a pattern usually repeated throughout the poem. Typically, each
Stasimon: From Greek 'stationary song,' a stasimon is an ode sung by the chorus in a Greek play after the chor
Static Character: A static character is a simplified character who does not change or alter his or her personality ove
Stationers Register: Stephen Greenblatt provides the following definition: The account books of the Company of Stationers
Stave: Another term for stanza. See stanza.
Stem: In linguistics, a form consisting of a base and an affix to which other affixes can be attached.
Stemma: A record or diagram similar to a family tree showing the connections between manuscripts of a given
Stereotype: A character who is so ordinary or unoriginal that the character seems like an oversimplified represe
Stichomythy: Dialogue consisting of one-line speeches designed for rapid delivery and snappy exchanges. Usually,
Stock Character: A character type that appears repeatedly in a particular literary genre, one which has certain conve
Stop: Also called a plosive, in linguistics, a stop is any sound made by rapidly opening and closing airfl
Stornelli: Italian flower songs--often interspersed within a larger work. Robert Browning adapts many of these
Stream Of Consciousness: Writing in which a character's perceptions, thoughts, and memories are presented in an apparently ra
Stress: In linguistics, the emphasis, length and loudness that mark one syllable as more pronounced than ano
Stroke Letter: In paleography, a stroke letter was one made mostly from minims (i.e., straight vertical lines). The
Strong Declension: In Germanic languages, any noun or adjective declension in which the stem originally ended in a vowe
Strong Verb: In Germanic languages, a strong verb is one whose linguistic principal parts were formed by ablaut o
Strophe: In classical Greek literature like the play Antigonê and the Pindaric Odes, the strophe and the a
Structural Grammar: Also called structuralism, this term refers to a descriptivist approach to grammar associated with m
Sturgeons Law: When asked why so much of science fiction consisted of 'crap' (junk literature), science fiction aut
Style: The author's words and the characteristic way that writer uses language to achieve certain effects.
Stylistics: Aspects of form or style in contrast with aspects of content, i.e., stylistics are those features th
Subjective Genitive: A genitive case common in Greek grammar in which the genitive functions as the origin or source (or
Sublunary: The area of the cosmos inside the orbit of the moon, including the earth. In medieval and Renaissanc
Subplot: A minor or subordinate secondary plot, often involving a deuteragonist's struggles, which takes plac
Substantive: A substantive word or phrase is one that can functoin as a noun within a sentence or clause. See esp
Substantive Adjective: An adjective that stands by itself in the place of an implied noun--a type of rhetorical ellipsis. I
Substantive Text: A text based upon access to an original manuscript as opposed to a text derived only from an earlier
Substratum Theory: The idea that an original language in a region alters or affects later languages introduced there. C
Succubus: A demon-lover in feminine shape, as opposed to an incubus (plural incubi), the same sort of demon-lo
Suffix: In linguistics, an affix that comes after the base of a word.
Summa: A treatise, essay, or book that attempts to deal comprehensively with its topic, especially one that
Summoner: Medieval law courts were divided into civil courts that tried public offenses and ecclesiastical cou
Sumptuary Laws: Laws that regulate the sort of clothing an individual may wear. Classical Rome restricted certain ty
Superstratum Theory: The idea that a new language introduced into a region alters or affects the language spoken there pr
Supine: A supine verb form is one that is not fully conjugated. For instance, the subjunctive mood is often
Suppletive Form: An inflectional form in which a common word has its current inflection come from a completely differ
Surface Structure: In linguistics, Noam Chomsky distinguishes between superficial 'surface structure' and 'deep structu
Surprise Ending: Another term for an O. Henry ending.
Surrealism: An artistic movement doing away with the restrictions of realism and verisimilitude that might be im
Syllaba Anceps: Also called a syllable anceps, the term refers to a syllable that may be read as either long or shor
Syllabary: A writing system in which each symbol represents a syllable such as in Japanese kana (hiragana and k
Syllepsis: A specialized form of zeugma in which the meaning of a verb cleverly changes halfway through a sente
Symbol: A word, place, character, or object that means something beyond what it is on a literal level. For i
Symbolic Character: Symbolic characters are characters whose primary literary function is symbolic, even though the char
Symbolic Word: In linguistics, this is a new word created because it sounds similar to another word with strong sem
Symbolism: Frequent use of words, places, characters, or objects that mean something beyond what they are on a
Symploce: Repeating words at both the beginning and the ending of a phrase. In St. Paul's letters, he seeks sy
Symposium: An after-dinner speech contest or informal debate. Such spontaneous talks were popular in classical
Synaeresis: When two vowels appear side-by-side within a single word, and the poet blurs them together into a si
Synaesthesia: A rhetorical trope involving shifts in imagery. It involves taking one type of sensory input (sight,
Synchronic: A synchronic study is one that provides an overview of a subject at a particular moment in time, as
Synchronic: The examination of a subject such as literature, linguistics, or history when focusing on a single p
Syncopated: A syncopated word has lost a sound or letter. This syncopation happens because of contractions, ling
Syncopation: The use of syncope. See below.
Syncope: When a desperate poet drops a vowel sound between two consonants to make the meter match in each lin
Synecdoche: A rhetorical trope involving a part of an object representing the whole, or the whole of an object r
Synesthesia: An alternative spelling of synaesthesia, above.
Synoptic Gospels: The three first gospels (Matthew Mark, Luke), which share several textual similarities. Biblical sch
Syntagmatic Change: Any change in language resulting from the influence of nearby sounds or words. Examples include ling
Syntax: As David Smith puts it, 'the orderly arrangement of words into sentences to express ideas,' i.e., th
Synthetic: Not to be confused with an artificial or made-up language like Esperanto or Tolkien's Elvish, a synt
Syzygy: (from Greek 'yoke'): In classical prosody, syzygy describes the combination of any two feet into ano
Taboo: (1) In anthropology, a taboo is a socially prohibited activity. For instance, in classical Greek cul
Tabula Rasa: The term used in Enlightenment philosophy for the idea that humanity is born completely innocent, wi
Tactile Imagery: Verbal description that evokes the sense of touch. See imagery.
Tag: Tags are catch-phrases or character traits that a fiction writer uses repeatedly with a character. F
Tail-Rhyme: A unit of verse in which a short line, followed by a longer line or section of longer lines, rhymes
Tanka: A genre of Japanese poetry similar to the haiku. A tanka consists of thirty-one syllables arranged i
Tel Quel School: A school of French intellectuals associated with Philippe Seller's review Tel Quel. Sample members i
Telemachia: The first four books of The Odyssey are together called the Telemachia because they focus on the pro
Telestich: A poem in which the last letters of successive lines form a word, phrase, or consecutive letters of
Temenos: In Classical Greek culture, the temenos is a sacred area marked off as holy ground. On this special
Tempo: The pace or speed of speech and also the degree to which individual sounds are fully articulated or
Temporal: In grammatical and linguistic discussion, something relating to the element of time. See further dis
Temptation Motif: A motif in which one of the protagonist's primary struggles is the conflict between his or her sense
Tendential: In grammar, tendential refers to action that has been attempted but remains incomplete--especially i
Tenor: In common usage, tenor refers to the course of thought, meaning or emotion in anything written or sp
Tense Vowel: Any vowel made with the tongue muscles relatively more tense than in a lax vowel. These tense vowels
Tension: (1) In common usage, tension refers to a sense of heightened involvement, uncertainty, and interest
Tercet: A three-line unit or stanza of poetry. It typically rhymes in an AAA or ABA pattern. If the tercet f
Terministic Screen: Kenneth Burke's term for the way a word or label alters the way we categorize, analyze, and perceive
Terminus A Quo: The earliest possible date that a literary work could have been written, a potential starting point
Terminus Ad Quem: The latest possible date that a literary work could have been written, a potential ending point for
Terrible Sonnets: In spite of the label, this phrase does not refer to poorly written sonnets. Gerard Manley Hopkins u
Terza Rima: A three-line stanza form with interlocking rhymes that move from one stanza to the next. The typical
Test Act Of 1673: A law requiring all British officials holding public office to receive the Sacrament of the Lord's S
Testament: An agreement or covenant, especially in the sense of a will being a 'last will and testament' or in
Tetragrammaton: The four Hebrew consonant letters corresponding to yhwh (or in German transliteration, jhvh). The ol
Tetralogy: (1) In a general sense, a collection of four narratives that are contiguous and continuous in chrono
Tetrameter: A line consisting of four metrical feet. See discussion under meter.
Text: In literary criticism, formalist critics use the term text to refer to a single work of literary art
Textual Criticism: The collection, comparison, and collating of all textual variants in order to reconstruct or recreat
Textual Variant: A version of a text that has differences in wording or structure compared with other texts, especial
Texture: In the thought of John Crowe Ransom and the New Critics, 'texture' involves poetic details such as t
Textus Receptus: The text of the Greek New Testament based on Erasmus' Greek text. In spite of considerable errors an
Thanatos: Freud's term for a subconscious desire for self-destruction--a secret longing to die--a death wish.
The Above: Also called 'the aloft' and sometimes used interchangeably with 'the Heavens,' this term refers to t
The Aloft: Also called 'the above' and sometimes used interchangeably with 'the Heavens,' this term refers to t
The Body Politic: The monarchial government, including all its citizens, its army, and its king. Political theory in t
The Cotton Library: One of the most important collections of Old and Middle English texts.
The E Text: (Also called the E Document or the Elohist Text) In biblical scholarship, the editorial abbreviation
The Elect: John Calvin's Puritan doctrines emphasized God's prescience and omnipotence and de-emphasized human
The Elohist Text: (Also called the E Document or the Elohist Text) Not to be confused with 'electronic' or digital tex
The Four Elements: The alchemical theory that all matter was composed of four components: earth, air, fire, and water.
The Guiot Manuscript: Technically referred to as MS Bibliothèque Nationale f. Fr. 794, this mid-thirteenth-century manu
The J Text: (Also called the J Document or the Yahwist Text) In biblical studies, this abbreviation refers to th
The Nine Muses: The nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne who had the power to inspire artists, poets, singers, and w
The Other World: A motif in folklore and mythology in which an alternative world exists in conjunction with the physi
The P Text: In biblical scholarship, the common editorial abbreviation for the Priestly Text (see below, or clic
The Sublime: The Greek rhetorician Longinus wrote a treatise On the Sublime, which argued that sublimity (loftine
The Troubles: A period of social unrest in Northern Ireland during the 1970s that profoundly influenced Irish poet
The Vulgate: Saint Jerome's Latin anthologized compilation and translation of the Bible, prepared in the fourth c
Theater In The Round: A performance taking place on an arena stage. See arena stage.
Theater Of Dionysus: The outdoor theater in Athens where Greek drama began as a part of religious rituals on the sloped s
Thegn: A warrior who has sworn his loyalty to a lord in Anglo-Saxon society. In return for a gift of weapon
Thematic Vowel: In linguistics, a vowel attached to the end of an Indo-European root word to form a stem.
Theme: A central idea or statement that unifies and controls an entire literary work. The theme can take th
Theocrasy: Not to be confused with theocracy, theocrasy is the process by which aspects of two or more separate
Theodicy: In theological writings, this term refers to a defense of God's goodness or justice in the face of e
Theogony: In mythology, an account of the gods' origins and their genealogy.
Theomarchy: Strife or warfare among the gods, especially in the sense of this activity as a subplot (overplot?)
Therianthropic: This adjective refers to any mixture of human and animal traits together in a single description. Th
Theriomorphic: Another term for therianthropic, above. (Grk, therios [beast] + morphos [shape], noun form theriomor
Thesis: (1) In an essay, a thesis is an argument, either overt or implicit, that a writer develops and suppo
Thiasos: In ancient Greece, a thiasos was an organized group of women devoted to the worship of Aphrodite. Ea
Thing: While the althing was the closest organization the Icelandic Vikings had to America's federal or nat
Third Wall: Usually referred to as the 'fourth wall,' depending upon how a stagebuilder numbers the sides of the
Thirteener: A stanza rhyming ABABABABCDDDC. The 1994 edition of the E.E.T.S. produced a version of the Wakefield
Three Unities: In the 1500s and 1600s, critics of drama expanded Aristotle's ideas in the Poetics to create the rul
Threefold Death: According to Dan Wiley's entry in Duffy's Medieval Ireland: An Encyclopedia, threefold death is a mo
Threnody: Another term for a dirge.
Thrust Stage: Another term for an apron stage.
Tilde: A diacritic marking usd in languages like Spanish and Portugeuse. It looks like this: ~, and the til
Tiring-House: An enclosed area in an Elizabethan theater where the actors awaited their cue to go on stage, change
Tmesis: Intentionally breaking a word into two parts for emphasis. Goldwyn once wrote, 'I have but two words
Tocharian: A branch of the Indo-European family of languages--now extinct. Unusually, Tocharian was geographica
Token: Nathaniel Hawthorne's term for a private symbol. He also refers to private symbols as emblems. Examp
Tone: The means of creating a relationship or conveying an attitude or mood. By looking carefully at the c
Toponym: A place-name, such as 'Detroit' or 'Transylvania,' or 'Rooster Rock.' Toponyms are fascinating on a
Tory: Tories): As Marshall tells us, the name Tory was originally an insulting nickname given to supporter
Total Depravity: A doctrine associated with John Calvin's doctrine of Infant Damnation and Saint Augustine's and Sain
Totemism: In its most specific sense, the term applies to the religious practices of the Native American Ojibi
Trace: In literary criticism, Jacques Derrida uses the term trace to describe the remnant of all non-presen
Tract: A brief pamphlet or leaflet dealing with a political or religious argument. (from Latin, tractare, '
Tradition: The beliefs, attitudes, tendencies, and ways of representing the world through art: traits widely sh
Tragedy: A serious play in which the chief character, by some peculiarity of psychology, passes through a ser
Tragic Flaw: Another term for the tragic hero's hamartia. See discussion under hamartia and tragedy.
Tragicomedy: A experimental literary work--either a play or prose piece of fiction--containing elements common to
Transcendentalism: Transcendentalism is an American philosophical, religious, and literary movement roughly equivalent
Transfer Of Meaning: A change in meaning--often poetic in origin--in which a word's referent alters by a figure of speech
Transformational Grammar: An influential theory of grammar associated with the linguist Noam Chomsky. This theory, also known
Transitive: This term refers to a verb or a verbal phrase that contains or can take a direct object, which contr
Transitus Mundi: The theme of life's ephemeral or transient nature, especially when that thematic exploration ends by
Translatio: The medieval idea of what modern individuals might mistakenly call 'translation.' Translatio is the
Translation: The act of conveying the meaning of words in one language by attempting to say the same thing in ano
Transliteration: The representation of the symbols appearing in one language's writing system by those of another lan
Travel Literature: Writings that describe either the author's journey to a distant and alien place, or writings which d
Travesty: Debasement of a serious subject or serious literary work either accidentally or through intentional
Traws Fantach: A derogatory adjective in Welsh poetic criticism for a poetic line contains a single scheme, trope,
Treaty Of Wedmore: The agreement signed by King Alfred the Great and the Viking leader Guthrum in 878. This divided Eng
Trench Poetry: Poetry and songs written by both common soldiers and professional poets focusing on the disillusionm
Triad: A collection of three ideas, concepts, or deities loosely connected--as opposed to a pure trinity in
Trial By Combat: A means of resolving disputes between knights in which both agree to meet at an agreed-upon time and
Tribrach: In Greek poetry, a three-syllable foot in which each foot is unstressed or short--rarely used in Eng
Trick Ending: Another term for an O. Henry ending.
Tricolon: The repetition of a parallel grammatical construction three times for rhetorical effect. See discuss
Trigraph: A combination of three symbols or letters to indicate a single sound phonetically. For instance, the
Trilogy: A group of three literary works that together compose a larger narrative. Early types of trilogy res
Trimeter: A line consisting of three metrical feet. This short line is most common in English nursery rhymes,
Trinity: A grouping or relationship of three divine persons thought in some way to be equivalent or identical
Triolet: A stanza of eight lines using only two rhymes, with the first line repeating three times. Here is an
Triple Rhyme: A trisyllabic rhyme involving three separate syllables to create the rhyme in each word. For instanc
Triplet: A tercet that forms a complete stanza by itself.
Tristich: Another term for a tercet. (Greek, 'three lines')
Tritagonist: In the earliest Greek dramas, the play consisted of a single actor standing on stage speaking and si
Trivium: The study of grammar, logic, and rhetoric, which in medieval education formed the basis of a bachelo
Trochaic Meter: Poetry in which each foot consists primarily of trochees (poetic feet consisting of a heavy stress f
Trochaic Rhyme: Another word for double rhyme in which the final rhyming word consists of a heavy stress followed by
Trochee: A two-syllable unit or foot of poetry consisting of a heavy stress followed by a light stress. Many
Trope: Trope has two meanings: (1) a rhetorical device or figure of speech involving shifts in the meaning
Tropological: Not to be confused with either typology or the rhetorical device of the trope, the term tropological
Troubadour: A medieval love poet of southern France between 1100-1350 who wrote and sang about the theme of fin
Trouvère: A medieval poet of northern France, especially Picardy, who wrote and sang in lang d'oïl and comp
True Rhyme: Another term for perfect rhyme or exact rhyme. See exact rhyme.
Tudor: A reference to the period in England during which the ruling monarchs came from the Tudor family (14
Tudor Interlude: Short tragedies, comedies, or history plays performed by either professional acting troupes or by st
Turn: Also called a volta, a turn is a sudden change in thought, direction, or emotion at the conclusion o
Twist Ending: Another term for an O. Henry ending.
Tynged: A magical taboo or restriction placed on a hero in Welsh literature, the Welsh equivalent to the Iri
Type: An earlier figure, event, or symbol in the Old Testament thought to prefigure a coming antitype (cor
Type Character: A literary character with traits commonly associated with a particular class of people.
Typographic Justification: In printing and typing, the placement of letters and spacing so that the end or beginning of each li
Typological Classification: In linguistics, this schema is a 'grouping of languages based on structural similarities and differe
Typological Criticism: A type of literary analysis of medieval or patristic texts in which critics read characters, objects
Typology: A mode of biblical interpretation introduced by Saint Paul and developed by Patristic writers as a m
Tyronian Nota: While modern English authors use an ampersand (&) as an abbreviation for the word and, medieval writ
Tzu: A Chinese genre of poetry invented during the t'ang period. It was akin to a song libretto with a to
Ubi Sunt Motif: A literary motif dealing with the transience of life. The name comes from a longer Latin phrase, 'Ub
Ultimate Source: In linguistics, the earliest known or most ancient etymon for a particular word, as opposed to a dir
Umlaut: (1) Jacob Grimm's term for the process of assimilating a vowel to another sound in the following syl
Underworld: The land of the dead--often depicted as beneath the surface of the earth in a variety of religious l
Uninflected Genitive: A genitive that has no case ending to signal its function. A number of such uninflected genitives ap
Uninflected Plural: A plural word identical to its singular form. For instance, 'I saw one deer yesterday, but last week
Unit Set: A series of lowered or raised platforms on stage, often connected by various stairs and exits, which
Unity: The sense that all the elements in a piece of writing fit together to create a harmonious effect.
Universal Symbol: Another term for an archetype.
Universals: Qualities of literature that appeal to readers in a wide variety of cultures and across a wide varie
Unreleased Stop: In linguistics, a stop sound without explosion (i.e., a puff of air) in the place where articulated
Unreliable Narrator: An imaginary storyteller or character who describes what he witnesses accurately, but misinterpets t
Unreliable Narrator: An unreliable narrator is a storyteller who 'misses the point' of the events or things he describes
Unrounding: The process of changing from a rounded vowel to a spread vowel. For instance, in the vowel u, Chauce
Unstressed: Lightly stressed as opposed to heavily stressed--i.e., a syllable that has little prominence when sp
Ur-Text: A hypothetical 'best' version of a lost literary text based on correlating later manuscripts and exa
Ural-Altaic: A hypothetical language family thought to include Uralic and Altaic.
Uralic: A non-Indo-European language family including Finno-Ugric and Samoyedic.
Usage: The choice among grammatical, syntactic, or semantic options when the idea that one or the other opt
Uta: Another term for the Japanese genre of poetry also called a waka or tanka. See discussion under tank
Uto-Aztecan: A non-Indo-European language family found in Central America and the western sections of North Ameri
Utopia: An imaginary place or government in which political and social perfection has been reached in the ma
Utopian Literature: The term utopia comes from a Greek pun. In Greek, eu + topos (good' + 'place') and ou + topos (no' +
Valorization: In literary criticism, the privileging of one key aspect of a literary text or one particular proces
Variable Syllable: A syllable which can be either long or short, stressed or unstressed, depending upon context.
Variorum: A variorum edition is any published version of an author's work that contains notes and comments by
Vegetationsdämon: A deity or spirit in mythology or in animism that represents (or is directly equivalent to) the vita
Vehicle: A means of conveyance or transport. In literature, vehicle extends to mean the method by which an au
Velar: In linguistics, any velar sound involves the soft palate or velum--especially when the tongue touche
Vellum: The skin of a young calf used as a writing surface--the medieval equivalent of 'paper.' A technical
Verb: A word that 'does' the subject's action in a sentence or shows a state of being or equation. For ins
Verbal Ejaculation: A sudden verbal outburst or interjection expressing a strong emotion, surprise, dismay, disbelief, o
Verbal Noun: A noun that comes from a verb. For instance, peregrination comes from the verb peregrinate, and the
Vercelli Manuscript: An important manuscript of Old English religious poems and sermons--probably written in the late ten
Verisimilitude: The sense that what one reads is 'real,' or at least realistic and believable. For instance, the rea
Vernacular: The everyday or common language of a geographic area or the native language of commoners in a countr
Verners Law: In linguistics, a codicil or addition to Grimm's Law that helps explain some exceptions to Grimm's L
Vers: Not to be confused with verse, below, a vers is a song in Old Provencal almost indistinguishable fro
Vers De Société: Light verse that compliments another or touches on the manners and morals of its time-period. The ve
Verse: There are three general meanings for verse (1) a line of metrical writing, (2) a stanza, or (3) any
Verse Paragraph: A division of poetry indicated normally by adding an extra line-space above and below the section to
Versification: Literally, the making of verse, the term is often used as another name for prosody. This refers to t
Victorian Period: The period of British literature in the late nineteenth century. The date of the period is often giv
Vignette: A short composition showing considerable skill, especially such a composition designed with little o
Viking: Technically, in its most exclusive sense, a viking is a pirate, any individual that goes i-viking (p
Villanelle: A genre of poetry consisting of nineteen lines--five tercets and a concluding quatrain. The form req
Vinery: Another term for filigree work in medieval manuscripts. Scott defines this type of decoration in the
Vinework: Another term for filigree work in medieval manuscripts. Scott describes this common type of decorati
Virelay: An old French term for a short poem consisting of (A) short lines using two rhymes and (B) two openi
Virgule: (1) In poetry, a forward-slash mark ( / ) used in scansion to mark the boundaries of poetic lines (i
Visio: The Latin name for the medieval genre of the dream vision. See dream vision.
Visionary: Visionary writing has the qualities of prophecy--perhaps it is apocalyptic in imagery, or it may be
Visual Imagery: Imagery that invokes colors, shapes, or things that can be seen. See discussion under imagery.
Vita: The word vita has two common meanings in English scholarship. First, for medievalists, a vita is a m
Vo Language: A language that tends to place the verb before the grammatical object in a sentence. Modern English
Vocabulary: The stock of available words in (1) a given language or (2) a given speaker of that language.
Vocalization: In linguistics, the change from a consonant sound to a vowel sound.
Vocative: In a synthetic or declined language, a grammatical case used to invoke or call to another person.
Vogue Word: A word that appears in fashionable use or in pop culture. Often these vogue words and vogue expressi
Volitive: A verb form that expresses a wish, command, or the speaker's will. In many languages, an identical v
Volkerwanderung: Folk-wandering): Also called the Germanic migrations, this term refers to the mass migration of Germ
Volta: Also called a turn, a volta is a sudden change in thought, direction, or emotion near the conclusion
Vulgar Latin: The uneducated Latin used in everyday speech in the Roman Empire, as opposed to the more refined Cla
Wên And Wu: The two main classes of traditional Chinese drama: civil (wên) and martial (wu). The 'script' of
Waka: A Japanese genre of poetry closely related to the tanka, consisting of alternate five- and seven-syl
Wanderjahr: A period in a character's life during which she is absent from her normal routine, engaged in though
Weak Declension: In linguistics, a Germanic/Teutonic noun or adjective that changes little from one declension to ano
Weak Ending: In poetry, another term for a feminine ending, in which the last syllable of a metrical line is unst
Weak Verb: In linguistics, a Germanic verb whose principle parts require the addition of a dental suffix--i.e.,
Wedge: A diacritical mark used in some Eastern European countries. It indicates a sound like the digraph
Weight: The quality created in a syllable of verse in which that syllable both (a) has heavy stress and (b)
Well-Made Play: A form of French theater developed in the 1800s. Eugène Scribe and Victorien Sardou popularized i
Weltanschauung: The philosophy of an individual, an artist, or a group of like-minded individuals, especially the ph
Weltansicht: (German, 'world-sight'):The general attitude toward life and reality an individual or character demo
Weltschmerz: According to Shipley's Dictionary of World Literature (623), Jean Paul (1763-1825) coined this Germa
Wergeld: An alternative spelling for wergild. See wergild, below.
Wergild: The legal system of many Germanic tribes, including the Anglo-Saxons. This tradition allowed an indi
West Germanic: A sub-branch of the Germanic family of languages including Dutch, English, and German, in contrast w
West Saxon: The Old English dialect spoken in Wessex.
Western: A literary and cinematic genre marked by numerous conventions. The usual setting is a short main str
Wheel-And-Bob: Another term for Bob-and-Wheel.
Whig: In Questions of English, Marshall notes the term Whig originally was an insulting nickname for Scott
Whorfs Hypothesis: A proposal that language affects how its speakers perceive and react to the world--and that the limi
Widow: In printing, a widow is a single short line ending a paragraph but separated from the earlier lines
Willing Suspension Of Disbelief: Temporarily and willingly setting aside our beliefs about reality in order to enjoy the make-believe
Winchester Manuscript: A handwritten book or manuscript by two scribes containing the text of Malory's Le Morte D'Arthur. L
Wish Fulfillment: In psychoanalytic criticism, wish fulfillment refers to something in literature that satisfies the c
Wit: In modern vernacular, the word wit refers to elements in a literary work designed to make the audien
Witchs Familiar: In the eyes of medieval and Renaissance churchmen, and in much of medieval and Renaissance literatur
Within: In the stage directions for Shakespeare's plays, a 'noise within' indicates offstage sound effects s
World English: English as used worldwide or internationally and the common features of this international English.
Wound-Rain: Also called blood-rain, this is a supernatural motif common in Old Norse sagas in which a rain of bl
Wrenched Accent: As Babette Deutsch phrases it, wrenched accent is 'The triumph of metrical stress over word accent w
Wynn: A letter shape used in writing Middle English.
Wyrd: Often translated as 'fate,' wyrd is an Anglo-Saxon term that embodies the concept of inevitability i
Xanaduism: Academic research that focuses on the sources behind imaginative works of literature and fantasy. Jo
Xenia: The Greek term for the Laws of Hospitality. The custom in classical Greece and other ancient culture
Xenophanic: This adjective refers to itinerant poets who make use of satire and witticism. The term comes from t
Yahoo: A coarse, filthy, smelly, bestial, barbaric, bipedal creature only vaguely resembling a human. Jonat
Yahwist Text: In biblical studies, this textual tradition contrasts with the E Text and the P Text appearing in Ge
Yale School: A group of critics at Yale University who are known primarily for deconstructionist interpretations-
Yard: In theater architecture during the Renaissance, the yard is the central area open to the area in the
Yarn: An informal name for a long, rambling story--especially one dealing with adventure or tall-tales. Th
Yearbook: An annually published book or journal, especially one containing information or statistics about tha
Yeoman: In early Middle English, the term referred to freemen or freeholders, lower-class peasants who had o
Yo-He-Ho Theory: In linguistics, the idea that language first began as a way to facilitate cooperative labor. Contras
Yogh: A letter shape used in writing Middle English and some Anglo-Saxon texts. It resembled a letter 'thr
Yonic: A yonic symbol is a sexualized representation of femininity and reproductive power--particularly thr
Young Man Sonnets: The first seventeen sonnets in the Shakespearean collection published in 1609. These sonnets break t
Yuëh-Fu: A form of Chinese poetry in mixed meter and short lines, with a five-word line being most common. Th
Zani: A stock character in the commedia dell'arte, the zani was a buffoonish servant, a jester, a butt of
Zeitgeist: The preferences, fashions, and trends that characterize the intangible essence of a specific histori
Zenos Paradox: The name comes from Zeno of Elea (born c. 495-480 BCE). Zeno proposed four paradoxes in order to cha
Zeugma: Artfully using a single verb to refer to two different objects grammatically, or artfully using an a
Zohar: A medieval commentary on the Pentateuch appearing in several books written in Aramaic and Hebrew, wi