This site is 100% ad supported. Please add an exception to adblock for this site.

AP Literary Terms (Expanded)

AP Literary Terms, taken from Barron's 2008 edition of their AP English Lit and Comp study book. Some definitions may be modified to allow them to function better with Space Race.


undefined, object
copy deck
A French verse form calculated to appear simple and spontaneous but consisting of nineteen lines and a prescribed pattern of rhymes
A group of two or more lines in poetry combined according to subject matter, rhyme, or some other plan
A highly regarded work of literature or other art form that has withstood the test of time
The use of one object to evoke ideas and associations not literally part of the original object
dramatic irony
A circumstance in which the audience or reader knows more about a situation than a character, ex. Oedipus Rex
One of the ancient Greek goddesses presiding over the arts. The imaginary source of inspiration for an artist or writer
The repetition of two or more consonant sounds in a group of words or a line of poetry
The repetition of one or more initial consonants in a group of words or lines of poetry or prose
A literary form in which events are exaggerated in order to create an extreme emotional response
first-person narrative
A narrative told by a character involved in the story, using first-person pronouns such as I and we.
omniscient narrator
A narrator with unlimited awareness, understanding, and insight of characters, setting, background, and all other elements of the story
The pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables found in poetry
metaphysical poetry
The work of poets, particularly those of the seventeenth century, that uses elaborate conceits, is highly intellectual, and expresses the complexities of love and life
The use of insincere or overdone sentimentality
The choice of words in oral and written discourse
The repetition of two or more vowel sounds in a group of words or lines in poetry and prose
A feeling of association or identification with an object or person
figurative language
Also called figure of speech. In contrast to literal language, it implies meanings. Includes metaphors, similes, and personification, among others.
rhetorical stance
Language that conveys a speaker's attitude or opinion with regard to a particular subject
A literary style used to poke fun at, attack, or ridicule an idea, vice, or foible, often for the purpose of inducing change
A figure of speech in which a part signifies the whole ("fifty masts" for fifty ships) or the whole signifies the part ("days" for life, as in "He lived his days in Canada"). Also when the name of the material stands for the thing itself ("pigskin" for football)
A cleansing of the spirit brought about by the pity and terror of a dramatic tragedy
A saying or proverb expressing common wisdom or truth
A forceful sermon, lecture, or tirade
The structural form of a line of verse as revealed by the number of feet it contains. For example: monometer = 1foot; tetrameter = 4 feet; pentameter = 5 feet, and so forth
A comparison that points out similarities between two dissimilar things
The generic name for a figure of speech such as image, symbol, simile, and metaphor
A sharp, caustic expression or remark; a bitter jibe or taunt; different from irony, which is more subtle
A subordinate or minor collection of events in a novel or play, usually connected to the main plot
A story in which the narrative or characters carry an underlying symbolic, metaphorical, or possibly an ethical meaning
The grammar of meter and rhythm in poetry
verbal irony
A discrepancy between the true meaning of a situation and the literal meaning of the written or spoken words
A story consisting of events from which a moral or spiritual truth may be derived
A mocking, satirical assault on a person or situation
A work of literature meant to ridicule a subject; a grotesque imitation
A version of a text put into simpler, everyday words
Deriving from the orderly qualities of ancient Greek and Roman culture; implies formality, objectivity, simplicity, and restraint
A saying or proverb containing a truth based on experience and often couched in metaphorical language
Overstatement; gross exaggeration for rhetorical effect
A form of literature in which the hero is destroyed by some character flaw and a set of forces that cause the hero considerable anguish
A term consisting of contradictory elements juxtaposed to create a paradoxical effect
A poem or prose selection that laments or mediates on the passing or death of something or someone of value
The main character in a work of literature
A witty or ingenious thought; a diverting or highly fanciful idea, often stated in figurative language
The suggested or implied meaning of a word or phrase
Middle English
The language spoken in England roughly between 1150 and 1500 A.D.
A reference to a person, place, or event meant to create an effect or enhance the meaning of an idea
An adjective or phrase that expresses a striking quality of a person or thing, ex. sun-bright topaz, sun-lit lake, sun-bright lake
A short, pithy statement of a generally accepted truth or sentiment
A term that describes a line of poetry that ends with a natural pause often indicated by a mark of punctuation.
A simple narrative verse that tells a story that is sung or recited
Similar to the truth; the quality of realism in a work that persuades readers that they are getting a vision of life as it is.
The general form, pattern, and manner of expression of a work of literature
Old English
The Anglo-Saxon language spoken in what is now England from approximately 450 to 1150 A.D.
In poetry, the use of successive lines with no punctuation or pause between them
A mode of expression in which the intended meaning is the opposite of what is stated, often implying ridicule or light sarcasm; a state of affairs or events that is the reverse of what might have been expected
The excessive pride that often leads tragic heroes to their death
point of view
The relation in which a narrator or speaker stands to the story or subject matter of a poem.
mock epic
A parody of traditional epic form. It usually treats a frivolous topic with extreme seriousness, using conventions such as invocations to the Muse, action-packed battle scenes, and accounts of heroic exploits.
The main idea or meaning, often an abstract idea upon which a work of literature is built
In contrast to Dionysian, it refers to the most noble, godlike qualities of human nature and behavior
A locution that addresses a person or personified thing not present
A return to an earlier time in a story or play in order to clarify present action or circumstances.
falling action
The action in a play or story that occurs after the climax and that leads to the conclusion and often to the resolution of the conflict
A device employed in Anglo-Saxon poetry in which the name of a thing is replaced by one of its functions or qualities, as in "ring-giver" for king and "whale-road" for ocean
picaresque novel
An episodic novel about a roguelike wanderer who lives off his wits. Ex: Don Quixote, Moll Flanders
The background and events that lead to the presentation of the main idea or purpose of a work of literature
A word or phrase representing that which can be seen, touched, tasted, smelled, or felt
A mild or less negative usage for a harsh or blunt term; i.e. "pass away" instead of "die"
A lyric poem or passage that describes a kind of ideal life or place
A statement that seems self-contradictory but is nevertheless true
A concise but ingenious, witty, and thoughtful statement
The implied meaning that underlies the main meaning of a work of literature
The pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables that make up a line of poetry
A popular form of verse consisting of fourteen lines and a prescribed rhyme scheme.
French term for the world of books, criticism, and literature in general
The high point, or turning point, of a story or play
An imaginary story that has become an accepted part of the cultural or religious tradition of a group or society
Also called "pen name" or "nom de plume"; a false name or alias used by writers. Ex: Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)
roman a clef
French for a novel in which hisotrical events and actual people appear under the guise of fiction
A work of literature dealing with rural life
lyric poetry
Personal, reflective poetry that reveals the speaker's thoughts and feelings about the subject
An abstract or ideal conception of a type; a perfectly typical example; an original model or form
A structure that provides premise or setting for a narrative
The total environment for the action in a novel or play. It includes time, place, historical milieu, and social, political, and even spiritual circumstances
Grating, inharmonious sounds
A person, scene, event, or other element in literature that fails to correspond with the time or era in which the work is set
The real or assumed personality used by a writer or speaker
The use of words whose sounds suggest their meaning
A term for the title character of a work of literature
A brief explanation, summary, or evaluation of a text or work of literature
A belief that emphasizes faith and optimism in human potential and creativity
extended metaphor
A series of comparisons between two unlike objects
ottava rima
An eight-line rhyming stanza of a poem
A form of verse or prose that tells a story
A short tale often featuring nonhuman characters that act as people whose actions enable the author to make observations or draw useful lessons about human behavior
The interrelationship among the events in a story; the plot line is the pattern of events, including exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.
A unit of stressed and unstressed syllables used to determine the meter of a poetic line.
A list of works cited or otherwise relevant to a subject or other work.
A term that describes characters' excessive emotional response to experience; also nauseatingly nostalgic and mawkish
An extended narrative poem that tells of the adventures and exploits of a hero that is generally larger than life and is often considered a legendary figure, i.e. Odysseus, Beowulf, Homer's Iliad, Vergil's Aeneid.
The organization of language into meaningful structure; every sentence has a particular pattern of words
The manner in which an author uses and arranges words,
An extended narrative about improbable events and extraordinary people in exotic places
A piece of writing that reveals weaknesses, faults, frailties, or other shortcomings
stream of consciousness
A style of writing in which the author tries to reproduce the random flow of thoughts in the human mind
blank verse
Poetry written in iambic pentameter, the primary meter used in English poetry and the works of Shakespeare and Milton
free verse
A kind of poetry without rhymed lines, rhythm, or fixed metrical feet
A synonym for poetry. Also a group of lines in a song or poem; also a single line of poetry
A story containing unreal, imaginary features
pathetic fallacy
Faulty reasoning that inappropriately ascribes human feelings to nature or nonhuman objects
A character or force in a work of literature that, by opposing the protagonist produces tension or conflict
pulp fiction
Novels written for mass consumption, often emphasizing exciting and titillating plots
A lyric poem usually marked by serious, respectful, and exalted feeling towards the subject
A phrase, idea, or event that through repetition serves to unify or convey a theme in a work of literature
carpe diem
Literally, "seize the day"; enjoy life while you can, a common theme in literature
A synonym for view or feeling; also a refined and tender emotion in literature
That element in literature that stimulates pity or sorrow
loose sentence
A sentence that follows the customary word order of English sentences, i.e. subject-verb-object. The main idea of the sentence is presented first and is then followed by one or more subordinate clauses
A direct verbal assault; a denunciation
A four-line poem or a four-line unit of a longer poem
A comedy that contains an extravagant and nonsensical disregard of seriousness, although it may have a serious, scornful purpose.
A form of understatement in which the negative of the contrary is used to achieve emphasis or intensity. Ex: He's not a bad dancer
A figure of speech in which objects and animals are given human characteristics
non sequitur
A statement or idea that fails to follow logically from the one before
Providing hints of things to come in a story or play
light verse
A variety of poetry meant to entertain or amuse, but sometimes with a satirical thrust
A poet; in olden times, a performer who told heroic stories to musical accompaniment
Gothic novel
A novel in which supernatural horrors and an atmosphere of unknown terrors pervades the action
A figure of speech that uses the name of one thing to represent something else with which it is associated. Ex: "The White House says..."
A pause somewhere in the middle of a verse, often (but not always) marked by punctuation
As distinguished from Apollonian, the word refers to sensual, pleasure-seeking impulses
A verse with five poetic feet per line
rhyme scheme
The pattern of rhymes within a given poem
The quickness of intellect and the power and talent for saying brilliant things that suprise and delight by their unexpectedness; the power to comment subtly and pointedly on the foibles of the passing scene
A term often used as a synonym for realism, also a view of experience that is generally characterized as bleak and pessimistic.
Three periods (. . .) indicating the omission of words in a thought or quotation
The works considered most important in a national literature or period; works widely read and studied
The author's attitude toward the subject being written about. The spirit or quality that is the work's emotional essence
A German word referring to a novel structured as a series of events that take place as the hero travels in quest of a goal
in medias res
"In the middle of things"--a Latin term for a narrative that starts not at the beginning of events, but at some other critical point.
The dictionary definition of a word
A vagueness of meaning; a conscious lack of clarity meant to evoke multiple meanings and interpretation
A pair of rhyming lines in a poem
An abbreviated synopsis of a longer work of scholarship or research
The interpretation or analysis of a text.
A term used to describe literary forms, such as novel, play, and essay
The emotional tone in a work of literature
The act of determining the meter of a poetic line.
The role or facade that a character assumes or depicts to a reader, a viewer, or the world at large
A rhetorical opposition or contrast of ideas by means of a grammatical arrangement of words, clauses, or sentences: "They promised freedom but provided slavery"
The depiction of people, things, and events as they really are without idealization or exaggeration for effect.
A quick succession of images or impressions used to express an idea
elliptical construction
A sentence containing a deliberate omission of words. In the sentence "May was hot and June the same," the verb "was" is omitted from the second clause
Inflated, pretentious language used for trivial subjects
heroic couplet
Two rhymed lines written in iambic pentameter and used widely in eighteenth-century verse.
novel of manners
A novel focusing on and describing the social customs and habits of a particular social group
deus ex machina
In literature, the use of an artificial device or gimmick to solve a problem
A detailed analysis or interpretation of a work of literature
The resolution that occurs at the end of a play or work of fiction
A brief and often simplistic lesson that a reader may infer from a work of literature
indirect quotation
A rendering of a quotation in which actual words are not stated but only approximated or paraphrased
A work of fiction of roughly 20,000 to 50,000 words--longer than a short story, but shorter than a novel
A grotesque likeness of striking qualities in persons and things
The language of a work and its style; words, often highly emotional, used to convince or sway an audience
A humorous play on words, using similar-sounding or identical words to suggest different meanings
A figurative comparison using the words like or as
A figure of speech that compares unlike objects
Pleasing, harmonious sounds
coming-of-age story
A tale in which a young protagonist experiences an introduction to adulthood. The character may develop understanding via disillusionment, education, doses of reality, or any other experiences that alter his or her emotional or intellectual maturity
title character
A character whose name appears in the title of the novel or play; also known as the eponymous character
The repetition of similar sounds at regular intervals, used mostly in poetry.
periodic sentence
A sentence that departs from the usual word order of English sentences by expressing its main though only at the end. In other words, the particulars in the sentence are presented before the idea they support.

Deck Info