Home > Glossary


  • A-F

    1. Abecedarian

      The abecedarian is a poetic form from pre- Biblical times. Each line or stanza starts with the letters of the alphabet in sequence.

    2. Acrostic

      An acrostic is a poem or song or any piece of writing in which (usually) the first letter of each line (or sentence, or paragraph) spells out a word or a message.

    3. Alexandrine

      The alexandrine is a line of six iambic feet; one foot longer than the iambic pentameter.

    4. Alliteration

      Alliteration refers to the use of similar sounds to begin a sequence of words, e.g. spick and span, kith and kin, jump for joy.

    5. Assonance

      Assonance is the repetition of similar vowel sounds in neighbouring words, to create the effect of rhyme within phrases or lines of verse.

    1. Ballad stanza

      A four line stanza with alternating lines of four stresses and three stresses, and abcb rhyme scheme.

    2. Blank verse

      Blank verse is a type of verse with a regular metre (usually iambic pentameter) but no rhyme, hence ‘blank’.

    1. Caesura

      A caesura is a distinct pause or break in the flow of a line of verse, usually towards the middle.

    2. Consonance

      The repetition of consonants, other than those at the beginning of words.

    3. Copyright notice

      Please respect the fact that all the material on this site is copyright © Sydney University Library and the individual authors and copyright owners. It is made available without charge for personal use only, and it may not be stored, displayed, published, reproduced, or used for any other purpose.

    4. Couplet

      Two successive lines of verse, which often rhyme.

    1. Dramatic monologue

      When the poet writes from the point of view and in the voice of a particular character.

    1. Elegy

      A funeral song or lament, or any poem mourning a dead person or creature, or a way of life that has passed, or any form of mortality.

    2. Enjambement

      A sentence in a poem which runs on from one line to the next without a pause for punctuation.

    3. Epic

      An epic poem is a long narrative poem dealing with the struggles and journeys of heroes, individually or in groups.

    4. Epigram

      A short, witty poem.

    1. Foot

      The basic unit of metre; in poetry written in English, usually consists of one stressed syllable and a number of unstressed syllables.

    2. Free verse

      Free verse does without obvious rhyme and a regular metre, and is the dominant verse form of the 20th century.

  • G-L

    1. Haibun

      The haibun is a Japanese literary form characterised by a descriptive and usually personal prose passage, often travel literature, containing or (more often) followed by a haiku which has an elliptical relation to the prose piece.

    2. Haiku

      The haiku is often described as a short non-rhyming poem, usually with a seasonal reference, with seventeen syllables, in three phrases of five, seven and five syllables.

    1. Iambic

      A metrical foot consisting of an iamb, an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable. Examples: today, before, beyond.

    2. Iambic pentameter

      An iambic line of five feet. See 'Iambic'.

    3. Imagery

      Use of a comparison, often between an idea or emotion and a concrete object, to convey the idea or emotion more vividly.

    1. Lyric

      In its Greek orgins, a poem sung to the accompaniment of a lyre; now more generally refers to a short poem which expresses feelings and thoughts rather than being dramatic or satirical.

  • M-P

    1. Metaphor

      Comparison made by equating one thing with another.

    2. Metonym

      When one noun is used in place of another.

    3. Metre

      The underlying pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in a line.

    1. Octave

      The opening eight-line section of a sonnet.

    2. Ode

      An ode is a more or less formal address to a person or an embodied thing.

    3. Onomatopoeia

      Refers to the property of a word whose pronunciation sounds like the thing it describes. Examples: buzz, whisper, bang!

    4. Oxymoron

      A contradiction in terms.

    1. Paradox

      Apparent contradiction that suggests a deeper truth.

    2. Parallelism

      Repetition of the same grammatical structure, especially at the beginning of lines.

    3. Parody

      Imitation of a poem, poet or poetic style for comic purposes.

    4. Pastoral

      Originally a love poem about idealised nymphs and shepherds; now refers to poems located in an idealised rural setting.

    5. Pathetic fallacy

      Describing an inanimate object as though it were animate.

    6. Pentameter

      A line of five feet.

    7. Persona

      The narrator or central character of a poem as distinct from the poet.

    8. Personification

      A metaphor where something that is abstract or inanimate is given the characteristics of a living being.

    9. Prose poem

      A prose poem is a short passage of prose usually with some of the heightened effects of verse: assonance, half-rhyme, a distinct rhythmic shape, intensity of imagery or emotional affect, and so on.

  • Q-Z

    1. Quatrain

      A four-line stanza, usually with rhymes.

    1. Refrain

      A repeated line or lines, as with the chorus of a song.

    2. Rhyme

      Rhyme is the repetition of a sound at the end of two or more lines in a poem: ‘sleep, weep... creep, asleep’ (William Blake).

    3. Rhyme: Chain rhyme

      Chain rhyme links stanzas in sequence by repeating a rhyme from one stanza in the next.

    4. Rhyme: Half-rhyme or Slant rhyme

      A near-rhyme, where either the final vowel or final consonant is not the same as the one in the word it is rhyming with, as for example 'bag/beg', 'home/hymn', 'home/hone' or 'phone/home'.

    1. Satire

      Satire is the use of humour and irony to ridicule ignorance or bad behaviour.

    2. Sestet

      The last six lines of a sonnet

    3. Sestina

      Verse form originating in Medieval Provence where the final words of six unrhymed stanzas are repeated in a certain fixed order, ending with a tercet which uses three or six of the terminal words.

    4. Simile

      A comparison of one thing with another, using the words 'like' or 'as'.

    5. Sonnet

      The sonnet is a short lyrical and reflective poem of fourteen lines, most often rhymed.

    6. Stanza

      A group of lines within a poem. Generally of a regular length in traditional poetry, stanzas in free verse usually vary in length.

    7. Stanza gap

      The break between stanzas.

    8. Symbol

      Word, sign or image that stands for something other than itself.

    9. Synecdoche

      Figure of speech in which a part of something is used to stand for a whole.

    1. Tanka

      A Japanese syllabic verse form, arranged 5/7/5/7/7.

    2. Tautology

      Pointless repetition.

    3. Tercet

      Stanza of three lines.

    4. Terminals

      Using the end-words of the lines of a poem as the structural basis for a new, different poem.

    5. Trope

      Figure of speech such as a metaphor or personification.

    1. Verse novel

      A verse novel tells a long and complex story with many characters, much as a novel would, through the medium of narrative verse. Notable Australian verse novelists are Alan Wearne, Dorothy Porter, Les Murray, Steven Herrick and John Tranter.

    2. Villanelle

      French verse form, consisting of five tercets and a quatrain, using just two rhymes and some repeated lines.