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Poetry Dictionary: Poetic Terms Defined

By Gary R. Hess. Category: Poetry

Ever wondered what a specific poetic term meant? Below is a list of common words used to describe poetic elements and other attributes associated with poems. This is a poetry dictionary of sorts.

Read about the Three Poetry Genres
Alliteration
Two or more words that begin with the same sound and are either next to each other or separated by only prepositions or articles. Example: The crazy crackling crops
Assonance
A repetition of vowel sounds within syllables with changing consonants. Example: Tilting at windmills
Capitonym
A word that has a different meaning when it is capitalized. For example, "Polish" is a nation's people while "polish" is what you do to make something shiny.
Cliche
An overused word or phrase that is well-known and used throughout the general population. Example: I'm so hungry I could eat a horse.
Heteronym
Greek for "different name". A word that has a different meaning and pronunciation but the same spelling. For example, the word "desert" can be a place or it can mean something you do when leaving someone.
Homonym
Greek for "same name". A word that has the same spelling and same pronunciation as another word but has a different meaning. For example, the word "bark" can mean the name of the skin of a tree or the sound a dog makes.
Homograph
Greek for "same writing". This is when a word is written the same as another word but has different meanings and may have a different pronunciation. For example, the word "bow" can mean something tied in a decorative manner or it can be something you do when you bend over at your waist.
Homophone
Greek for "same sound". A word that has the same or different spelling as another word and has a different meaning or origin. For example, the word "fluke" can mean a fish or it can mean a stroke of luck.
Hyperbole
A large exageration, usually used with humor. Example: The fish was a football field and a granny long.
Idiom
A language familiar to a group of people. Example: Ya'll comin' to da party tonight?
Metaphor
A word or phrase used to have a completely different meaning. Example: Edgar Allen Poe's "The Raven" being a constant reminder of his loss and not truly a raven.
Meter
The accented and unaccented words within a line which are organized into feet. Example: Iambic pentameter
Onomatopoeia
A word imitating a sound. Example: 'buzz', 'moo' and 'beep'
Penultimate syllable
The next to last syllable of a word.
Polysemes
Two words with the same spelling and pronunciation and have similar but different meanings. For example, "mouth" can be the orifice of your face or it can be the opening of a cave.
Rhyme
Similarity of sound in the last syllable. Example: Spoon and Toon
Simile
An expression that compares one thing to another using 'like' or 'as'. Example: The milk tasted like pickles.
Synechdoche
The metaphorical or rhetorical substitution of a whole for a part or vice versa. Example: Counting 'heads' as cattle.
Tercet
A group of three lines, often rhyming together or with another tercet.