Poetry Terms for Middle School

Poetry Terms for Middle School


Poetry Terms for Middle School

Name: ______Date: ______

Alliteration:The repetition of a beginning sounds in a word.

Example: She sells seashells by the sea shore.

Example: The Little lady loves lavender lilacs.

Allusion:a brief and indirect reference to a person, place, thing or idea of historical, cultural, literary or political significance. It does not describe in detail the person or thing to which it refers. It is just a passing comment and the writer expects the reader to possess enough knowledge to spot the allusion and grasp its importance in a text.

Example: Reference to a Adam and Eve is a biblical allusion

Example: Reference to Zeus is a mythological allusion

Example: Reference to Abraham Lincoln or Gettysburg Address is a historical

Example: Reference to Dante’s Inferno or Hogwarts is a literary allusion

Anacoluthon:Comes from the Greek word, “anakolouthos” meaning “lacking sequence.” This is when an author or poet slips into stream of consciousness and does not use proper grammar or when the poem seem to make little sense.

Example: “The time has come,” the Walrus said,

“To talk of many things:

Of shoes—and ships—and sealing-wax—

And cabbages—and kings—

And why the sea is boiling hot—

And whether pigs have wings.”

---From the Walrus and the Carpenter by Lewis Carroll

Anaphora:the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive clauses. It is used to emphasize certain words or clauses.

Example: “Every day, every night, in every way, I am getting better and better”

Example: “My life is my purpose. My life is my goal. My life is my inspiration.”

Example: “I want to know, right now, right here, all right?”
Example: “The blessed sod, this soil, this land, this America.”
Example: I have been one acquainted with the night.

I have walked out in rain—and back in rain.

I haveoutwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.

I have passed by the watchman on his beat

And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

--“Acquainted with the Night” by Robert Frost

Anthropomorphism:is a literary device when an inanimate object or animal is given some human quality, emotion or ambition.

Apostrophe:is a figure of speech sometimes represented by the exclamation “O” or “Oh,” in which an imaginary person is directly addressed. (Oh captain my captain!). Do not confuse the poetic device apostrophe with the punctuation mark apostrophe.

Assonance:The repetition of a vowel sound in a word.

Example: The lake is in the shape of New York State.

Example: The boutique sells leeks from Egypt.

Asyndeton:a literary device whereby the author purposely leaves out conjunctions in the sentence so as to shorten the prose or poem while maintaining the accuracy of the phrase. It helps as a literary tool to lend emphasis to the meaning of a line of poetry or a phrase.

Example 1: Read, Write, Learn.

Example 2: Friends, Romans Countrymen.

Example 3: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

Beat:a sound or similar sounds, recurring at regular intervals, and produced to help musicians keep rhythm or give a pattern of rhythm to a poem as it is read.

Example: My mother ate an apple and my father ate a pear.

Cadence:a balanced and rhythmic flow in speech or in poetry; to read with inflection. This usually happens at the end of a sentence, a falling inflection of the voice, as at the end of a sentence to indicate a period or a rising voice to ask a question. People who do not have any cadence to their voice speak in a dry, boring monotone.

Caesura:Comes from the Latin word “to cut.” It is an interruption, or pregnant (long) pause or break in the middle of a sentence or in a line of poetry. It is added for dramatic effect. It can come in the middle, or at the end of a line of poetry and is usually marked by a dash, ellipsis, two lines or a semicolon.

Example: I have walked out in rain—and back in rain.

Chiasmus:Comes from the Greek word meaning “to cross.” It is a literary device where two phrases that are parallel but inverted to each other.

Example: “When the going gets tough, the tough get going”

Example: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

Example: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (Biblical

Example: Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your

Connotation:The emotional associations caused by a particular word; the underlying meaning of a word. It is the opposite of denotation.

Example: childish vs. childlike: Both words mean to be like a child (this would be the denotation). But childlike has a positive connotation and childish has a negative connotation.

Example: They built a home. Vs They built a house. A house is a building where people live. A home implies much more.

Consonance:The repetition of vowel sounds in the middle of a word. It is different than alliteration (which comes at the beginning of a word).

Example: I would like a little metal bottle of better butter.

Couplet: Two lines of a poem that rhyme. They must come right after each other.

Example: Nature’s first green is gold.

Her hardest hue to hold.

Denotation:The literal meaning of a word; the opposite of connotation.

Example: They built a home. Vs They built a house. A house is a building where people live. A home implies much more.

Enjambment:From the French word enjambment, “to step over.” In poetry it means when one line of poetry crosses over to another without a terminating punctuation mark. It’s a poetic run on sentence that does not come to an end at the line break but moves over to the next line.

Figurative Language- The use of words, phrases, or descriptions that are not literal in meaning, but are meant to convey an image or idea through comparing one thing to another.

Foreshadowing- The use of words to hint about what will happen later, usually used to build suspense.

Hyperbaton:The rearrangement of common word order or the normal position of words or phrases. It is used to make a line of poetry rhyme or to fit the structure of a poetical form.
Example: “Some rise by sin. . .and some by virtue fall”

Hyperbole:An extravagant exaggeration, done for effect. . It is a figure of speech in which exaggeration is used for emphasis or effect.

Example: “I told him a million times that we had homework due tomorrow, but he
never listens to what I say.”

Example: I literally can’t even breathe right now.

Imagery:The use of words and language to paint a mental picture. The words use vivid details or figurative language, of images, pictures, of what the narrator experiences. Often effective imagery relies on well-described sensory experiences—of sight, sound, touch, taste, or smell.

Irony:The use of words to be humorous or to mock a person or situation where the opposite of what is said is intended. It can also be a condition in which what should be or should happen is the opposite of what is or what should happen.

Example: If a truck carrying peanut butter hit another truck carrying jelly, that would be ironic.

Litotes: Derived from the Greek word meaning simple. It is a figure of speech where something is an understated statement. It is the opposite of hyperbole. Litotes are often a discreet way of saying something unpleasant without being negative.

Example: Few bead shy of a rosary

Example: Not the sharpest tool in the shed

Example: She ain’t a spring chicken

Metaphor: a type of figurative language that compares two unlike things but does not use the words “like” or “as.”

Example: The teacher stood in the cafeteria with her arms folded, an angry
door blocking our path outside to freedom and recess.

Metonymy: Is a concrete word that is used to represent an abstract concept or idea. It is similar to synecdoche and they are often mistaken. But metonymy can be a word that is completely unrelated to the word it represents. Metonymy, develops based on the relationship of the close associations between the word and the idea whereas synecdoche is a part that represents the whole. Sometimes a metonymy can also be a symbol, but not always.

Example: “Crown” can mean power or authority
Example: “Flag” can mean liberty or freedom

Example: “Boots on the Ground” means soldiers engaged in fighting

Example: “The Pentagon” can mean the decision makers of the military

Example: “The White House” can mean the political decision makers

Onomatopoeia: A wordthat is spelled like the sound they represent.

Examples: Bam. Pop. Zip. Buzz. Fizzle.

Paradox:A phrase that seems to be impossible, or a contradiction but is true nonetheless.

Example: Christ died to give life.

Example: The meek shall inherit the earth.

Personification:When non-living objects or animals are given qualities and abilities of people.

Example: As the frightened salesman walked up to the old mansion, the house
stared back at himangrily, frowning at him more with each step he

took toward its glaring face.

Repetition: use of the same letter, sound, word, or phrase for effect.

Rhyme:the repetition of the final vowel or vowel sound in two or more words.

Example: Wing rhymes with sing. Hopped rhymes with stopped

Rhyme Scheme: The pattern of ending rhymes at the end of each line in a poem. Each ending rhyme is assigned a letter to tell you the thyme structure of the poem.

Example: Nature’s first green is gold (A)

Her hardest hue to hold (A)

Her early leaves a flower (B)

But only so an hour. (B)

When leaf subsides to leaf (C)

And Eden sank to grief (C)

Dawn goes down today- (D)

Nothing gold can stay (D)

Simile:A figure of speech where one thing is compared to another using the words “like” or “as.”

Example: The children sounds like a herd of buffalo..

Example: Her eyes are as green as ocean glass.

Stanza:A group of lines in a poem. A stanza is the equivalent of a paragraph in poetry.

Symbolism:(symbol, symbolize)- an image, word, object, or idea used to represent something else.

Example: The red on the American flag is to symbolize the bloodshed in
defense of our freedom.

Example: The Cross symbolizes Christianity.

Synecdoche:When a part represents a whole. Or a whole represents a part. Sometimes it is misunderstood as metonym (be careful not to make this mistake). Writers employ synecdoche for an economy of words. “Soldiers were equipped with steel” is more concise than saying “The soldiers were equipped with swords, knives, daggers, arrows etc.”

Example: Kleenex represents all brands of tissues

Example: Vaseline represents all brands of petroleum jelly

Example: “Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears.” (I want you all of you to listen to all of what I have to say.)

Example: “Soccer moms” Middle aged moms with kids who drive minivans.

Synesthesia:The blending of more than one sense in a line of poetry. Or when a writer appeals to more than one of the five senses; seeing, touching, tasting, hearing, smelling at a given time in an unusual way.

Example: In Dante’s Inferno, he recalls returning to where the “sun is silent.”

Example: “The tasting of flora.”

Example: “I felt a funeral in my brain. . .and mourners to and fro. . .and heard
them lift a box and creak across my soul.” ---Emily Dickinson

Tone:in written composition, is an attitude of a writer toward a subject or an audience. Tone is generally conveyed through the choice of words, or the viewpoint of a writer on a particular subject.

Examples: Solemn or serious






In literature, mood is a literary element that evokes certain feelings or vibes in readers through words and descriptions.

Usually, mood is referred to as the atmosphere of a literary piece, as it creates an emotional situation that surrounds the readers. Mood is developed in a literary piece through various methods.

Theme:The main idea of a poem or work of literature. The theme in a poem is its underlying message, or 'big idea.' This belief, or idea, crosses cultural barriers. It is universal in nature.


  • Birth
  • Childhood Nostalgia
  • Change versus tradition
  • Chaos and order
  • Darkness and light
  • Death – inevitable or tragedy
  • Desire to escape
  • Immortality
  • Individual versus society
  • Love and Friendship
  • Loss ( honor, reputation, material goods, love)
  • Passing of Childhood

Zeugma:from Greek “yoking” or “bonding”, is afigure of speechin which a word, usually a verb or an adjective, applies to more than one noun, blending together grammatically and logically different ideas.

For example: “John lost his coat and his temper”, the verb “lost” applies to both noun “coat” and “temper”.