Defining Our Terms


(really a glossary: Greek:glossa-a tongue: gloss=a brief explanation; glossary=a collection of textual glosses, or of terms limited to a special area of knowledge or usage)


Alexandrine: classic French line of 12 syllables; standard since the 16th century; more often than not has a caesura after the 6th syllable

Allegory: where a story’s events refer to another event or idea

Alliteration: repetition of sounds (slowly silently now the moon; silver fruit on silver trees)

Anaphora: repetition of the same word in succeeding lines

Anastrophe: switching if the normal word order

Antistrophe: the repetition of words in a reversed order; also, the 2nd verse in a Greek Triad, utilizing the same meter

Apostrophe: a figure of speech, speaking to someone or something that is not present, or is dead or imaginary

Assonance: resemblance of sounds in words or syllables; close juxtaposition of similar sounds, especially of vowels; rhyming of vowel sounds without taking the consonants into consideration (stony/holy)

Asyndeton: omission of articles and conjunctions, pronouns


Ballad: a generally short, narrative song

Ballad Stanza: 4 lines, second and fourth rhyming; usually 1st and 3rd iambic tetrameter, 2nd and 4th trimeter

Beat Poets: group of Americans (1950s) who were apolitical, nihilistic, and generally anti-intellectual

Bibliography: Plato, in many dialogues:Ion, Phaedrus, Republic./Aristotle: The Poetics./ Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics (much of what I’ve got here derived from this)/ The number of works that could be on this list is endless: see Poetry and, etc

Blank Verse: iambic pentameter which is unrhymed.


Caesura: a pause within the poetic line

Canto: like chapter separations in an epic or a long narrative poems

Catachresis: misuse of a word or phrase, or a mixed metaphor; in the best sense, intentional, e.g. “To take arms against a sea of troubles”

Catalectic: lacking a syllable at the end, or ending in an imperfect foot (catalexis)

Cauda: a short line in a stanza, usually at the end, which rhymes or is identical with another line in same or previous stanza

Cento: a patch-work made up of famous lines from the works of famous poets of the past

Chanson: medieval love poem, usually 5 or 6 stanzas, often with an envoi (a short concluding stanza)

Cinquain: 5 line form of varying meter and rhyme scheme. Employed by Adelaide Crapsey using 2,4,6,8, and 2 syllables

Conceit: a fanciful idea; or an elaborate or strained metaphor

Consonance: combination of sounds and ideas

Constructivists (1920’s): all images and devices should be directed towards the subject

Couplet: two lines of poetry, usually rhymed


Dactylic:  see Metrical Units

Dadaism: negation of all of the rules and conventions of writing. Started by Tristan Tzara in 1916. Take a bag of words; shake them up; take them out one at a time, and that is your poem. Many affinities to the more recent Language Poetry. See my notes.

Didactic Poetry: intended to instruct, or teach morals. Check out Hesiod, Lucretius, Virgil (Georgics), Horace, Ovid, Thompson, Pope. On the other hand, in my opinion, all good poetry has an element of didacticism.

Dithyrambic: an irregular short poem in a wild, inspired strain; or exalted, enthusiastic in style. Golly, I used that word in one of my poems (Free Verse).


Eclogue: a short poem, usually pastoral, in the form of a dialogue or soliloquy

Encomium: poems or songs about heroes

Enjambment: the running over of a sentence from one verse or couplet into another so that closely related words fall in different lines

Envoi: a short concluding stanza

Epanalepsis: repetition of a word after intervening word(s)

Epic: a long narrative poem recounting the deeds of a legendary or historical hero (or heroine). I have one on this web site I wrote, but it isn’t very long, and the main character (Tithonis) is not very heroic. Is it really an Epic? More an Epyllion.Well, anyway. see Homer, Virgil, Milton’s Paradise Lost

Epiploce: redistribution of syllables between two different metrical feet

Epithalamium: a poem (or song) recited outside the bridal chamber on the wedding night, or any poem celebrating a private experience of a couple

Epitrite: see Metrical Units

Epode: a lyric poem in which a long verse is followed by a short one; also the 3rd part of a Triad

Epyllion: “Little Epic”, a narrative poem in dactylic hexameter, of variable length. see Lucrece by Shakespeare, Oenone by Tennyson

Estrabot: French 1 stanza composition, 6 or 8 lines, of a satirical nature, variously rhymed

Exoticism: nostalgia for the strange and distant, especially the oriental or the primitive. Was a big fad in the 19th century, but also evident in the Imagist poets (Amy Lowell, etc.) as well as T.S.Elliot

Expressionism: the fully achieved expression of a thought, or especially an Inuition (see writings of Benedetto Croce) More obvious in paintings like the Blue Rider School., poems by Bertolt Brecht and Edith Sitwell.


Figures of Speech: Ornamentations in writing or speech, includes Schemes and Tropes. Schemes are patterns of speech which are out of the ordinary. Tropes use words or phrases in senses which are not proper to them

Allegory: reference to another story or idea

Anaphora:: repetition of same word in succeeding lines

Antithesis: contrasting of ideas by use of words of opposite or different meaning

Aphaeresis: omission of initial unstressed sylable.

Asyndeton: omission of articles and conjunctions

Hyperbole: marked exaggeration

Irony: saying the opposite of what you mean, or what is true

Isocolon: several words or phrases, of the same length, which, grouped together, reinforce each other; (veni vidi vici; hop, skip, and jump)

Litotes: employing deliberate understatement for irony or intensification

Metaphor: an idea, image or symbol used in place of another without a comparative

Metonymy: substitution of one word for another: in order to communicate something concrete through abstract, intangible terms

Paronomasia: words that are repeated, with sounds that are close but not exactly the same

Personification: endowinf things or abstractions with life

Polysyndeton: the repetition of conjunctions

Pun: depends upon a similarity of sound but a disparity of meaning

Simile: comparison utilizing like or as

Syncope: omission of a letter in the middle of a word

Synechdoche: a substitution wherein a part is used to express the whole

Syllepsis: the use of a word to modify two or more words, with only one of which it formally agrees

Synaeresis: when 2 adjacent vowels of a word are combined for metrical purposes

Zeugma: yoking of two parts of speech with any other; use of a word to modify or govern two or more words, usually that it applies to each in a different sense.

Foot: a measurable patterned unit of poetic rhythm, traditionally consisting of one metrical unit

Free Verse: the (regular or irregular) rhythmic cadence of phrases or image patterns (first applied in English to poems of Walt Whitman, thou evident in Milton, and in German and French poetry)


Georgic Poetry: a didactic poem that gives instructions, particularly about Nature

Gnomic poetry: where proverbs, maxims, and aphorisms predominate

Gongorism: (Spanish poet Gongora,~1627) characterized by studied obscurity and use of ornate devices



Haiku: conventional Japanese form has 17 syllables in lines of 5,7,5 syllables. Most us an imagery that derives from nature

Hemiepes: dactylic trimeter ending ina long syllable

Hemistitch: a half line of verse divided at the caesura

Heroic Couplet: rhymed iambic pentameter (why is it called “heroic”?)

Hexameter: the classic (like in Homer) 6 foot line; usually dactylic, but the 5th foot may be spondaic

Homoeomeral: portions of poem or poems which are metrically the same

Huitain: 8 line stanza with 8 or 10 syllable line and rhyme scheme: ababbcbc or abaacac (see Testament by Francois Villon

Hypermetric: extra syllable at end of foot

Hyphaeresis: omission of a letter from a word  (o’er)

Hysteron Proteron: where the natural order in time is reversed


Iambic: see Metrical Units

Iambes: satirical poems, originally Greek, then French (18-19th C) in the form abab, cdcd, etc., with alternating 12 and 8 dyllable lines

Idyl: a short poem that deals with rustic life

Imagery: where a sensation is reproduced (in words) as a concrete form for the mind to experience

Imagist Poets: a movement between 1912 and 1917, associated first with Pound and Elliot, then with Amy Lowell: essentially re short poems structured from a single image

Inversion: grammar reversal for purpose of emphasis, meter, or rhyme

Invocation: request for assistance or a dedication addressed usually to one’s Muse, or a gpd

Ionic: see Metrical Units

Isochronism: the equality of successive time units

Ithyphallic: verse with 3 trochees with an added long syllable at end


Kenning: a metaphorical compound word or phrase (she is like a foamy-necked-flightless-bird)


Laisse: French for stanza, in epics or chansons de geste

Lake Poets: (referring to English Lake District) Wordsworth, Coleridge, & Southey

Lauda: Italian verse form with religious content

Leonine Rhyme: rhyme of the  last word before a caesura, with the last word in the line

Limerick: form consisting of 4 lines, rhyming aabba; 1st,2nd, & 5th lines trimeter, 3rd & 4th dimeter, used for light comic verse.

Line (length): monometer, dimeter, trimeter, tetrameter, pentameter, hexameter (Alexandrine), heptameter, octameter

Litotes: see figures of speech

Lyric Poetry: the verbalized form to convey the poet’s perception of emotional and/or rational values, which is neither narrative nor dramatic. The name connoted its historic origin as something to be sung or chanted, and continues to be representational of music in its sound patterns


Macaronic Verse: incorporates words of the writer’s native tongue in another language usually in order to achieve a comic effect

Madrigal: a short polyphonic song form: usually 2 or 3 tercets followed by 1 or 2 rhyming couplets. Many by Petrarch, Shakespeare

Mannerism: affected, or excessively styled (Lyly), or highly ornate (Marino); most evident between the Renaissance and the Baroque

Meiosis: same as Litotes (see figures of speech)

Metaphor: see figures of speech

Metaphysical Poetry: (Donne, Herbert, Marvel) characterized by ingenuity, intellectuality, obscurity; in 17th century depended on irony & paradox & conceit

Meter: the measurable rhythmic patterns manifested in verse

Metrical Units:

Anacreontic: 2 short 1 long 1 short 1 long 1 short 2 long   xx/x/x//

Anapestic: 2 short & 1 long xx/

Dactylic: 1 long & 2 short /xx

Epitrite: 1 short & 3 long x///; This and several others used in Greek & Latin poetry

Hendecasyllabic: 2 short & 2 short (mostly Greek)

Iambic 1 short & 1 long x/

Ionic     2 long & 2 short  //xx

Paeon    1 long  & 3 short  /xxx

Palimbacchius:  2 long & 1 short  //x

Proceleusmatic:  4 short    xxxx (Greek & Latin comedy)

Pyrrhic 2 short xx

Spondaic 2 long //

Tribrach:  3 short   xxx

Trochaic 1 long & 1 short /x

Modernism: keeping in mind that every age calls itself Modern, the early 20th century blended Romanticism, symbolism, and Parnassianism; and is a self-styled conscious break with the past

Monody: dirge; lamentation of a single mourner ((Lycidas by Milton)

Monorhyme: where all the lines have the same rhyme

Mora: one short, or unaccented syllable

Mosaic Rhyme: a rhyme made up of more than one word (stampede/damn weed)

Muse: that thing or being which inspires


Narrative Poetry: is one that tells a story (from the Iliad to the Rime of the Ancient Mariner)

Nursery Rhymes: most embody myths which express the experiences of the human race; most are ancient (Humpty Dumpty) some are new (Twinkle, twinkle, little star: Jane Taylor), some historical (Georgie Porgie), one book (J Halliwell) lists 300 British rhymes


Objectivist Poetry:(~1931) includes in US Louis Zukofsky & William Carlos Williams: emphasized a broader, more intellectually significant imagism

Occasional Verse: poems written for a special occasion

Octave: a group of 8 lines

Octosyllabic Verse: tetrameter in iambic or trochaic, mostly in rhyming couplets:

Onomatopoeia: words that imitate sounds (ring, hiss, moan)

Ottava Rima: 8 line verse  rhyming abababcc (see Byron’s Don Juan)

Oxymoron: a combination of contradictory or incongruous words


Paean: poem of praise, honoring someone important; or a god

Palinode: poem, the basic idea of which, is a retraction

Pantoum:: where the stanzas are quatrains, an in which the 2nd & 4th lines of a stanza are the 1st and 3rd of the next stanza

Parnassians: French poetic movement from 1860 to 1900: wrote about non-personal themes: history. philosophy, science, contemporary life, used traditional forms, and considered the cult of poetry as a religion; were devoted to precision and to formal beauty.

Paronomasia: see figures of speech

Pastoral Poetry: about rural life, like with shepherds and shepherdesses, or some Golden Age

Pattern Poetry: where the physical shape of the poem represents something that the poem is about. One by Appollinaire about a bridge is written in the shape of a bridge

Payada: a poetic contest of questions and answers

Pentastitch: a stanza or poem with 5 lines

Perfect Rhyme: where two of the rhymed syllables are the same

Poeme (with 2 dots over the e): a French genre, where a pholosophic thought is staged with an epic or dramatic form

Poet: ?: Skald: Bard ( Greek idea is that it is one whose function is to celebrate the heroes, victories, laws, really, like our poet laureates): now anyone who writes poetry, or a creative artist of any sort with expressive gifts and imagination

Poetic License: freedom allowed the poet to depart from ordinary prose discourse in subject matter, grammar, diction, spelling, page layout, etc.

Poetic Madness: the relationship between genius, inspiration, and poetry. The question is whether the artist is more healthy, or more crazy than the rest of the population. They always talk about poets who commit suicide, for example, but I believe the highest rate is amongst psychiatrists as a professional group

Poetry: (Webster) writing that formulates a concentrated imaginative awareness of experience in language chosen and arranged to create a specific emotional response through meaning, sound, & rhythm (wow!)

Polyrhythmic: a poem with multiple metrical or rhythmic patterns

Polysyndeton> see figures of speech

Preciosity: affectation; Mannerism (usually used pejoratively, but in Webster means refined): bunch of French poets from 17th century (like Tristam l’Hermite) lumped together with this appellation

Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood: 1840’s and 50’s, a movement away from the academic, and towards realism, sensuousness, & attention to detail. Dante & Christina Rossetti in poetry

Projective Verse: a form of free verse, not dependent upon meter or stanza patterns, but is energized by the poet’s “breath”, ie by his “life force”, where one perception leads to another. It tends to have long run-on sentences (Olson) with little ornamentation

Prose Poem: short, compact, no line breaks, but has more pronounced rhythm, sonorous effects, imagery, & density of expression than prose (first was Aloysius Bertrand, 1827, then Baudelaire, Mallarme)

Prosody: study of the rhythmic and dynamic aspects of speech

Pyrrhic: see metrical units


Quatorzain: 14 line poem that does not have the characteristics of a sonnet

Quatrain: a stanza or poem of 4 lines

Quintet: 5 line form,  ababb


Realist School of Poetry: in which no attempt is made to transcend the mental horizon of individual speakers. It is concerned with giving a truthful impression of actuality as it appears to the normal human consciousness, and avoids complex, far-fetched images (Browning, Edward Arlington Robinson, Walt Whitman

Refrain: a line repeated at intervals in a poem, usually, but not always, at the end of a stanza (but where are the snows of yesteryear?)

Renaissance Poetry: humanistic writing from 1450 to 1650

Rhapsody: originally a selection from some epic poem (like the Iliad), more recently a highly emotional or ecstatic work with a non-rational organization

Rhetorics: the art of speaking or writing effectively; the study of principles and rules of composition; or the art of persuasion (as per Aristotle’s Rhetorics) as differentiated from poetry’s inspiration

Rhopalic Verse: each word is a syllable longer than the one before it. Also called Wedge verse (?)

Rhyme: correspondence of terminal sounds in two or more words

Rhyme Counterpoint: where rhymed lines are of unequal length, and unrhymed lines are of the same length

Rhyme Royal: a stanza of 7 lines in iambic pentameter, rhyming ababbcc

Rime Riche: homophones: words that sound the same but have different meanings

Rispetto: 8 line stanza rhyming abababcc

Rocking Rhythm: a trisyllabic meter where a stressed syllable occurs regularly between two unstressed

Rococo: 18th century, in poetry characterized by graceful lightness, includes fables, mock heroic poems, anacreontic verse

Romance:  Spanish Ballad with octosyllabic lines in which the even lines rhyme and odd ones left free

Rondeau: a French Renaissance form with 13 lines of 7 or 10 syllables, in stanzas of 5,3, & 5, with a repetition of the beginning of first line, as end of 2nd and 3rd stanzas, and rhyme scheme: abba,aab,aabba, a variant is the British Rounder with 11 lines

Running rhythm: 2 or 3 syllables with ascending or descending stress


Scansion: the system pf describing, by visual symbols, conventional poetic rhythms

Scolion: an early type pf Greek lyric poetry, more like drinking song

Senarius: the Roman equivalent of the Greek iambic trimeter

Septenarius: Roman equivalent of the Greek catalectic tetrameter

Septenary: metrical line of 7 feet, usually trochaic

Sestet: In Italian sonnet, the last 6 lines, or its minor division

Sestina: in troubadour poetry: 6 stanzas of 6 lines each, followed by an envoi of 3 lines, unrhymed, in which the last word of each stanza is the first word of the next. Difficult to write and still make sense. I have one sestina here, The Beach, amongst the Orpheus poems, which shows the form

Sexain: 6 line stanza (also called: sixain, sextain, sextet, sestet, hexastich)

Sillographer: a writer of satirical poems or lampoons against doctrinal ideas or schools of thought or dogmatic philosophers

Simile: comparisons utilizing “like” or “as”

Skald: Icelandic for poet

Smithy Poets: a Soviet group whose theme was the proletariat, and the nationalization of industry

Sonnet: 14 line poem in iambic pentameter (hexameter in French): various rhyme schemes–

Italian or Petrarchan:  abbaabba   cdecde

Shakespearian :         ababcdcd    efef gg

Spenserian:                ababbcbc   cdcd ee

Modern forms include any rhyme scheme & any type of verse, but still 14 lines

Sonnet Cycle: a sequence, or series of sonnets, on a particular theme (Browning, Petrarch, Dante, Shakespeare)

Sound: includes Pitch (vibrations per second), Duration, Loudness, & Quality: mechanical radiant energy that is transmitted by longitudinal pressure waves in air or other material medium, and is the objective cause of hearing. Sound is received by the ear, transmitted via the tympanic membrane to the middle ear where three bones, the malleus, incus, and stapes transmit it then to the semicircular canals, the motion of whose fluid is perceived by nerves and sent on to the brain where the story begins to be complicated.

Spondaic: see metrical units

Sprechspruch: poetry with pithy sayings, religious or moral admonitions, or fables with moral results

Stanza: a sequence of lines arranged in a definite pattern of meter and rhyme scheme, usually repeated throughout the work

Stichomythia: poetic line by line dialogue between two characters, utilizing contrast and angry replies, in a dramatic presentation

Strambotto: old Italian 1 stanza composition of 6 or 8 lines, sentimental, amorous, variously rhymed

Strophe: anciently was a choral interlude, but is now, in free verse poems, a unit determined by rhythmic or emotional completeness rather than metrical patterns, and would therefore be almost synonymous with Stanza; also, the first verse in a Triad

Sturm und Drang: 18th Cenury German literary movement marked by a revolt against the French Enlightenment and German imitations of it

Style: in poetry HOW it says what it says, irrespective of the content

Surrealism: lot of “Truths”: relationship of man to the universe; automatic writing under the dictation of the unconscious as the True means of knowledge. This was the principal poetic movement of the 1st half of the 20th century. Idea was to bring the poet to a clearer awareness of the world perceived by the senses. The writer is a revolutionary who seeks to improve the human condition: in this there is a revolt against social morality and conventional norms ( Eluard, Breton) “The poem is no longer merely a vehicle for aesthetic pleasure, but is a springboard for metaphysical knowledge” due to the surrealists

Syllaba Anceps: a syllable which can be counted as either long or short (according to the requirements of the meter

Syllable: the shortest measurable unit of poetic sound

Syllepsis: see figures of speech

Synaeresis: see figures of speech

Synaesthesia: a sense modality described in terms of another. She has eyes like a Bach chorale, lips like the odor of a rose bouquet. There is a deep blue feeling in her touch. I guess it is in the form of a simile or metaphor, but is a real characteristic seen as either an advanced human mutation or the result of disease, such as a stroke. I have read of mathematicians, for example, who thought of numbers in colors, and were able to determine, by a resulting color, whether a computation was correct.

Synecdoche: see figures of speech

Synthetic Rhyme: rhyme created by alteration by contraction or distortion of words

Synthetic Rhythm: such as repeating a word to fill up a line


Tagelied: a kind of medieval German love lyric, the inheritors of which are types such as Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, and Wagner’s Tristam & Isolde

Tail-Rhyme: a short line, following a couplet, triplet, or stanza, which usually rhymes with something else

Tanka: a traditional Japanese poetic form, 31 syllables in 5 lines with 5,7,5,7,7 syllables

Tapinosis: the use of degrading language to put someone pr something down

Taste: a person’s capacity to judge or act upon some aesthetic object. There can be good or bad taste, but if a person has taste, it implies good, or at least personal approval thereof


Terza Rima: a form invented by Dante and utilized in the Divine Comedy: iambic tercets rhyming aba bcb cdc, etc., ending with xyx y

Topographical Poetry: as per Dr. Johnson, “local poetry, of which the fundamental subject is some particular landscape, with the addition…of historical retrospection or incidental meditation”

Traditional Poetry: a pattern of writing inherited from prior times or generations; essentially poems written with a sense of cultural continuity, more usually delineated as a matter of form rather than content

Triad: in Greek lyric poetry, the combination of strophe, antistrophe, & epode

Trimeter: line with 3 feet

Trimetre: a French form, like the Alwxandrine, with 12 syllables, but with 2 caesuras, at 4 & 8 syllables

Triolet: a French form of 8 lines, 2 rhymes, the capitalized lines repeated: AB aA ab AB

Triplet: 3 line verse or poem, with some kind of rhyme

Tristich: stanzas of 3 lines

Trope: a figure of Speech

Troubadour: (trobar=to compose) courtly poets and musicians, mostly from Provence in southern France, from the 11th to 13th centuries. Wrote )mostly love poetry) in the dialect of Provence

Trouvere: same as Troubadours, but wrote in the nothern dialect which became the standard modern French, and were more diversified in their subject matter

Tumbling Verse: 4 foot trisyllabic (anapestic or dactylic) verse (used in Elizabethan poetry)


Ut Pictura Poesis: not really a definition, but is discussed at length in the Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry: =”as in painting, so in poetry”(Horace), and (Plutarch) “poetry is a speaking picture, a painting a silent poem”


Venus and Adonis Stanza: 6 line, iambic pentameter, rhyme ababcc

Vers Libre: free verse forms, in French, was developed about 30 years after Walt Whitman

Verset: a form with a long line (sometimes several lines long) corresponding to one outpouring of breath from a full lung, is somewhere between free verse and the prose poem. Maybe Allen Ginsberg’s poems would fit in this category

Verso Sdrucciolo: a line with the principal accent on the 10th syllable, with a dactylic ending and a total of 12 syllables, Used by Dante and Ariosto

Verso Tronco: in Italian, any line ending with an accented syllable

Versus Politicus: has 15 iambic syllables; 8–caesura–7, with accents on syllables 7 & 14

Versus Pythius: dactylic hexameter

Villanelle: a French verse form, originally for pastorals, with a complex form: 5 tercets rhyming aba, then a quatrain rhyming abaa. The first line of the first tercet is the last line of the 2nd & 4th tercets; the 3rd line of the first tercet is the 3rd line of the 3rd & 5th tercets; and these 2 lines follow each other as the last 1 lines in the quatrain

Volta: a change in the direction of a thought, utilized often, e.g. in the 9th line of a sonnet, where, after a description, a contra-distinction is stated in the next 4 lines, prior to the concluding couplet  ( (8) O you are to me the epitome of beauty/ (9) But it seems I am totally ignored ; etc)


Zeugma: see figures of speech


Galileo: Science is knowledge won through doubt .