Glossary of Literary Terms

glossary of literary terms
glossary of literary terms

Glossary of Literary Terms

As a lover of literature, it’s essential to have a good grasp of the technical language that authors and critics use when analyzing works of art. From metaphors to motifs, literary terms can be challenging to understand, but once you do, you’ll have a better appreciation of the craft and the artistry behind your favorite books. In this article, we’ll define and explain 15 essential literary terms that you need to know to become a proficient literary analyst.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • The Importance of Literary Terms
  • Fiction Genres
    • Prose Fiction
    • Poetry
  • Narrative Elements
    • Plot
    • Characters
    • Conflict
    • Setting
  • Literary Devices
    • Imagery
    • Metaphor
    • Simile
    • Symbolism
    • Allusion
    • Foreshadowing
    • Irony
  • Conclusion
  • FAQs


Literary terms are the vocabulary of literature. They help writers and readers alike understand the language of storytelling and poetry. Literary terms can refer to a wide variety of elements, from the different genres of fiction to the narrative elements that make up a story. The terms also include literary devices such as metaphor, imagery, and symbolism that writers use to convey meaning and emotion.

The Importance of Literary Terms

Literary terms are important because they allow writers to communicate more effectively with readers. Understanding literary terms can help you read more critically and analyze the text for deeper meaning. It can also help you identify patterns and themes in the writing that might not be immediately apparent. Literary terms are also essential for writers because they give them a language to describe their craft.

Fiction Genres

Fiction is a broad term that covers a wide range of genres, each with its unique characteristics. Two of the most common genres of fiction are prose fiction and poetry.

Prose Fiction

Prose fiction is a genre that encompasses all forms of fiction that are written in prose, such as novels and short stories. Prose fiction is characterized by its narrative structure, which includes a plot, characters, conflict, and setting.


Poetry is a genre of writing that is characterized by its use of language to create rhythm, rhyme, and imagery. Unlike prose, poetry is written in stanzas rather than paragraphs, and it often uses metaphor and other literary devices to create meaning.

Narrative Elements

Narrative elements are the building blocks of a story. They include the plot, characters, conflict, and setting.


They can be either protagonists or antagonists and are essential for driving the plot forward.


Conflict is the central problem or challenge that the characters in a story face. It can be internal or external and is often what drives the plot.


It includes the physical environment, the social context, and the historical era.

Literary Devices

Literary devices are techniques that writers use to convey meaning and emotion. Some common literary devices include imagery, metaphor, simile, symbolism, allusion, foreshadowing, and irony.


Imagery is the use of language to create sensory impressions in the reader’s mind. It can be visual, auditory, or tactile and is often used to create a mood or atmosphere.


A metaphor is a figure of speech that compares two things that are not alike but share some common characteristics. For example, “life is a journey.”


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here