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Poetry Terms

Poetry terms and terminology. A dictionary of poetry terms and examples that are excellent for teachiing and learning various aspects of poetry. This comprehensive glossary of English poetry terminology or literary terms is a valuable resource for all poets and educators.

PoetrySoup makes a distinction between poetry terms and poetry forms. Forms of poetry adhere to a certain pattern, scheme, or meter, etc. However, our poetry terms are words or terminology that are closely associated with poetry while not a form of poetry. We have seperated poetry forms from these definitions.

See also: Forms of Poetry

Poetry Terminology by Letter

Some Random Poetry Terms


A complete metrical line - as opposed to a catalectic or truncated line.


(or Quintain) A poem, unit or stanza of five lines of verse.

Vers libre

Revolt against the formal constraints of classical French prosody. Occurring in the final years of the 19th century - vers libre abandoned traditional metre and rhyme schemes in favour of natural rhythm. It was pioneered by poets such as Rimbaud, Lafargue, Baudelaire and Mallarmé. See also free verse. 


See refrain.

Horatian Ode

See ode.

Aesthetic Movement

1880's literary movement associated with  Walter Pater and John Ruskin who advocated that art should serve no useful purpose. The term 'art for art's sake' is synonymous with the movement.  A.C. Swinburne, Oscar Wilde and Edgar Allan Poe were followers of the movement.


EGLANTINE (E. Frisian, egeltiere; Fr. aiglantier), a plant-name of which Dr R. C. A. Prior (Popular Names of British Plants, p. 70) says that it “has been the subject of much discussion, both as to its exact meaning and as to the shrub to which it properly belongs.” The eglantine of the herbalists was the sweet-brier, Rosa rubiginosa. The signification of the word seems to be thorn-tree or thorn-bush, the first two syllables probably representing the Anglo-Saxon eglaegle, a prick or thorn, while the termination is the Dutch teretaere, a tree. Eglantine is frequently alluded to in the writings of English poets, from Chaucer downwards. Milton, in L‘Allegro, is thought by the term “twisted eglantine” to denote the honeysuckle,Lonicera Periclymenum, which is still known as eglantine in north-east Yorkshire.


A line consisting of one metrical foot. Monometers are very rare. However an example of a (predominantly) iambic monometer is Upon His Departure Hence by Robert Herrick. 

Burns' Stanza

Many of Burns' most famous poems were written using a six line, tail-rhyme stanza with an a-a-a-b-a-b scheme; the fourth and sixth lines being shorter than the rest e.g. To a Mouse


In the manner of Samuel Johnson. This is normally a reference to his grandiloquent prose style rather than to his poetic output.


Welsh syllabic verse form. See awdl.

Accentual Verse

Accentual verse has a fixed number of stresses per line or stanza regardless of the number of syllables that are present. It is common in languages that are stress-timed such as English as opposed to syllabic verse, which is common in syllable-timed languages such as classical Latin. Nursery Rhymes are the most common form of Accentual verse in the English Language.

Metrical Romance

A metrical romance recounts the quest undertaken by a single knight in order to gain a lady’s favor. Frequently, its central interest is courtly love, together with tournaments fought and dragons and monsters slain for the damsel’s sake. It stresses the chivalric ideals of courage, loyalty, honor, mercifulness to an opponent, and exquisite and manners; and it delights in wonders and marvels.

Surrealist Poets

Group of 20th century French poets (including André Breton, Louis Aragon and Paul Éluard) who were inspired by Freud's theories of the unconscious and who sought to produce irrational work.


Figure of speech containing two seemingly contradictory expressions e.g. 'Faith unfaithful kept him falsely true.' (Idylls of the King by Tennyson)