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Glossary of Literary Terms and Rhyme Schemes

by Suzette Richards

                                                                GLOSSARY OF LITERARY TERMS

Shakespeare’s plays were written mostly in iambic pentameter which is the most common type of metre in English poetry. It is a basic measure of English poetry: Five iambic feet in each line, ie one short syllable followed by one long one – a set of 5 in a row.


Definition of Iamb Literary Term

Iamb literary term is a metrical foot of two syllables, one short (or unstressed) and one long (or stressed): */. The iamb is the reverse of the trochee.

Definition of Trochee Literary Term

Trochee literary term is a metrical foot of two syllables, one long (or stressed) and one short (or unstressed): /*. The word trochee is derived from the Latin trochaeus meaning ‘to run’.

Definition of Stressed/Unstressed Syllable

A stressed syllable is one where the emphasis of a particular word falls, for example, ‘streptococcus’ has two stressed syllables; ‘steamy’ has one stressed syllable at the end of the word; and ‘steam’ has no stressed syllables (unstressed word).

Caesura Literary Term

In metre, a caesura (plural: caesurae) is a complete pause in a line of poetry, indicated by white space, ellipses, etc. In poetry, a masculine caesura follows a stressed syllable while a feminine caesura follows an unstressed syllable.

Definition of Foot Literary Term

The foot in literary terms refers to two or more syllables that together make up the smallest unit of rhythm in a poem. For example, an iamb is a foot that has two syllables, one unstressed followed by one stressed; an anapaest has three syllables, two unstressed followed by one stressed; etc.

Definition of Metre Literary Term

The metre in poetry involves exact arrangements of syllables into repeated patterns called feet within a line. Metres are regularised rhythms, an arrangement of language in which the accents occur at apparently equal intervals in time. Each repeating unit of metre is called a foot.

The number of metrical feet in a line is described as follows:

Dimeter— two feet

Trimeter — three feet

Tetrameter — four feet

Pentameter— five feet

Hexameter — six feet

Heptameter — seven feet

Octameter — eight feet

Definition of Stanza Literary Term

A stanza consists of two or more lines of poetry that together form one of the divisions of a poem. The stanzas of a poem are usually of the same length and follow the same pattern of metre and rhyme and are used like paragraphs in a story. Some different types of stanzas are as follows:

· Couplets - Couplets are stanzas of only two lines which usually rhyme.

· Tercets - Tercets are stanzas of three lines. The three lines may or may not have the same end rhyme. If all three lines rhyme, this type of tercet is called a triplet.

· Quatrains - Quatrains are stanzas of four lines which can be written in any rhyme scheme.

Definition of Rhymes

Rhymes are types of poems which have the repetition of the same or similar sounds at the end of two or more words, most often at the end of the lines – there are a few exceptions, for example, Lento poems.



End Rhyme

Rhyming of the final words of lines in a poem is the most common rhyming form. The following example is from my Minute poem, The Song Thrush:

Awakening this idyllic morn—a

All pretence shorn—a

Passions to slate—b

Dreams now abate—b


First Word Rhyme

In Lento poems, the rhyme scheme calls for the first word of each line in the stanzas to rhyme ( a type of mono-rhyme per each stanza). Also, the end words in the 2nd and 4th lines in each stanza rhyme. The following is an example from my poem, Mum’s Wisdom:

Cease pulling such an ugly face.

Tease others? Ill vibe will persist.

Please, don’t ever do as I do.

Ease into obedience, I insist.


Enclosed/Envelope Rhyme

The rhyme scheme is abba. The following example is from my poem, The Wolf at the Door :

Kruger Rand and investments galore

Very expensive pension plan bought

An impressive portfolio thus wrought

This all to keep the wolf from the door


Internal Rhyme

Internal rhymes are the rhyming of two words within the same line of poetry. The following example is from my ZaniLa Rhyme, Bring me a Song:

Bring me a song, notes to right wrong;


In the lyrics, No More Hallelujah, I have used internal rhyme in the first verse:

My love for you will never fade

You locked the door; my bed I’ve made

A face in the crowd reminds me: so you

The smile at tilt; the voice that lilt

The auburn hair; the skin so fair

My tender heart skips a beat: Hallelujah



Perfect rhyme can be classified according to the number of syllables included in the rhyme, which is dictated by the location of the final stressed syllable:

· Single: eg rhyme/sublime

· Double: eg picky/tricky

· Dactylic: eg cacophonies/Aristophanes


SLANT RHYME (sometimes called imperfect, partial, near, oblique, off, etc.)

Rhyme in which two words share just a vowel sound (assonant: for example, ‘heart’ and ‘star’) or in which they share just a consonant sound (consonant: for example, ‘milk’ and ‘walk’). Slant rhyme is a technique perhaps more in tune with the uncertainties of the modern age than strong rhyme. The following near rhyme, for example, is from my poem, The Dreaded   Questions:  

Don’t ask him to mind the food cooking and the baby sleeping

One of the two will end up being neglected – no fault of his

Don’t ask why the number of beers is beyond record keeping

When he has no trouble reckoning the tally of the pub quiz


Scarce Rhyme & No Rhyme

It is the rhyming of words with limited rhyming alternatives, for example, fauna/sauna. Nugget, for example, has no true rhyme. In my limerick, Croc Kentucky, I have employed slant rhyme to overcome this difficulty:

The skin is the best part of a nugget

My Kentucky is cooling in bucket


Assonant Rhyme (considered slant rhyme)

It is the rhyming with similar vowels, different consonants. From my poem, Science, not Poetry: 

Pupils dilate and blue-tinged lids,

Blood infused and pouting lips. 


Consonant rhyme (considered slant rhyme)

It is the rhyming with similar consonants, different vowels: limp/lump, bit/bet. From my poem, When We Met, I used consonant rhyme in the last stanza:

Together we will forge an idyllic future

All our past memories will no longer feature

And in the couplets from my poem, It’s Pledged:

Clouds gather on the horizon

Dark and ominous and brazen



It is the repetition of a particular sound in the prominent lifts of a series of words or phrases. In my poem, Red Taste of Words, I exaggerated the sound of the letters by incorporating it in the choice of words used in that stanza, spelling the word ‘red’.


Eye Rhyme

Rhyme on words that look the same in rhyme, but which are actually pronounced differently. An example from my abecedarian poem, My A – Z Affairs:

All my energy went into pleasing the other,

belatedly I’ve realised he didn’t bother



Identical rhymes are considered less than perfect in English. Not only the vowels, but also the onset of the rhyming syllables, are identical, as in ‘gun’ and ‘begun’.  Puns are also a form of identical rhyme. Or it is simply using the same word twice. The following example is from my poem, 2010—The Best Christmas Ever:

I salute her! Nothing will compare ever!

2010—The Best Christmas ever!



In mono-rhyme the stanzas have identical rhyming words at the end of each line of the stanzas: aaaa …, per my example, Cheetah:

Through the tall summer grasses, they now slink

Staring fixedly at target – none blink

Onto tawny bellies silently sink