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The Big List of Poetry Terms and Examples

Welcome to our large glossary of poetry terms and examples! The poetry terms are organized by category and then in alphabetical order. Most poetry terms have at least one example or link to examples. To search this page use CTRL+F on your keyboard (Windows) or Command+F (for OS). 


Poetry Terms by Category:




The repetition of sound in a series or sequence of words.


“And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain” (Poe)

A disruption of harmony or rhythm, for an intended jarring effect; sounds clash with each other.


"The wind flung a magpie away and a black-

Back gull bent like an iron bar slowly"

(Ted Hughes, “Wind”)

Figure of Speech

A non-literal use of language, such as metaphor or simile.


A figure of speech that helps describe the subject by stating it is something else (object, feeling, idea, place, sound, etc.), often used to give the reader a richer understanding of the subject. 


“The moon was a salt lick

For her cattle of darkness”

(Frank Stanford)


" 'Cause baby you're a firework" 

(Katy Perry) 

Objective Correlative

The technique of representing a particular emotion with symbols, images, actions, and events; used to evoke a desired emotional response in the reader.


“The piercing chill I feel:

my dead wife’s comb, in our bedroom,

under my heel…”

(Taniguchi Buson)

A figure of speech that conjoins contradictory words.


Act natural; pretty ugly; jumbo shrimp; definitely maybe! 

A figure of speech in which a nonhuman thing is described as if it were a person.


“There was never a sound beside the wood but one,

And that was my long scythe whispering to the ground.”

(Robert Frost, “Mowing”)

A type of metaphor that compares the subject to something else, using "as" or "like" in order to describe it.


“What happens to a dream deferred? 

Does it dry up 

like a raisin in the sun?

Or festers like a sore—

And then run?”

(Langston Hughes, "A Dream Deferred")


"A day without you is like a year without rain" 

(Selena Gomez)

Something that represents or is a sign for something else. 


“Brown and barren” in the following poem represents growing old.

“Now the fields are brown and barren,

Bitter autumn blows”

(Sarah Teasdale, “Wild Asters”)






The haiku form originated in Japan and follows the following structure:

  • First Line is 5 syllables
  • Second Line is 7 syllables
  • Third Line is 5 syllables

Traditionally, the subject matter of haikus focused on an aspect of the natural world, and often juxtaposed two images or ideas. For example, in the following poem, the image of leaves and birds are compared.


The last winter leaves
Clinging to the black branches
Explode into birds.


Centuries-old and almost always humorous, limericks became so popular in the 19th century that newspapers on both sides of the Atlantic held weekly limerick-writing competitions. The Limerick Breakdown:

  • Five lines
  • A rhyme scheme of aabba (lines 1, 2, and 5 rhyme and lines 3 and 4 rhyme)
  • Lines 1, 2 and 5 have 7-10 syllables and lines 3 and 4 have 5-7 syllables


Is Algebra fruitless endeavor?

It seems they’ve been trying for ever

To find x, y, and z

And it’s quite clear to me: 

If they’ve not found them yet then they'll never.

(Graham Lester)

Prose Poem
Poetry that is not broken into lines, but is instead set out like prose: using flow-on sentences and paragraphs. A prose poem brings elements of poetic and narrative writing together into one form. 


A classic form that has inspired poets for centuries, the traditional sonnet has 14 lines, each 10 syllables long. Its rhymes are arranged as either:

ab ab, cdcd, efef, gg - English Sonnet
abba abba cdecde - Italian Sonnet

Spoken Word / Slam Poetry
Poetry intended for live performance; roots in hip hop, rap, jazz, and folk; often focuses on contemporary issues, such as social justice, politics, and community.

Example: Joshua Bennett (Writ the World's 2015 guest judge) performs “Tamaraʼs Opus” at the White House, using sign language, tone, and voice to complement the piece.




Parts and Pieces

A group of lines in a poem. Just like a paragraph break, a space between stanzas can indicate a shift in time, tone, or thought; or indicate a pause. 

A phrase or line repeated throughout a poem.

Example: Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman (Write the World's 2018 guest judge) performs “An American Lyric” at the Library of Congress, repeating the refrain "there's a poem" throughout the piece.




Blank Verse
Unrhyming iambic pentameter.


My grave is like to be my wedding bed.

But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?

(Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet)

Two successive rhyming lines that are of the same length. 


“The time is out of joint, O cursed spite
That ever I was born to set it right!”

(Shakespeare, Hamlet)

The deletion of unstressed syllables.


“ere” for “ever”


The unit of measurement for meter, usually contains one stressed syllable and at least one unstressed syllable.  


Free Verse

Poetry with lines that do not rhyme, or have a regular meter.




A foot with one unaccented syllable followed by one accented syllable (the most common meter of poetry).


In the words, belong and predict, the second syllable is typically accented, so they read beLONG and preDICT.

Iambic Pentameter

A line consisting of five iambs. 

(We have bolded the accented syllable in the first line of the verse below. Try reading the verse aloud, clapping on each accented syllable.)


And I do love thee: therefore, go with me

I'll give thee fairies to attend on thee, 

And they shall fetch thee jewels from the deep, 

And sing while thou on pressed flowers dost sleep

(Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream)

The pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables within the lines of a poem.


WORDS in a SEN-tence you STRESS when you SPEAK.


A single unit of sound within a word.


The dash-es in this sen-tence mark the syll-a-bles.


Poetry that follows a certain rhythm.


That's the end of the poetry glossary! Did we miss anything? Let us know at!

-> Looking for more poetry writing tips?  Check out our collection of blogs on poetry writing tips.

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