42 Common Poetry Terms to Know as a Writer

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42 Common Poetry Terms to Know as a Writer


Alliteration is the repeated use of the same consonant sounds, usually those that begin words. 

For example, pensive poets and noisy nabobs of negativity. 

This is one of the common poetry terms every writer should know.


Allusions are unacknowledged quotations and references that writers think their readers are familiar with.


When a word or phrase comes at the beginning of each line throughout a work or a part of a work, it is repeated. 


Addressing a person not present, an animal, inanimate object, or idea as if it were a human.

For example, Wordsworth wrote, “Milton!” “You should be alive right now; England needs you.” 


 Assonance refers to the repetition of identical vowels in different words near each other repeat of the same vowel sound in multiple syllables. Take the deep green sea, for example. 


 A ballad is a form of narrative poetry made of quatrains that rhyme (x-a-x-a) in iambic tetrameter alternating with iambic trimeter. Ballads use refrains. There are two examples: Jackaroe and The Long Black Veil.

Blank verse 

Blank verse refers to iambic pentameter that is not rhymed. Shakespeare’s plays, for example.


A caesura is a short but noticeable pause that is added into a poetic line for emphasis.

In the poem, carpe diem: “Seize the day.” 

This poetry term emphasizes how short life is and the need to live in the moment. 

Herrick’s “To the Virgins to Make Much of Time” is an example. 

See also: How to Write and Publish Your Poetry Book

Chiasmus (antimetabole)

 Antimetabole is the reverse of similar words in a grammatical system. Chiasmus means the crossing or reversal of two elements. Consider what you can offer to your country rather than what it can provide for you. 

For example, you have seen a man become a slave, and you will see a slave become a man. 

Common meter

 Common meter, often known as hymn measure iambic trimeter and tetrameter alternate. 

John Newton’s “Amazing Grace” is another example.


The inverse of assonance is consonance, which is the whole or partial identity of consonants in words that have different main vowels. 

Example: shadow meadow; pressed, passed; sipped, supped. Owen uses this “impure rhyme” to convey the anguish of war and death.

 Owen’s impure rhyme captures the sorrow of battle and death. 


 A couplet is made up of two rhymed lines that come after each other. Couplets are the final part of Shakespearean sonnet patterns. 


Usually, a speaker’s use of diction shows the level of formality they use. 

These are the levels of diction;

  • Diction (high or formal): Etiquette, elegance, detail, and polysyllabic language. Previously, people thought this was the only suitable language for poetry. 
  • Middle or neutral diction: It is simple and direct, and makes use of correct grammar. Diction (low or informal): Casual, conversational, and familiar language. 

 Dramatic monologue

This is a type of writing that started in theater where a speaker addresses the reader or an internal listener.

Some dramatic monologues, especially those written by Robert Browning have the speaker disclose unexpected and unpleasant aspects of his personality. 

 End-stopped line

This is another common term in poetry.

It is a line that ends with a full pause usually represented by a semicolon or a period. 


This is when a line goes into the next line without a punctuation mark at the end. 


It is a rigorous and in-depth analysis of a literary work, often word for word and line by line. 


Alternatively known as foot, it is a mix of high and low stress. 

These are numbers of feet. 

Monometer (one foot), diameter of two feet, trimeter three feet, tetrameter or four feet, pentameter (five feet), hexameter six feet, septenary or heptameter (7 feet). 

Heroic Couplet

 A heroic couplet is made up of two rhymed iambic pentameter lines, the second line is usually end-stopped. 

 Hymn meter

Also known as common measure, it is made up of quatrains that rhyme with a b a b in iambic tetrameter and trimeter. 

Overstatement (hyperbole) and understatement (litotes)

Litotes is an understatement for effect, whereas hyperbole is an exaggeration for effect. They are used for irony.

Iambic pentameter

 Iambic (iambic) denotes an unstressed stressed foot in iambic pentameter.

The most common and natural type of meter in English; it makes communication look like poetry. 


Images are references that cause the mind to combine memories of auditory, gustatory, olfactory, and tactile experiences with memories of sight, sound, and taste. 

It is important to note that images found in a work, whether by a writer or a group of writers, are referred to as imagery. 

 Internal rhyme

This common term in poetry occurs when a line of poetry contains an exact rhyme (rather than rhyming vowel sounds, as in assonance): 

For example, “Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary.”


When two different things are compared, one is described as if it were the other. It does not make a comparison with “like” or “as” (see simile). 

Metaphysical conceit

 A metaphysical conceit is a complicated and drawn-out metaphor or simile that connects two seemingly unrelated areas or issues unusually and unexpectedly. 

The phrase is widely used to describe the metaphorical language utilized by early seventeenth-century writers, most notably John Donne. 

Consider stiff twin compasses or lovers merging like compass legs. Read the poem “To His Coy Mistress” 


In traditional writing, meter refers to the number of feet in a line.

Take iambic pentameter, for example. 


 The octave refers to the first eight lines of an Italian or Petrarchan sonnet that are linked by topic, rhyme, and rhythm. 


It is a blend of vowel and consonant sounds meant to indicate or emulate the activity being described. suck, buzz, etc. 


A paradox is a figure of speech that shows an apparent contradiction but is true despite itself. 


It is the process of imbuing inanimate objects or abstract ideas with human characteristics. 

Petrarchan sonnet

 A Petrarchan sonnet is a 14-line rhyming iambic pentameter sonnet split into two sections: octave (8) and sestet (6). 

Between the octave and sestet, there is a “volta,” or “turning” of the theme. 

 Pyrrhic foot 

This contains one “empty” foot/two unstressed feet. A quatrain is a four-line poem or phrase. An English or Shakespearean sonnet consists of four rhymed lines. 


 A refrain is a word or phrase that is repeated, usually in ballads, in response to or as a counterpoint to the main stanza. 

See also: Point of View vs Perspective: Differences and Examples for Writers


Rhyme is the repetition of the same last syllable in many words, usually at the end of a line. 

For example, June-moon. 

These are the types of poetry terms for writers – rhyme;

  • Double rhymes, or trochaic rhymes are two-syllable rhymes with the first word stressed (flower, shower). 
  • Dactylic or triple rhymes are words that rhyme with three or more syllables, stressing all but the last syllable. For example; Macavity, gravity, and immorality. 
  • Eye rhymes are words that despite being pronounced differently. For example; bear/fear, and dough/cough/through/bough. 
  • Slant rhyme: A near rhyme in which the vowels are different but the final consonant sounds are the same. For example: sun/noon, food/should, and slim/ham. 
  • Rhyme scheme: The pattern of rhyme, generally marked at the end of a poem line by assigning an alphabetic letter to each rhyme. 

 Royal rhyme

This is a stanza used by Chaucer usually in iambic pentameter and rhymed ababbcc. 

Wordsworth’s “Resolution and Independence” is an example. 


 A common term in poetry sestet is a six-line stanza, or measure. 


 It is a simple comparison that uses the phrases “like” or “as” to describe two unique things. 

Simile is the most common poetry terms for writers


 A sonnet is a closed form of fourteen iambic pentameter lines that match. 

Shakespearean or English sonnet 

This common poetry term is made up of three quatrains and a couplet, with the couplet resolving three quatrain-based arguments or pictures. 

A Shakespearean sonnet is a fourteen-line iambic pentameter poem made up of three quatrains and a couplet that rhymes with abab cdcd efef gg.

The rhyme scheme is abab cdcd efef gg.

See also: How Many Word Count Are in a Novel? Word Count by Genre

Petrarchan or Italian sonnet

 An Italian sonnet, also known as a Petrarchan sonnet, is made of eight lines referred to as the octave and six lines referred to as the sestet in iambic pentameter that rhyme, with a “volta” around line eight. 

The rhyme scheme is cde cde or abba cdcdcd. 


Stanzas are groups of poetry lines meant to be read like paragraphs in prose. 

They usually include systematic or repeating rhymes and meters. 


This is a rhetorical method that represents a single sensory impression as opposed to another sense or one perception in terms of a completely different, even opposing feeling. 

For example, “darkness visible” and “green thought”. 


It means word order and the structure of sentences.  

This is one of the most common poetry terms writers must know


This is one of the common terms in poetry. It means the turning point of a Petrarchan sonnet which is often placed between the octave and the sestet. 

See also: What is 3rd (Third) Person Limited Point Of View?


Are you a poet or an aspiring poet, ensure to learn these terms as they will come in handy in your poetry career.

We wish you the best!