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A Complete Glossary of Poetic Terms

Andrew has a keen interest in all aspects of poetry and writes extensively on the subject. His poems are published online and in print.

Read on to find an exhaustive list of poetic terminology!

Read on to find an exhaustive list of poetic terminology!

The Complete Poetic Glossary

This glossary contains all the common poetic terms you expect to find in English poetry, plus some of the more obscure ones. Students, poets and interested readers of poetry should be able to find just what they're looking for here.

As a poet and student of poetry, I've longed for a glossary with examples from poems. I could never find a suitable one, so I created my own! I hope you'll find it useful, handy and comprehensive.

The list is alphabetical with examples, where appropriate, immediately below the entry.


abecedarian - words in a poem arranged in alphabetical order a b c d e f and so on.

accelerated - related to rhyme which speeds up in contrast to other lines in a poem.

  • in lines 3 and 4 of limericks, the rhyme helps speed up the poem.

accent - the emphasis or stress placed on a beat.

  • accentual metre - sometimes called strong-stress metre, it is the oldest type of metre, being found in the earliest known 'Hymn' written by Caedmon in the 7th century. Lines are divided by caesura and include alliteration. It was prevalent up to the 14th century when accentual-syllabic poetry began to be created, with emphasis on the foot.

acronym - a word formed from the initial letters of other words.

adjective - a part of speech that qualifies a noun.

adverb - a part of speech that qualifies a verb, adjective, another adverb, or a whole sentence.

Alcaic - a rare form of ode named after Alcaeus a Greek lyric poet.

alexandrine - an iambic hexameter, having six iambic feet.

  • Spenser's "The Faerie Queene" is written in stanzas of 8 iambic pentameters plus a hexameter or alexandrine.

alliteration - repeated consonants in two or more closely connected words.

allusion - an expression or reference to something without explicit mentioning; an indirect reference that brings something to mind.

amphibrach - a foot of three beats, the first and last unstressed, the middle stressed. (uxu)

  • Wilfred Owen in "Anthem For Doomed Youth", line 7: The shrill demented choirs of wailing shells.

amphimacer - a foot of three beats, the first and last stressed, the middle unstressed (xux)

anapaest - a foot of three beats, the first and second unstressed, the last stressed(uux)

  • In a limerick lines 3 and 4 will consist of two anapaests: In much less than an hour / Her garden did flower.

antibacchius - a foot of three beats, the first and second stressed, the last unstressed (xxu)

antiphonal - lines of verse that 'sound against' each other, as in call and response in church liturgy, for example.

antispast - a foot of four beats, the first and fourth unstressed, the second and third stressed (uxxu).

antistrophe - the second stanza of an ancient Greek or Pindaric ode. (For example, odes by Keats and Marvell.)

arch-rhyme - also known as chiasmic rhyme, mirror symmetry abba (e.g., Tennyson, "In Memoriam A.H.H.")

area - a term used by William Carlos Williams, who wanted an inclusive poetry free from neoclassical restraints.

assonance - the repeated similar sounds of vowels in words that are close together: now that brown cow in the farmyard soon will leap over the muckheap...

autorhyme - a word that rhymes with itself, repeated words or echoes (also known as "null rhyme")

  • T.S.Eliot in "The Waste Land" uses autorhyme:

There is shadow under this red rock,
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;

lines 25-29 (also at 62-3,162-3,347-56,414-21)


bacchius - a foot of three beats, the first unstressed and the last two stressed (uxx)

ballad - a narrative poem of a story most often encountered in quatrains with a refrain.

  • Wordsworth and Coleridge in Lyrical Ballads (1802)
  • Oscar Wilde in Ballad of Reading Gaol (1898)
  • Muriel Rukeyser in Ballad of Orange and Grape

ballade - a form of poem or song with a type of repeated lyric.

beat - a main accent, word or syllable bearing stress or unstress.

Beats - the Beat generation, based mostly on the West Coast of the USA, from the 1950s and 60s, influenced by writers such as poets Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso, novelists Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs.

blank verse - unrhymed poetry of iambic pentameter

  • Robert Frost's Mending Wall:

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends froze-ground-swell under it,
And spill the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.

bob-lines - very short lines that stand out within a verse or stanza. Often comic or melancholic.

  • John Betjeman's opening lines of "I.M. Walter Ramsden":

Dr Ramsden cannot read The Times obituary to-day
He's dead.
Let monographs on silk worms by other people be
Thrown away
For he who best could understand and criticize them, he
Lies clay
In bed.

broken-rhyme - when a word is split at the line end to enable rhyme.

  • In James Merrill's "Snow Jobs":

Like blizzards on a screen the scan-
dals thickened at a fearful rate,
Followed by laughter from a can
And hot air from the candidate.


cadence - a fall in pitch of the voice at the end of a phrase, line or sentence.

caesura - a forced or natural pause, short or long, often in the middle or near the middle of a line.

  • In Robert Lowell's "Skunk Hour":

I stand on top
of our back steps and breathe the rich air–
a mother skunk with her column of kittens swills the garbage pail.
She jabs her wedge-head in a cup
of sour cream, drops her ostrich tail,
and will not scare.

canto - one of the sections of a longer poem.

catalectic - of a metrical line of verse, missing one or more beats, usually unstressed at the beginning or end of a line.

chain-rhyme - the continuation from one stanza to another of one or more rhyme sounds as in Spenser's sonnets and terza rima.

chiasmus, chiasmic - an arrangement of words or clauses that are mirrored or diagonally symmetrical.

choriamb, choriambus - a metrical foot of four beats, the first and fourth stressed, the second and third unstressed. (xuux)

cinquain - a syllabic form invented by Adelaide Crapsey involving five-line stanzas.

clause - a unit of syntax larger than a word or phrase. A sentence may have only one clause (e.g., "She stands up"), but often there are several.

clerihew - a short nonsensical or comic verse named after its inventor Edmund Clerihew Bentley (1875-1956). Two rhyming couplets of unequal length (aabb) make a clerihew, the first line of which is often someone's name. Lines 2-4 should comment on the subject name.

  • Edmund Bentley's own clerihew:

when Charles the Second

was no hero.
He fiddled at home,
up in flames went Rome.

closed - refers to a couplet with the second line end-stopped as found in the major poems of Dryden and Pope.

common metre - or ballad metre, an iambic quatrain abcb.

  • The traditional ballad "Sir Patrick Spens" has two lines of 8 beats and two of 6:

The King sits in Dunfermline town,
Drinking the blood-red wine;
'O where will I get good sailors,
To sail this ship of mine?'

concrete poetry - poetry in which a poem's shape or visual identity conveys meaning, the pattern of the words forming a picture or representation. Also called shape poetry.

  • George Herbert's "Easter Wings" (1633) is a famous shape poem.

confessional poetry - a poetry of a personal nature using the 'I' as the real focal point. It grew in strength in the 1950s and peaked in the 1960s. Exponents of the genre include Robert Lowell, John Berryman, W.D. Snodgrass, Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath.

couplet - a stanza of two lines with or without rhyme, open or closed with end stops.

  • Tony Harrison, the British poet, from "A Kumquat for John Keats":

Whole, straight off the tree, sweet pulp and sour skin—
or was it sweet outside, and sour within?
For however many kumquats that I eat
I'm not sure if it's flesh or rind that's sweet.

cross-rhyme - double rhymes that alternate abab.

curtal sonnet - devised by Gerard Manley Hopkins, an abridged sonnet of 10 lines.

  • For example, his sonnet "Pied Beauty"


dactyl, dactylic - a metrical foot of 3 beats, the first stressed, the second and third unstressed. (xuu)

diamb - a foot of four beats the first and third unstressed, the second and fourth stressed.

diction - the choice of words in speech and writing. In poetry, diction is restricted by rhyme, form and metre.

dimeter - a line of two feet (as in the 3rd and 4th lines of a limerick, for example).

dispondee - a foot of four beats, all stressed. (xxxx)

ditrochee - a foot of four beats, the first and third stressed, the second and fourth unstressed. (xuxu)

douzaine - a 12-line stanza, often found in canzoni (65-line Italian 'song' poem).


echo verse - when the last syllables of certain lines repeat, often with changed meaning.

eclogue - poems of pleasant, pastoral places, as written by Virgil.

ecphrasis (ekphrasis) - a Greek word meaning a literary representation of a visual work or art. For example:

  • William Carlos Williams - Landscape with the Fall of Icarus
  • W.H.Auden - Musee des Beaux Arts

Both these poems are based on Pieter Bruegel's painting Landscape with the Fall of Icarus (1560?).

effusion - spontaneous, unrestrained outpourings.

eisthesis - indentation of a line or lines by one or more spaces from the left margin.

ekthesis - the setting of a line or lines right up to the left margin.

elegy - a poem lamenting the dead, mourning for the deceased or loss of something or someone.

  • Greek and Roman elegies tend to be of couplets (of dactylic hexameters and a pentameter)
  • Thomas Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard"
  • John Donne's "Elegy XIX"

end-rhyme - rhyming words that end lines.

end-stopped - the opposite of enjambment—lines that end in a full stop—punctuation ends the sense of the line.

enjambment - lines that are not end-stopped but continue with sense onto the next line (couplet, stanza)

  • Robert Frost in "The Gift Outright" (lines 8,9):

Something we were withholding made us weak
Until we found out that it was ourselves
We were withholding from our land of living,

epic - long narrative poems in the classical mode that deal with national heroes, legendary figures, events or exploits of a race or tribe. For example:

  • Beowulf
  • Homer's Iliad

epithalamion - a poem that celebrates a wedding, often a lyric ode.

  • Edmund Spenser's "Epithalamion"

epitrite - a foot of four beats, only one of which is unstressed - first (uxxx) second(xuxx), third(xxux) and fourth(xxxu) epitrites depending on the position of the unstressed beat.

epyllion - a shorter epic narrative poem (also called a minor epic):

  • William Shakespeare's "Venus and Adonis"
  • Christopher Marlowe's "Hero and Leander"


falling rhythm - occurs when unstressed beats follow stressed beats, as with trochees and dactyls. The voice falls away when the lines are read.

feminine - when a line ending has an unstressed hypermetric beat; also an unstressed rhyme.

  • For example, in the words pillow and willow.

foot - a metrical unit of unstressed and/or stressed syllables or beats in a line.

  • ranges from monometer to octameter
  • this rare poem by Robert Herrick is in iambic monometer:

'Upon His Departure Hence'

Thus I
Pass by
And die,
As one,
And gone:
I'm made
A shade,
And laid
I'th grave,
There have
My cave.
Where tell
I dwell,

found poetry - a 20th-century invention inspired by prose poems whereby a poem is formed from found texts, the source of which could be newspapers, advertisements, novels and other printed matter. These are then modified according to the poet's needs.

  • Alan Brownjohn's "Common Sense" (1989)

fourteeners - couplets in iambic heptameter, containing 14 syllables.

  • Rudyard Kipling's "Tommy" (1890)

free rhyme - rhyme that is inconsistent, without a regular pattern. Sometimes called occasional or random rhyme.

  • Sylvia Plath's "Daddy" and "Lady Lazarus"
  • T.S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"

free verse - also known as open form poems or vers libre, free verse is poetry without traditional structures of rhyme, rhythm and metre.

full-rhyme - often called perfect or true rhyme, occurs when two or more words share the same last stressed vowel and following sounds.

  • Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky":

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.


Georgic - relating to didactic poems on pastoral themes as originally written by the Roman poet Virgil.


haiku - a Japanese form of three lines, traditionally with 17 syllables (5,7,5) in total but can vary. Pure haiku offer observations from the natural world together with philosophical insights.

  • Richard Wright's "Haiku: This Other World"
  • Richard Wilbur's "Zea"

half-rhyme - (also known as near, off or slant rhyme) between words that have identical last stressed vowels and all following sounds. Half-rhymes add dissonance and uncertainty.

hemistich - a half-line, typically held by alliteration or rhythm.

heptameter - a line of 7 feet.

heptet - a stanza of 7 lines.

heroic - a special form in iambic pentameter.

hetereometric - with stanzas, lines of varying length.

hexameter - a line of 6 feet.

Hudibrastic - of rhyme, invoking humour and a comic element, derived from Samuel Butler's long comic poem Hudibras.

hyperbeats - extra beats in a line, either stressed or unstressed.

  • William Shakespeare's Hamlet:

To be, / or not / to be, / that is / the question. (4th foot is a trochee, others iambic except the fifth foot which has that extra unstressed syllable.)


iamb, iambic - a foot of 2 beats, unstressed followed by stressed. (ux)

ictus - a stressed beat of a foot.

identical rhyme - (rime riche) words identical in sound and spelling:

  • town/town
  • some/sum

imperfect rhyme - all other rhyme other than rime riche and full rhyme.

ionic majore - a foot of four beats, first two stressed (xxuu)

ionic minore - a foot of four beats, first two unstressed (uuxx)

isometric - lines of constant length within a stanza.


LANGUAGE poetry - poetry of a new movement that emerged in New York and San Francisco in the 1970s. Exponents included Lynn Hejinan, Perelman and Ron Silliman. This poetry seeks to form bodies of language that may not have conventional or understandable meaning.

leonine rhyme - exists between words before caesura and at the end of the same line.

  • Charles Causley's "Christ at the Cheesewring":

As I walked on the wicked moor
Where seven smashed stones lie
I met a man with a skin of tan
And an emerald in his eye.

  • See also T.S. Eliot's "Skimbleshanks" (from Old Possum's Book of Cats)

light verse - comic or humorous verse, often in lyrical form.

limerick - a five-line poem made famous by Edward Lear. Limericks are anapaestic pentains, one or more lines being catalectic.

lineation - of lines, when they are formed into stanzas and poems.

  • from Walt Whitman's "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry":

The impalpable sustenance of me from all things at all hours of the

The simple, compact, well-join'd scheme, myself disintegrated, every
one disintegrated yet part of the scheme,

line-break - occurs when one line moves onto the next.

long metre - a quatrain, single rhymed (abcb), in iambic tetrameter.

lyric - originally a song from ancient Greece (played on the lyre, hence lyric) but now applies to most short, classical non-narrative/dramatic poems.

M, N

medial - at or near the middle of a line or lines.

Metaphysical - refers to the poetry of the late 16th century and early 17th century, typically with complex stanzas and philosophical arguments.

mock-epic - traditionally a satiric or comic poem disguised as an epic for reasons of mockery.

  • Pope's "The Rape of the Lock"

Modernism - denotes modernist poetry which emerged around 1910, championed by Ezra Pound ("make it new"), T.S. Eliot, and others. Late modern period developed in the 1950s and post-modern poetry arrived in the 1960s.

molossus - a foot of 3 beats, all stressed. (xxx)

monometer - a line of 3 feet.

monorhyme - when all lines rhyme aaaa.

  • John Updike's "I Missed His Book":

Though authors are a dreadful clan
To be avoided if you can,
I'd like to meet the Indian,
M. Anantanarayanan.

near-rhyme - same as half-rhyme.

New York school - a group of young poets living and working in New York in the 1950s and 1960s, including Frank O'Hara, John Ashbery, Kenneth Koch and James Schuyler.

nonsense poetry - absurd, whimsical, fantasy poetry with made-up words and little straight narrative.

  • Edward Lear's Nonsense Songs (1871)
  • Lewis Carroll's "The Hunting of the Snark" (1876)

null rhyme - autorhyme.


objective correlative - an intellectual term created by T.S. Eliot in his famous 1919 essay on Hamlet: "The only way of expressing emotion in the form of art is by finding an objective correlative; in other words, a set of objects, a situation, a chain of events which shall be the formula of that particular emotion; such that when the external facts, which must terminate in sensory experience, are given, the emotion is immediately invoked.'

octameter - a line of 8 feet.

octave - the first 8 lines of a Petrarchan sonnet rhyming abbaabba.

octet - a stanza of 8 lines.

ode - a formal poem, differing in length and form but generally a long, lyric poem addressing a definite object or event. There are Alcaic, Sapphic, Pindaric and Horatian odes.

  • John Dryden's "A Song For St Cecilia's Day"
  • James Tate's "Ode to the Confederate Dead"
  • Robert Lowell's "The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket"

Onegin stanza - created by Aleksandr Pushkin for Eugene Onegin. It has 14 lines of iambic tetrameter, rhyming ababccddeffegg

open - variable form; a line is open when typically in a couplet, the 2nd line is enjambed to 1st line of next couplet.

ottava rima - an 8-line stanza, iambic pentameter rhyming abababcc

  • W.B. Yeats's "The Circus Animals' Desertion"
  • Lord Byron's "Don Juan"


paeon - a foot of 4 beats, only one stressed. Depending on the stress there are different paeons: 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th.

pantoum (pantun) - originally from Malaya, entering English poetry from France. It has a specific rhyme scheme: abab/bcbc repeated, using 2 lines from each in the next quatrain.

  • Donald Justice's "Pantoum of the Great Depression"
  • Greg Williamson's "New Year's: A Short Pantoum"
  • John Ashbery's "Pantoum"
  • Kumin's "Pantoum, with Swan"

pararhyme - words with identical sounds following the last stressed vowel. For example lust/lost, splendour/winter

  • Wilfred Owen's "Strange Meeting"

parody - a work that mocks or parodies another piece of work.

pastiche - a work that mocks the style of other works.

pastoral - a genre usually relating to idyllic rural life or rustic life with its pleasures and issues. (See also urban pastoral).

  • Andrew Marvell's "The Mower"
  • Christopher Marlowe's "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love"

pathetic fallacy - when emotions are applied to something non-human in the environment, for example, the weather. Often confused with personification.

  • Robert Browning's "Porphyria's Lover"

pentain - a stanza of 5 lines.

  • Randell Jarrell's "The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner"

pentameter - a line of 5 feet. The most commonly found in English poetry, from the 14th century to the present day.

  • Geoffrey Chaucer's "The Prologue to Canterbury Tales"
  • Geoffrey Hill's "Lachrimae"
  • Gertrude Schnakenberg's "Supernatural Love"

personification - when an inanimate object is given human traits or attributes. For example, "the trees were sad and sighing in the breeze."

Petrarchan - a special sonnet with an octave rhyming abbaabba and a sestet cdecde.

Pindaric - of an ode that has 3 stanzas of a definite form.

  • see work by Ben Johnson, John Dryden, Thomas Gray and William Wordsworth.

portmanteau - a word invented by merging two or more known words, for example, "contagerous," "gregulent," "gregaria," "telematic."

prose-poem - a poem posing as prose or vice versa, where line breaks and other spatial elements are absent. Prose poetry first arose with the French poets Baudelaire and Rimbaud and moved across to the USA and where poets like W.C. Williams were inspired. In later decades Robert Bly, John Ashbery and Bernstein used the idea.

prosody - the study and notation of metre.

prothalamion - a poem that anticipates the celebration of a wedding.

pyrrhic - a foot of 2 unstressed beats. (uu)


quadruple - 4 beats in any foot.

qualitative - with reference to metre, based on stress patterns.

quantitative - with reference to metre, based on vowel length.

quatrain - a stanza of 4 lines. Examples include:

  • T.S. Eliot's "The Wasteland" (Part III)
  • Christina Rossetti's "The Woodspurge"
  • Robert Frost's "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"
  • Alfred Tennyson's "In Memoriam A.H.H."
  • Thom Gunn's "The Missing"
  • Seamus Heaney's "The Skunk"


renga - sequences of haiku linked by 14 syllable couplets.

rhyme royal - a 7-line iambic pentameter stanza rhyming ababbcc

  • Geoffrey Chaucer's "Troilus and Criseide"
  • Thomas Wyatt's "They Flee From Me"
  • W.H. Auden's "The Shield of Achilles"

rhyme scheme - the rhyme pattern within a poem or stanza, notated alphabetically abcdabcd, etc.

rising rhythm - occurs in lines when stressed beats follow unstressed beats.

rocking lineation - occurs when counterpoint is produced, often by caesura placed in 2 or more successive lines.

  • William Wordsworth's "The Prelude":

Dust as we are, the immortal spirit grows
Like harmony in music; there is a dark
Inscrutable workmanship that reconciles
Discordant elements, makes them cling together
In one society.

rubai/yat - a Persian quatrain form, aaba, as seen in Fitzgerald's Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.

  • Edward Fitzgerald's The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam of Naishapur:

Wake! For the Sun, who scattered into flight
The Stars before him from the Field of Night,
Drives Night along with them from Heav'n, and strikes
The Sultan's Turret with a Shaft of Light.


Sapphic - of an ode, mostly dactylic, rare in English. See work by Philip Sidney, Alfred Tennyson and Ezra Pound among others.

scansion - the analysis of the metrical patterns within a poem or stanza or line.

semantic rhyme - between words of similar meaning, for example, jeer/sneer, love/give, rough/tough.

sestet - a stanza of 6 lines.

sestina - a poem of 39 lines in 6 sestets and a tercet envoi, each ending with one of 6 words in sequence abcdef faebdc cfdabc ecb fad deacfb bdfeca eca (or ace). All 6 end words of sequence are to be used in the envoi.

  • Elizabeth Bishop's "Sestina"

Shakespearean - of sonnets, rhyming ababcdcdefefgg

shape-poem - with a visual shape in print see also concrete poem.

Sicilian stanza - a cross-rhymed octet rhyming abababab

slant rhyme - half-rhyme.

sonnet - conventionally and commonly a 14-line poem with a definite rhyme scheme in iambic pentameter, but can vary.

Originally from Italy and introduced into England by Sir Thomas Wyatt in the early 16th century. There are 3 basic types:

  • Italian or Petrarchan - abbaabba cdecde
  • Shakespearean - ababcdcdefef gg
  • Spenserian - ababbcbccdcd ee

spondee - a foot of 2 stressed beats.

sprung rhythm - a term created by Gerard Manley Hopkins to describe his metrical practice which was based on Old or Middle English lines of accent, with heavy alliteration. Dissatisfied with gentle mainstream rhyming verse he sought a more challenging metre to reflect his spiritual struggles.

stanza - a group of lines of varied form and possible rhyme scheme, several of which go to make up a complete poem.

  • Spenserian stanza - 8 iambic pentameters plus a hexameter rhyming ababbcbcc.

stichic - a sequence of individual lines, as opposed to stanzaic lines.

stressed - of beats, within a line or stanza, to be spoken emphatically.

syllabic - in relation to a certain number of syllables in each line.

  • syllabic metre - when only the syllables are measured in any line with no regard to stress, as found in Romance language poetry such as French and Italian. (See accentual metre.)

synecdoche - when a part of something is named instead of the whole.

syntax - the relations between words and clauses, within or without a framework of rules.

  • e.e. cummings's "Spring is like a perhaps hand"
  • Kenneth Koch's "Permanently":

One day the Nouns were clustered in the street.
An adjective walked by, with her dark beauty.
The Nouns were struck, moved, changed.
The next day a Verb drove up, and created the Sentence.


Tennysonian stanza - an arch-rhymed quatrain in iambic tetrameter

  • See "In Memoriam A.H.H."

tercet - a stanza or unit of 3 lines in which one or more does not rhyme with the others.

  • Dante's The Divine Comedy
  • Shelley's "Ode to the West Wind"
  • W.C. Williams's "Asphodel, That Greeny Flower" (blank tercets)

terza rima - a succession of tercets that rhyme aba bcb cdc ded, etc.

tetrameter - a line of 4 feet.

tornada - the envoi of a sestina or canzone.

triadic line - a name for the tercet invented by W.C. Williams (also known as the step down line)

tribrach - a foot of 3 beats, all unstressed. (uuu)

trimester - a line of 3 feet.

triolet - an octet with lines I and II repeated abaaabab

  • W.E.Henley Easy is the triolet
  • Wendy Cope Valentine

triple - a foot having 3 beats.

triplet - a stanza or unit of 3 lines, all rhyming aaa.

  • Gjertrud Schnackenberg's "Supernatural Love":

My father at the dictionary stand
Touches the page to fully understand
The lamplit answer, titling in his hand.

trochee - a foot of 2 beats, one stressed followed by unstressed. (xu)


unstressed - of beats, spoken softly or unemphatically, often more rapidly with voice pitched lower.

urban pastoral - in contrast to pastoral, a modern term for the urban landscape poem, relating to sociology and mindset.

  • John Betjeman's "Death in Leamington"
  • Philip Larkin's "The Whitsun Weddings"
  • Rita Dove's "The Bistro Styx"


variable foot - related to the work of W.C. Williams and his free verse scansion.

verse - synonymous with poetry but distinct in that it refers to a line or unit, metrically created.

versicle - a little verse or single line.

villanelle - 19 lines in iambic pentameter aba aba aba aba aba abaa (5 tercets and a quatrain)

vowel-rhyme - between words with last stressed vowels identical but following sounds differ, for example, bite/fire courage/bunker


wrenched accent - occurs when requirements of metrical stress prevail over the natural stress of a word or words.


zeugma - when a single verb governs several parallel words or clauses.

  • Alexander Pope's "The Rape of the Lock":

"Gainst Pallas, Mars; Latona, Hermes arms,"

I hope you find this poetic glossary useful and that it helps guide you deeper into the often complex world of poetry. Please feel free to leave comments - if you discover other terms that may be of use to others I would like to know!


Norton Anthology of Poetry, Norton, 2005

The Poetry Handbook by John Lennard, OUP, 2005

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2015 Andrew Spacey


Verlie Burroughs from Canada on January 16, 2018:

Andrew thanks so much for this valuable page. I thought I had commented weeks ago, but I guess not.

Andrew Spacey (author) from Sheffield, UK on July 22, 2015:

Many thanks for the visit, much appreciated. I'm glad you found this glossary useful. And extra thanks for the share.

Arun Dev from United Countries of the World on July 22, 2015:

This is very useful! Thanks for sharing the info! Voted up!

Andrew Spacey (author) from Sheffield, UK on May 26, 2015:

Thank you for the visit Glynis, I hope this glossary can help you pass the Bard of Avon's exam!

Glen Rix from UK on May 25, 2015:

Frighteningly comprehensive for someone about to be examined on Shakespeare's texts! Quite a few that I have never heard before. Thank you.

Andrew Spacey (author) from Sheffield, UK on April 30, 2015:

Thank you for the supportive comment Chitrangada. I worked hard on this glossary but still don't think it's finished!!

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on April 30, 2015:

This is so very useful and informative hub about poetic terms.

Honestly some of the terms I did not know at all.

Thanks for sharing, voted up and pinned!

Andrew Spacey (author) from Sheffield, UK on April 29, 2015:

I appreciate your visit Jamie. This hub took me a long time to compile!

Andrew Spacey (author) from Sheffield, UK on April 29, 2015:

Thanks for the visit Lee. I've wanted to compile my own glossary for years - glad you found it useful. Yes, this glossary took a good few hours to put together.

Jamie Lee Hamann from Reno NV on April 28, 2015:

Awesome and useful and all things nice. :D Jamie

Lee Cloak on April 28, 2015:

Thats a serious hub Andrew, full of very interesting info, thanks for sharing, voted up, Lee