Literary terms are devices used to make writing better. These help the writer tell a story or make a point.
Alliteration is a literary term that means two or more words in a row that all start with the same sounds. For example:
- Three grey geese in a green field grazing, Grey were the geese and green was the grazing. – Three Grey Geese by Mother Goose
- Many mumbling mice are making midnight music in the moonlight. – Dr. Seuss’s ABC by Dr Seuss
- What kind of bug is in the rosy red rectangle box? A bright blue big-mouth bug. – More Bugs in Boxes by David Carter
- Two toucans tying ties, turtles tasting tea, and tigers trying trousers. – Faint Frogs Feeling Feverish and other terrifically tantalizing tongue twisters by Lilian Obligado
- Runk lives in rain barrels and eats raindrops, rusty rainbows – Zoophabets by Robert Tallon
Hyperbole is a literary term that refers to an exaggeration. Examples are:
- Well now, one winter it was so cold that all the geese flew backward and all the fish moved south and even the snow turned blue. – Babe, the Blue Ox
- It piled up to the ceiling.
It covered the floor.
It blocked the door.
It went down the hall.
It raised the roof – Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take The Garbage Out by Shel Silverstein
- They have yarns
Of a skyscraper so tall they had to put hinges
On the two top stories so to let the moon go by – Yarns of the People by Carl Sandburg
- There was an old woman tossed up in a blanket,
Seventeen times as high as the moon; – The Old Woman Tossed Up in a Blanket by Walter Crane
- There was a Young Lady whose nose,
Was so long that it reached to her toes;
So she hired an Old Lady,
Whose conduct was steady,
To carry that wonderful nose. – Book of Nonsense Limerick 41 by Edward Lear
Metaphor is a literary term for comparing two things directly. Examples are:
- The rain came down in long knitting needles. – National Velvet by Enid Bagnold
- Above the hills, along the blue,
Round the bright air with footing true,
To please the child, to paint the rose,
The gardener of the World, he goes. – Summer Sun by Robert Louis Stevenson
- I am the creamy white frost in vanilla ice cream
and the milky smooth brown in a chocolate bar
I am the midnight blue in a licorice stick
and the golden brown in sugar – Shades of Black: A Celebration of Our Children by Sandra L. Pinkney and Myles C. Pinkney,
- Eagle gliding in the sky,
circling, circling way up high—
wind is whistling through your wings.
You’re a graceful kite with no string. – Creatures from Earth, Sea, and Sky: Poems by Georgia Heard and Jennifer Owings Dewey
- Let the rain kiss you
Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops
Let the rain sing you a lullaby
The rain makes still pools on the sidewalk
The rain makes running pools in the gutter
The rain plays a little sleep song on our roof at night
And I love the rain. – April Rain Song by Langston Hughes
Onomatopoeia is a literary term used when a word imitates the sound it is describing. Examples are:
- Pitter, patter. Pit. Pit. Patter. Splitter, splatter, down comes the rain – Chicky Chicky Chook Chook by Cathy MacLennan
- Our washing machine went wishity whirr
Whisity whisity whisity whirr – Our Washing Machine by Patricia Hubbell
- Bow-wow, says the dog,
Mew, mew says the cat,
Grunt, grunt, goes the hog,
And squeak goes the rat. – Animals by Mother Goose
- When Pop drops pop-bottles
Pop mops slop! – Song of the Pop-Bottlers by Morris Bishop
- Susie’s galoshes
Make splishes and sploshes
And slooshes and sloshes
As Susie steps slowly along in the slush. – Galoshes by Rhonda Bacmeister
Personification is a literary term for giving human attributes to objects or animals. Examples are:
- Hey diddle, Diddle,
The cat and the fiddle,
The cow jumped over the moon;
The little dog laughed
To see such sport,
And the dish ran away with the spoon. – Mother Goose
- There’s a cat named Joe and you wouldn’t want to know
But he thinks he’d like to be a Hippopotamus…
Oh, it wouldn’t be so bad if he was certified as mad
But he’s not… he holds a normal conversation – A Cat Named Jo by Leighton B Watts
- My food loves to prance, to jump, to dance;
I wait for the time, I wait for the chance! – My Dinner Loves Dancing by L. John Riley Jr.
- In the book The House Takes a Vacation by Jacqueline Davies: When the family goes on vacation, the house decides to go on vacation, too.
- In Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White: The pig and the spider converse throughout the book.
If you are looking for ways to translate this information into the classroom, check out this Literary Terms lesson plan. YourDictionary also has a Literary Terms Worksheet as well as terms which would be particularly important for the seventh grade and the high school student.