A Glossary of Poetic Vocabulary Terms for Children
Poetry has a lot of terms with special meanings. This poetry dictionary for kids lists the most common poetic terms that kids might encounter, along with their definitions. If you need a more extensive poetry dictionary, I recommend the Poetry Foundation’s Glossary of Poetic Terms.
The emphasis placed on some syllables in words more than others. For example, the word “apple” has two syllables, and the accent is on the first syllable, so it is pronounced “AP-pull.” “Banana,” on the other hand, has three syllables, with the accent on the second syllable, so it is pronounced “buh-NA-nuh.”
Repeating the consonant sounds at the beginnings of nearby words, such as the “p” sound in the words “My puppy makes pizza” in the poem My Puppy Makes Pizza. See Alliteration and Assonance Lesson Plan.
A word or phrase created by rearranging the letters of another word or phrase. For example, “notes” is an anagram of “stone.” See the poem Anna Graham for many more examples of anagrams.
A word that has the opposite meaning of another word. For example, “dark” is an antonym of “light.” See also Synonym.
Repeating the vowel sounds in the stressed, or accented, syllables in nearby words. For example, in the phrase “flying kites” the repeated long “i” sound are assonant. See Alliteration and Assonance Lesson Plan.
A rhyme of two words that are next to one another or close to one another, such as “Humpty Dumpty,” tighty-whitey,” “fat cat,” or “fair and square.” Not to be confused with Near Rhyme. See List of Words and Phrases that Rhyme with Themselves.
A poem in which the meaning is conveyed by the placement and design of the words on the page instead of, or in addition to, the usual arrangement of words. Also sometimes called a “shape poem” or “visual poem.” See How to Write a Concrete or “Shape” Poem.
The repetition of consonant sounds within nearby words, especially the consonant sounds at the ends of words, as in “a stroke of luck” or “a bite to eat.”
A rhyme where the stress is on the second-to-last syllable of the words, and the end sounds are the same, starting with the vowel of the stressed syllables. Some examples are batter / fatter, ocean / lotion, and camping / stamping. Double rhymes and triple rhymes are also called “feminine rhymes.” See How to Rhyme.
A short poem written about someone who has died, often inscribed on the headstone of their grave. Epitaphs usually praise the person, and are sometimes humorous.
To overstate something; to claim that it is bigger, better, faster, smellier, etc. than is actually true. When Larry Made Lasagna is an example of a exaggeration poem. See How to Write an Exaggeration Poem. See also Hyperbole.
In poetry, a group of two or more syllables, one of which is stressed. Metrical poems are often written in feet with the same number of syllables with the stress in the same place in each foot. For example, the line “My puppy punched me in the eye” is made up of four feet, each with the stress on the second syllable, as in “my PUP | py PUNCHED | me IN | the EYE.” The most common poetic feet are two or three syllables long. See Rhythm in Poetry – The Basics.
Most commonly, an end rhyme where the lines are written in an unnatural manner in order to “force” the words to rhyme. A forced rhyme may also be a near rhyme, wrenched rhyme, or a line where irrelevant or unnecessary information is added to the poem for the sake of making lines rhyme. See Forced Rhymes and How to Avoid Them.
A “type” of poem, written by following a set of rules such as the number of lines or syllables, the placement of rhymes, etc.. Common poetic forms include acrostic, cinquain, free verse, haiku, etc. See Poetry Lessons for Kids to learn how to write many different poetic forms.
A poetic form that avoids using fixed patterns of meter. Free verse often also avoids rhymes, but still may make use of other poetic techniques such as imagery and metaphor, as well as sound devices such as assonance and alliteration.
A word that has the same spelling and sound as another word, but a different meaning. For example “fine” (an adjective meaning nice) and “fine” (a noun meaning money you have to pay as a punishment) are homonyms.
Pronounced “hi-PER-buh-lee.” A extreme and obvious exaggeration, not meant to be believed or taken literally. For example, “he has million-dollar hair” or “this test is taking forever.” See How to Write an Exaggeration Poem.
Language and poetic techniques used to appeal to the reader’s senses (sight, sound, smell, etc.) to create mental pictures and cause emotions in the reader. See also Onomatopoeia.
Poetry that is intended to be humorous, amusing, or entertaining. While there is some light verse written in free verse, most light verse is written in rhyme and meter. There are also many light-verse poetic forms, such as limericks, clerihews, double-dactyls, etc.
A poem that contains a list of things, people, places, etc. See How to Write a Funny List Poem.
A single rhyme.
A figure of speech, where a thing is described as being something else in order to suggest a similarity between the two. For example, “The cat was a rag doll in my arms” or “Nature wore its winter robe.”
A poem that tells a story. Narrative poems usually have a plot and one or more characters.
Also called a “slant rhyme” or a “half rhyme,” “near rhyme” is a general term describing words that sound similar, but aren’t a perfect rhyme. Assonance, consonance and sight rhymes are common types of near rhymes. See also Assonance and Alliteration Lesson Plan.
A form of light verse, usually rhymed and metrical, often with strange characters, fantastic or impossible situations, and made-up words. Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky and Edward Lear’s The Owl and the Pussycat are famous examples of nonsense poetry.
A short, rhyming poem for young children, often telling a short story or describing an interesting character. The most well-known nursery rhymes in the English language are those attributed to Mother Goose. See How to Write a Traditional Nursery Rhyme and How to Write a Fractured Nursery Rhyme.
A poem written to commemorate a specific occasion or event, such as a birthday, wedding, funeral, anniversary, graduation, military victory, etc.
A word whose sound is similar to the thing or action it refers to, such as “buzz” or “hiss.” See How to Write an Onomatopoeia Poem, List of Rhyming Onomatopoetic Words and Onomatopoeia Poetry Lesson Plan.
A poem written in the style of another poem, usually humorous. Parodies usually assume the reader is familiar with the original work. For example, the poem “Let Me Out of the Classroom” by Kenn Nesbitt is a parody of the song “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”
Two words that have exactly the same vowel and consonant sounds at the ends, starting with the first vowel of the last stressed syllable. For example, green/bean, dummy/tummy, and cavity/gravity are all perfect rhymes. Note that the first consonant sound of the last stressed syllable must be different. For example leaf/belief is not a perfect rhyme because the final stressed syllable of each word begins with the same consonant “l” sound. See also: Near Rhyme, Assonance, and Consonance.
Giving human characteristics to non-human things, such as animals, inanimate objects, or ideas. For example, “The sun smiled down on the beach” or, “The trees waved at the birds flying by.”
Ordinary writing or spoken language, usually written in sentences and paragraphs, as opposed to rhythmical lines.
A “play on words,” usually using homophones or homonyms, where a word or phrase has multiple meanings. For example, “Six was afraid of Seven because Seven ate Nine.” This is a pun because the word “ate” sounds like “eight.”
Having the same sound at the end of two or more words such as pine / fine, nickel / pickle, and ability / fragility. See also Perfect Rhyme, Near Rhyme, Wrenched Rhyme, and How to Rhyme Video Lesson Plan.
Same as accent.
The main idea of a poem, or what the poem is about. For example, Basketball Is Lots of Fun is a poem about basketball, so basketball is the subject.
A part of a word, usually a vowel and it’s surrounding consonants, that makes a single sound when spoken. All words have at least one syllable. For example, cat, I, and would are all one syllable long because they are spoken with a single movement of the mouth. Cattle, eyeball, and wouldn’t are all two syllables because they require two separate sounds to be spoken.
A word that has the same, or nearly the same, meaning as another word. See also Antonym.
A 5-line, 31-syllable unrhymed traditional Japanese poetic form, with five syllables on the first and third lines, and seven syllables on the second, fourth, and fifth lines. See also How to Write a Tanka Poem.
The main idea or point of a poem. The theme is different than the subject or topic of the poem. The subject is what the poem is about, while the theme is what the poem means. For example, in the poem “We Ate all the Cheetos,” the subject of the poem is eating tasty foods, but the theme of the poem is that it can be hard to eat healthy foods.
Same a subject.
A rhyme in which the third-to-last syllable in the words final stressed syllable. For example, cavity / gravity, hammering / stammering, and nobility / agility are all triple rhymes. Double rhymes and triple rhymes are also called “feminine rhymes.” See How to Rhyme.
Rhyming the final syllables of two words, where one is stressed and the other is not. For example the words “sing” and “morning” are a wrenched rhyme because “sing” is stressed on the final (and only) syllable, but “morning” is stressed on the second-to-last syllable. Other examples include tin/imagine, frog/catalog, etc. See also Perfect Rhyme.