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A glossary of common poetic terms.

A list of definitions of terms useful for writing or discussing poetry. Includes alliteration, assonance, end-stopped, enjambment, foot, free verse, metaphor, meter, nonce form, prose poem, rhyme, scansion, sestina, simile, sonnet, stanza, stress, tone, villanelle, and more.

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Alliteration: repetition of an individual sound at the start of multiple words, as in the lines "The fair breeze flew, the white foam flew, / The furrow followed free" from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

Assonance: repetition of vowel sounds; "doomed moon food."

End-stopped: a poetic line ending with any punctuation that causes a pause when read aloud.

Enjambment: a poetic line which continues into the next without final punctuation.

Foot: the traditional base unit of accentual-syllabic meter, usually made up of two to four syllables. In scansion, they are separated by a single vertical line. Each type of foot, or arrangement of stressed and unstressed syllables, has its own name.

Name of foot /// Stress pattern

iamb /// unstressed, stressed
trochee /// stressed, unstressed
anapest /// unstressed, unstressed, stressed
dactyl /// stressed, unstressed, unstressed
spondee /// stressed, stressed
pyrrhic /// unstressed, unstressed

Free Verse: a poem without a palpably regular meter or rhyme scheme. Free verse poems do, however, often depend on the manipulation of rhythm and rhyme. See a discussion about free verse on pages 61-67: like most freedoms, it's a little more complicated than it ...