GCSE English Language Revision: Basic Literary Terms: A-J

4th April 2017

GCSE English Language and Literature Revision

Basic Literary Terms: A-J 

'Literary term’ is the overarching description for the words used specifically in English literature and language writing. Consider these words in a dictionary of their own, which you can use to describe and give meaning to what you read. They help us to explain the techniques used in poetry, literature and in non-fiction writing.


An ADJECTIVE is a word that describes another.

e.g. a wooden door, a stylish table or a little sister


An ALLUSION is an indirect refrence to some piece of knowledge without mentioning it. The author presumes that the reader will understand the connection  between the two.

e.g. ‘he’s a real Einstein’ ‘or ‘his nose grew like Pinocchio’s’


ASSONANCE is when you use words with the same vowel sound.

Like easy and breezy.


An ANTAGONIST is the character who opposes the PROTAGONIST.


The PROTAGONIST is the main character, like Cleopatra the queen of the Egyptians.


A MINOR character will support these bigger players.


A STATIC character won't change much whilst DYNAMIC ones undergo important internal change because of action in the plot.


CHARACTERISATION is the way the writer creates the character’s personality.,The way they look and act, as well as the way they speak, gives them their uniqueness.


CONNOTATION refers to the ideas and images a word can give us.

e.g. ‘stormy’ We imagine a restless and potentially dangerous situation.


A FLASHBACK is a term to describe a scene that happened earlier in the story.


HYPERBOLE is a term to exaggerate something.

e.g instead of ‘I slipped down a ditch’ ‘I tumbled down into a quarry!’


IMAGERY is created by the descriptive language used to appeal to our senses and imagination.

e.g. ‘The smell of perfume hung on the air long after she had danced past me, clicking her high heels on the pavement.’


IRONY is when something is the opposite of what the character is saying or would need or desire.

e.g.‘I’m so glad that everyone forgot my birthday, I hate gifts'.


JUXTAPOSITION is when two opposite things are side by side to highlight their difference.

e.g.  'a feast and a famine', 'a stretch limousine and a scruffy stained man getting out.'




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