Literary Terms

D - G

     All this tries to do is to give a brief glossary of terms. These are mostly those that have been used elsewhere on this part of the site, but some others have been added.

     I have deliberately excluded many that seem to me to be insignificant or pointless and have been arbitrary in my judgements. There is no pretence to be comprehensive.

      This page covers D - G alphabetically. Click below for other entries.


Dactyl: A foot comprising a stressed syllable followed by two unstressed syllables. See metre

Débat: A poem that uses two distinct voices. In former times (the term dates from the 12c), it was literally a 'debate' between two opposing principles; now it is used more freely.

Device: Any literary technique aimed at creating a particular effect.

Dissonance: Harshness between sounds in a poem.

Distych: A pair of lines from a poem, normally complete in themselves.

Doggerel: Clumsy verse, usually with a monotonous metre, and giving a 'dit da dit da dit da dit da' effect.

Double rhyme: A rhyme on two syllables, as with 'brightness/tightness'.

Dub poetry: Another name for rap, which had its origins c1970 in Jamaican Reggae music.




Elegy: An elaborately formal poem, reflecting upon a solemn subject.

Elision: The softening of a vowel sound, so that one word runs into the next. Often used to fit the words into the required number of syllables for the metre. Syncope is the word often used in poetry, and strictly speaking can signify the omission of any letter, as with 'o'er' which once used to be common.

End rhyme: What people sometimes think is the only 'proper' form of rhyme.

Enjambement: The running over in sense from one line to the next.

Envoi: The half-stanza used to complete various French forms like the Ballade and the Chant Royal.

Epic: A long narrative poem about the deeds of some god or hero, like Beowulf or the Iliad.


Epigram: A short piece of verse marking a memorable or witty thought.

Euphony: A pleasing sound in poetry. The opposite of cacophony.

Extempore: Oral poetry or other work at least partly composed on the spot.

Eye rhyme: Sometimes also called printer's rhyme These are words that look as if they properly rhyme (like love/prove) but don't when they're spoken.


Feminine rhyme: A double rhyme on two syllables. The first is stressed and the second unstressed, e.g. father/rather. Note that the two rhyming syllables do not have to be in the same word. 'Disgrace/this place', for instance, as used in the example of the Pushkin Sonnet appearing on this website is a perfectly valid usage. Feminine rhyme can often be used to good effect in light or comic verse.

Figurative language: This is very often employed in poetry. All that is is any kind of non-literal expression.

Flyting: A 'combat' in verse between two poets.

Foot: The group of syllables that are taken as the standard unit in poetry. See Metre

Form: This has a variety of meanings. Commonly in European poetry it is taken to mean the specific combination of metrical device, rhyme scheme, and other poetic device used to make up one of the fixed forms.

Found poem: The quoting at length of an extract that has literally been 'found', usually in some leaflet, advertisement, or non-literary prose.

Free Verse: See Vers Libre


Georgian poetry: Strictly, any verse published during the reign of King George V (1910-1936). More specifically, the term refers to that traditionalist and mainly pastoral poetry of Walter de la Mere, John Masefield, WH Davies and others written during the first part of his reign. Now the term is usually used pejoratively. We are still seeing a reaction the fashion of that time today