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AP English Literature Key Words

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absolute
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a word free from limitations or qualifications
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adage
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a familiar proverb or wise saying
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ad hominem argument
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attacks an individuals’ character rather than his or her position on an issue
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allegory
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literary work in which characters, objects, or actions represent abstractions
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alliteration
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repetition of initial sounds in successive or neighboring words
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allusion
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reference to something literary, mythological, or historical that the author assumes the reader will recognize
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analogy
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comparison of two different things that are similar in some way
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anaphora
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repetition of words or phrases at the beginning of consecutive lines or sentences
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anecdote
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brief narrative that focuses on a particular incident or event
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antecedent
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word, phrase, or clause to which a pronoun refers
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antithesis
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statement in which two opposing ideas are balanced
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aphorism
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concise statement that expresses succinctly a general truth or idea, often using rhyme or balance
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apostrophe
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figure of speech in which one directly addresses an absent or imaginary person, or some abstraction
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archetype
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detail, image, or character type that occurs frequently in literature and myth and is thought to appeal in q universal way to the unconscious and to evoke a response
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argument
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statement of the meaning or main point of a literary work
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balanced sentence
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sentence in which words, phrases, or clauses are set off against each other to emphasize a contrast
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bathos
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insincere or overly sentimental quality of writing’speech intended to evoke pity
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chiasmus
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statement consisting of two parallel parts in which the second part is structurally reversed
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cliche
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expression that has been overused to the exxtent that its freshness has worn off
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climax
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point of highest interest in a literary work
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colloquialism
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informal words or expressions not usually acceptable in formal writing
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complex sentence
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sentence with one independent clause and at least one dependent clause
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compound sentence
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sentence with two or more coordinate independent clauses, often joined by one or more conjunctions
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conceit
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fanciful, particularly clever extended metaphor
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concrete details
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relate to or describe actual, specific things or events
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connotation
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implied or associative meaning of a word
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cumulative sentence
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main independent clause is elaborated by successive addition of modifying clauses of phrases
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declarative sentence
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makes a statement or declaration
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deductive reasoning
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a conclusion is reached by stating a general principle and then applying that principle to a specific case
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denotation
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literal meaning of a word
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dialect
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variety of speech characterized by its own particular grammar or pronunciation, often associate with a particular geographical region
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didactic
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having the primary purpose of teaching or instructing
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dilemma
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situation that requires a person to decide between two equally attractive or equally unattractive alternatives
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dissonance
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harsh, inharmonious, or discordant sounds
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elegy
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formal peom presenting a meditation on death or another solemn theme
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ellipsis
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omission of a word or phrase which is grammatically necessary but can be deduced from the context
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epic
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long narrative poem written in elevated style which presents the adventure of characters of high position and episodes that are important to the history of a race or nation
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epigram
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brief, pithy, and often paradoxical saying
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epigraph
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saying or statement on the title page of a work, or used as a heading for a chapter or other section of work
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epiphany
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moment of sudden revelation or insight
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epitaph
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inscription on a tombstone or burial place
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epithet
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used to point out a characeteristic of a person; homeric epithets are often compound adjectives that become an almost formulaic part of a name; epithets can be abusive or offensive but are not so by definition
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eulogy
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formal speech praising a person who has died
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euphemism
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indirect, less offensive way of saying something that is considered unpleasant
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exclamatory sentence
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expressing strong feeling, usually punctuated with an exclamation mark
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expletive
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interjection to lend emphasis; sometimes, a profanity
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fable
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brief story that leads to a moral, often using animals as characters
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fantasy
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story that concerns an unreal world or contains unreal characters; a fantasy may be merely whimsical, or it may present a serious point
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figurative language
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language employing one or more figures of speech
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flat character
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embodies a single quality and does not develop in the course of a story
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frame device
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story within a story
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homily
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sermon, moralistic lecture
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hubris
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excessive pride or arrogance that results in the downfall of the protagonist of a tragedy
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hyperbole
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intentional exaggeration to create an effect
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idiom
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expression in a given language that cannot be understood from the literal meaning of the words in the expression
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invective
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intensely vehement, highly emotional verbal attack
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limerick
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light verse consisting of five lines of regular rhythm in which the first, second, and fifth lines rhyme, and the second and third lines rhyme
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limited narrator
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presents story as it is seen and understood by a single character and restricts information to what is seen, heard, thought, or felt by that one character
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literary licvense
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deviating from normal rules or methods in order to achieve a certain effect
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littoes
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type of understatement in which an idea is expressed by negating its opposite
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malapropism
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mistaken substitution of one word for another word that sounds similar
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maxim
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concise statement, often offering advice; an adage
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metonymy
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substituting the name of object for another object closely associated with it
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motif
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standard theme, element, or dramatic situation that recurs in various works
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motivation
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character’s inventive or reason for behaving in a certain manner
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myth
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traditional story presenting supernatural characters and episodes that help explain natural events
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non sequitur
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inference that does not follow logically from the premises
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parable
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simple story that illustrates a moral lesson
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parenthetical
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comment that interrupts the immediate subject, often to qualify or explain
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pedantic
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characterized by an excessive display of learning or scholarship
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philippic
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strong verbal denunciation
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rhetoric
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act of presenting ideas in a clear, effective, and persuasive manner
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round character
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demonstrates some complexity and develops or changes in the course of a work
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simple sentence
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consisting of one independent clause and no dependent clause
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solecism
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nonstandard grammatical usage
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surrealism
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artistic movement emphasizing the imagination and characterized by incongruous juxtapositions and lack of conscious control
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syllepsis
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a construction in which one word is used in two different senses
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syllogism
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three-part deductive argument in which a conclusion is based on a major premise and a minor premise
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synecdoche
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using one part of an object to represent the entire object
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tautalogy
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needless repetition which adds no meaning or understanding
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tragedy
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work in which the protagonist, a person of high degree, is engaged in a significant struggle and which ends in ruin or destruction
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trite
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overused, hackneyed
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usage
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customary way language or its elements are used
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vernacular
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everyday speech of a particular country or region, often involving nonstandard usage