List of Literary Devices


Literary Device Definition Example
Alliteration The repetition of sounds at the beginning of words. “Charlotte shared her sherbet with Shelly.”
Allusion A short, casual reference to a person, event, or an earlier literary or historical work. “He isn’t Walt Disney, no.” (Julian Barnes, Flaubert’s Parrot)
Antithesis When opposing ideas are expressed in syntactically similar structures and placed next to each other. “To err is human, to forgive divine.” (Pope, An Essay on Criticism)
Assonance The repetition of vowel sounds in nearby syllables without repeating consonants. “Let the cat out of the bag” (Proverb)
Caricature An exaggerated description of a person or notion. “Mr. Chadband moves softly and cumbrously, not unlike a bear who has been taught to walk upright.” – Bleak House by Charles Dickens
Cliché An overused, trite, or commonplace idea or expression. “Who knows? Only time will tell.”
Epiphany A moment of profound and spiritual revelation, when a person realizes the real essence of a thing or an action. “Eureka! Eureka!” (Archimedes)
Foreshadowing A hint in a story of future events, character revelations, and plot twists in order to build suspense, create a mood, or begin to reveal an important theme. “When beggars die, there are no comets seen; the heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes.” (William Shakespeare, The Tragedy of Julius Caesar)
Hyperbole A conscious exaggeration used for emphasis and not meant to be taken literally. “I will luve thee still, my dear, Till a’ the seas gang dry.” (Robert Burns, “A Red, Red Rose”)
Motif A recurrent element (word, phrase, image, etc.) appearing in various works (topos) or throughout a single work (leitmotif). The phrase “So it goes” in Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five (leitmotif); the tempus fugit (“passing of time”) motif in numerous Shakespeare’s sonnets (topos)
Polysyndeton The repetition of conjunctions. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish.”—John 10:27
Repetition The use of a word, sound, or phrase that is repeated throughout a line or work for emphasis and thematic unity. “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, free at last!” (Martin Luther King, Jr., I Have A Dream)
Rhetoric The technique of persuading an audience through the artful use of words. “O dark, dark, dark, amid the blaze of noon…” (John Milton, Samson Agonistes)