Literary Elements

Literary element and Definition


Alliteration:  the repetition of the initial consonant sound in a sequence of two or more nearby words


She sells seashells by the      seashore

Allusion: a reference to a well-known person, place or event from literature, history, religion, culture or other body of knowledge


The girl's love of sweets was  her Achilles heel

Cliché: a phrase, expression, or idea that has been overused to the point of losing its intended force or novelty


All dressed up and nowhere to  go

Foreshadowing: events or information arranged so as to hint at a future event or outcome


The witches in the opening scene of Shakespeare's Macbeth foreshadow the evil events that will follow.


Hyperbole: a figure of speech that contains an obvious exaggeration



I could eat a horse

Imagery: a mental picture created using concrete details, adjectives and figures of speech


Her blue eyes were as bright as the Sun, blue as the sky, but soft as silk

Irony: a discrepancy or incongruity between words and their meaning, actions and results, or appearance and reality

In Romeo and Juliet while the audience is aware that Juliet has taken a sleeping potion and is feigning her death, Romeo and everyone else believes that she is dead having killed herself.



There is something that seems nice, but is actually bad.

i.e. you walk into a beautiful garden but there is actually poison in the plants



Somebody says something, and then does the opposite. Similar to hypocritical.



Reader knows something, but character doesn't.

i.e. Romeo  & Juliet when Juliet has a potion and Romeo doesn't know.







Metaphor: a comparison created when one thing is said to be another, without using “like” or “as”

Life is a journey, difficulties are obstacles, counsellors are guides, achievements are landmarks, choices are crossroads..


Onomatopoeia: a word that imitates the sound that it represents


Achoo!    Clunk      Fizz      Honk


Personification: giving human attributes to non-human or inanimate objects


Lightning danced across the sky



Time never waits for anyone

Repetition: words, phrases, actions or images that are repeated to add emphasis and draw attention

If you think you can win, you can win


Rhetorical Question: A question asked not to elicit an actual response but to make an impact or call attention to something


“Will the world ever see the end of war?”


Simile: a comparison using “like” or “as”


It's been a hard day's night,
and I've been working like a dog



Symbols: an object (real or inanimate), image or action which represents a concept or idea



An owl symbolises wisdom

A heart symbolizes love


Understatement: an expression that downplays an event


It's just a flesh wound