Literary terms are devices used to make writing better. These help the writer tell a story or make a point. Keep reading for examples of common literary devices that you might find in a story, nursery rhyme or poem.
Alliteration is a literary term that means two or more words in a row that all start with the same consonant sounds. It's a sound device that you can hear when you read something out loud. Some examples of alliteration are:
- The big brown bear boldly bowed to the royal red raccoon.
- Lick the lemon lollipop, Luis!
- Cats cuddle close on the cozy couch.
Examples of Alliteration in Literature
You can find lots of examples of alliteration in poems and stories.
- "Three grey geese in a green field grazing, Grey were the geese and green was the grazing." - "Three Grey Geese" by Mother Goose
- "Many mumbling mice are making midnight music in the moonlight." - Dr. Seuss's ABC by Dr. Seuss
- "What kind of bug is in the rosy red rectangle box? A bright blue big-mouth bug." - More Bugs in Boxes by David Carter
Alliteration makes your writing sound good and sets the mood of your sentence. For example, if you include a lot of words that start with a /sh/ sound, the tone of the sentence is much calmer than one with words that start with a /k/ sound.
Hyperbole is a literary term that refers to an exaggeration. Hyperboles make something sound bigger or more extreme than it really is.
- I'm so hungry I could eat everything in the fridge!
- Lola wanted to die of embarrassment.
- You're the meanest person in the entire world.
Examples of Hyperbole in Literature
You'll find examples of hyperbole in all kinds of literature.
- "It piled up to the ceiling. It covered the floor. It blocked the door. It went down the hall. It raised the roof." - "Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take The Garbage Out" by Shel Silverstein
- "They have yarns / Of a skyscraper so tall they had to put hinges / On the two top stories so to let the moon go by" - "Yarns of the People" by Carl Sandburg
- "There was an old woman tossed up in a blanket, seventeen times as high as the moon." - "The Old Woman Tossed Up in a Blanket" by Walter Crane
Hyperboles appear in idioms and colloquialisms as well. Some popular examples of hyperboles in idioms are "He's as big as a house" and "Run faster than the wind." They make a great point in your writing as figurative language.
Metaphor is a literary term for comparing two things directly. They aren't literal statements, but they make a point using figurative language.
- My love for you is an ocean.
- This room is a pigsty.
- Our family is a tree with strong roots and protective branches.
Examples of Metaphors in Literature
Metaphors use beautiful imagery and language to create mental pictures. Check out these examples of metaphors in stories and poems.
- "The rain came down in long knitting needles." - National Velvet by Enid Bagnold
- "I am the creamy white frost in vanilla ice cream / and the milky smooth brown in a chocolate bar / I am the midnight blue in a licorice stick / and the golden brown in sugar" - Shades of Black: A Celebration of Our Children by Sandra L. Pinkney and Myles C. Pinkney
- "Eagle gliding in the sky / circling, circling way up high / wind is whistling through your wings / You're a graceful kite with no string." - Creatures from Earth, Sea, and Sky: Poems by Georgia Heard and Jennifer Owings Dewey
Metaphors are often found in analogies that compare two ideas. They're effective in poetry and stories, but if you listen carefully, you may hear them in conversation as well.
Onomatopoeia is a literary term used when a word imitates the sound it is describing. They're fun to read and write, and they appear more often than you'd think!
- Crash! The bike slammed into the glass door.
- The pitter-patter of mice echoed through the attic.
- Michael jumped into the pool with a huge splash.
Examples of Onomatopoeia in Literature
Many nursery rhymes and poems include onomatopoeia.
- "Susie's galoshes / Make splishes and sploshes / And slooshes and sloshes / As Susie steps slowly along in the slush." - "Galoshes" by Rhonda Bacmeister
- "Our washing machine went wishity whirr / Whisity whisity whisity whirr" - "Our Washing Machine" by Patricia Hubbell
- "When Pop drops pop-bottles / Pop-bottles plop! / Pop-bottle-tops topple! / Pop mops slop!" - "Song of the Pop-Bottlers" by Morris Bishop
Personification is a literary term for giving human traits to objects or animals. These traits may be human behavior, such as talking or having a job, or emotions such as happiness or sadness. Examples of personification include:
- The toaster wished that it was time for breakfast again.
- "Look out!" cried the mouse as she saw the cat approaching.
- The street lamp dimly glared out at the neighborhood.
Examples of Personification in Literature
Whenever you read a book that has a talking animal, such as E.B. White's Charlotte's Web, you're reading an example of personification.
- "Hey diddle, Diddle / The cat and the fiddle / The cow jumped over the moon / The little dog laughed / To see such sport/ And the dish ran away with the spoon." - Nursery rhyme
- "There's a cat named Joe and you wouldn't want to know / But he thinks he'd like to be a Hippopotamus ... / Oh, it wouldn't be so bad if he was certified as mad / But he's not ... he holds a normal conversation." - "A Cat Named Jo" by Leighton B Watts
- "My food loves to prance, to jump, to dance; I wait for the time, I wait for the chance!" - "My Dinner Loves Dancing" by L. John Riley Jr.
Personification can be humorous when used in poetry, songs and stories. It can also make a story easier to understand, such as in Aesop's Fables, and more enjoyable to read as well.
Essential Literary Elements
Literary terms are important to understand when you read or write a story or poem. If you are looking for ways to translate this information into the classroom, check out a literary terms lesson plan. You can also practice these important concepts with a literary terms worksheet.