AP English Literature Vocabulary Letters D-F
For Kids and Teachers
AP English Literature Vocabulary List Letters D-F
In order to observe decorum, a character’s speech must be styled according to
her social station, and in accordance with the occasion. A bum should speak like
a bum about bumly things, while a princess should speak only about higher topics
(and in a delicate manner). In Neoclassical and Victorian literature the authors
observe decorum, meaning they did not write about the indecorous. The bum
wouldn’t even appear in this genre of literature.
*Diction,syntax: The author’s choice of word. Whether to use wept or cried is a
question of diction. Syntax refers to the ordering and structuring. Whether to
say, The pizza was smothered in cheese and pepperoni. I devoured it greedily, or
Greedily, I devoured the cheese and pepperoni smothered pizza, is a question of
*Dirge: This is a song for the dead. Its tone is typically slow, heavy,
depressed, and melancholy.
*Dissonance: This refers to the grating of incompatible sounds.
*Doggerel: Crude, simplistic verse, often in sing-song rhyme. Limericks are a
kind of doggerel.
*Double entendre: An expression or term liable to more than one interpretation:
ambiguity, equivocality, equivocation. Example: "Beards, they grow on you."
*Dramatic Irony: When the audience knows something that the characters in the
drama do not.
*Dramatic Monologue: When a single speaker in literature says something to a
*Dynamic character: one who changes his/her beliefs, values, opinions in a
story. A static character's beliefs stay the same.
*Elegy: A type of poem that meditates on death or mortality in a serious,
thoughtful manner. Elegies often use the recent death of a noted person or loved
one as a starting point. They also memorialize specific dead people.
*Ellipsis: the omission of a word or words understood in the context. Example:
If possible for if it is possible.
*Enjambment: The continuation of a syntactic unit from one line or couplet of a
poem to the next with no pause.
*Epic: In a broad sense, an epic is simply a very long narrative poem on a
serious theme in a dignified style. Epics typically deal with glorious or
profound subject matter: a great war, a heroic journey, the fall of a man from
Eden, a battle with supernatural forces, a trip to the underworld, etc. The
mock-epic is a parody form that deals with mundane events and ironically treats
them as worthy of epic poetry.
*Epitaph: Lines that commemorate the dead at their burial place. An epitaph is
usually a line or handful of lines, often serious or religious, but sometimes
witty and even irreverent.
*Equivocation: The same word is used with two different meanings. The sign said
"fine for parking here," and since it was fine, I parked there.
*Euphemism: A word or phrase that takes the place of a harsh, unpleasant, or
impolite reality. The use of passed away for died, and let go for fired are two
examples of euphemisms.
*Euphony: When sounds blend harmoniously, the result in euphony.
*Explicit: To say or write something directly and clearly (this is a rare
happening in literature since the whole game is to be “implicit,” that, to
suggest and imply).
*Farce: Today we use this word to refer to extremely broad humor. Writers of
earlier times used farce as a more neutral term, meaning simply a funny play; a
comedy. (And you should know that for writers of centuries past, comedy was the
generic term for any play; it did not imply humor.)
*Feminine rhyme: Lines rhymed by their final two syllables. A pair of lines
ending with running and gunning would be an example of feminine rhyme. Properly,
in a feminine rhyme (and not simply a double rhyme) the penultimate syllables
are stressed and the final syllables are unstressed.
*First person narrator: See point of view .
*Flashback: a section of a literary work that interrupts the sequence of events
to relate an event from an earlier time.
*Foil: A secondary character whose purpose is to highlight the characteristics
of a main character, usually by contrast. For example, an author will often give
a cynical, quick-witted character a docile, naďve, sweet-tempered friend to
serve as a foil.
*Foreshadowing: An event or statement in a narrative that in miniature suggests
a larger event that comes later.
*Free verse: Poetry written without a regular rhyme scheme or metrical pattern.