AP English Literature Vocabulary List A
For Kids and Teachers
AP English Literature Vocabulary You Must Know!!! Letter A
An abstract style (in writing) is typically complex, discusses intangible
qualities like good and evil, and seldom uses examples to support its points.
*Absurd Her The outlook of the absurd hero is this: determined to continue
living with passion even though life appears to be meaningless. Sisyphus is the
absurd hero. He is sentenced to ceaselessly roll a rock to the top of a mountain
and then must watch its descent. He will never reach the top. Other examples of
the absurd her Meursault in The StrangerRosencrantz and Guildenstern in Rosencrantz
and Guildenstern are Dead and Vladimir and Estragon in Waiting for Godot.
*Academic: As an adjective describing style, this word means dry and theoretical
writing. When a piece of writing seems to be sucking all the life out of its
subject with analysis, the writing is academic.
*Accent: In poetry accent refers to the stressed portion of a word. In “To be,
or not to be,” accents fall on the first “be” and “not.” It sounds silly any
other way. But accent in poetry is also often a matter of opinion. Consider the
rest of the first line of Hamlet’s famous soliloquy, “That is the question.” The
stresses in that portion of the line are open to a variety of interpretations.
hoc argument: Giving an after-the-fact explanation which doesn't apply to other
I was healed from cancer by God!
Really? Does that mean that God will heal all others with cancer?
Well... God works in mysterious ways.
*Aesthetic: an adjective meaning “appealing to the senses.” Aesthetic judgment
is a phrase synonymous with artistic judgment. As a noun, an aesthetic is a
coherent sense of taste. The kid whose room is painted black, who sleeps in a
coffin, and listens to only funeral music has an aesthetic. The kid whose room
is filled with pictures of kittens and daisies but who sleeps in a coffin and
listens to polka music has confused aesthetic. The plural noun, aesthetics, is
the study of beauty. Questions like what is beauty? Or, is the beautiful always
good? Fall into the category of aesthetics.
*Allegory: An allegory is a story in which each aspect of the story has a
symbolic meaning outside the tale itself. Many fables have an allegorical
quality. For example, Aesop’s “Ant and the Grasshopper” isn’t merely a story of
a hard working ant and a carefree grasshopper, but is also a story about
different approaches to living- the thrifty and the devil-may-care. It can also
be read as a story about the seasons of summer and winter, which represent a
time of prosperity and a time of hardship, or even as representing youth and
age. True allegories are even more hard and fast. Bunyan’s epic poem, Pilgrim’s
Progress, is an allegory of the soul, in which each and every part of the tale
represents some feature of the spiritual world and the struggles of an
individual to lead a Christian life.
*Alliteration: The repetition of initial consonant sounds is called
alliteration. In other words, consonant clusters coming closely cramped and
*Allusion: A reference to another work or famous figure is an allusion. A
classical allusion is a reference to Greek and Roman Mythology such as, The
Iliad. Allusions can be topical or popular as well. A topical allusion refers to
a current event. A popular allusion refers to something from popular culture,
such as a reference to a television show or a hit movie.
*Anachronism: The word anachronism is derived from Greek, It means, “misplaced
in time.” If the actor playing Brutus in a production of Julius Caesar forgets
to take off his wrist-watch, the effect will be anachronistic (and probably
*Analogy: An analogy is a comparison. Usually analogies involve two or more
symbolic parts, and are employed to clarify an action or a relationship. Just as
the mother eagle shelters her young from the storm by spreading her great wing
above their heads, so does the Acme Insurers of America spread an umbrella of
coverage to protect its policy-holders from the storms of life.
*Anaphora: The deliberate repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of
several successive verses, clauses, or paragraphs; for example, “We shall fight
on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the
fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills” (Winston S. Churchill).
*Anecdote: An anecdote is a short narrative, story.
*Antecedent: The word, phrase, or clause that determines what a pronoun refers
to. As the children in The principle asked the children where they were going.
*Anthropomorphism: In literature, when inanimate objects are given human
characteristics, anthropomorphism is at work. For example, In the forest, the
darkness waited for me, I could hear its patient breathing…Anthropomorphism is
often confused with personification. But personification required that the
non-human quality or thing take on human shape.
*Anticlimax: An anticlimax occurs when an action produces far smaller results
than one had been led to expect. Anticlimax is frequently comic. Sir, your snide
manner and despicable arrogance have long been a source of disgust to me, but
I’ve overlooked it until now. However, it has come to my attention that you have
fallen so disgracefully deep into that mire of filth, which is your mind as to
attempt to besmirch my wife’s honor and my good name. Sir, I challenge you to a
game of badminton!
*Antiher A protagonist who is markedly unheroic: morally weak, cowardly,
dishonest, or any number of unsavory qualities. The character lacks the
qualities of the her skill, grace, honesty, courage, truth.
*Aphorism: A short and usually witty saying, such as: “A classic? That’s a book
that people praise and don’t read.”- Mark Twain.
*Apostrophe: A figure of speech wherein the speaker talks directly to something
that is nonhuman, or absent. For example, one might talk to a friend who has
*Apothegm: A terse, witty, instructive saying; a maxim. Examples: "Absolute
power corrupts absolutely." "All is for the best in this, the best of all
possible worlds." "May the Force be with you."
*Archaism: The use of deliberately old-fashioned language. Authors sometimes use
archaisms to create a feeling of antiquity. Tourist traps use archaisms with a
vengeance, as in “Ye Olde Candle Shoppe”-Yeech!
*Aside: A speech (usually just a short comment) made by an actor to the
audience, as though momentarily stepping outside of the action on stage. (See
*Aspect: A trait or characteristic, as in “an aspect of the dew drop.”
*Assonance: The repeated use of vowel sounds, as in, “Old king Cole was a merry
*Atmosphere: The emotional tone or background that surrounds a scene.