Poetic Devices

14 minute read
Poetic Devices

Beginning from the 5th century, the lingua francaEnglish Language has undergone many changes. The history of English has seen continuous modifications and alterations owing to the multiple cultures and various people who influenced it. Among these changes, many literary terms and grammatical concepts were introduced to ease communication and form various compositions. Poems are one of the forms of expressions that use different “Poetic Devices” to create a narrative, to deliver a message, or exhibit emotions, feelings in a rhythmic and aesthetic form. In this blog, we will see the various forms of 50+ poetic devices in English Literature with examples and meanings!

Poems are defined as “the clarification and magnification of being” – Hirshfield (1997)

What are Poetic Devices?

Poetic devices can be simply referred to as a form of literary devices which are used in poetry. They are used as different elements in a poem just like above in verbal, visual, structural, rhythmic, metrical, grammatical elements, and so on. These poetic devices are tools used by poets to augment the meaning of a poem, make it rhythmic pleasing, or intensify the core emotion, mood, or feeling represented in the poem.

Commonly Used Poetic Devices

Poetic Devices
Poetic Devices

Here are the most commonly used and interesting poetic devices in English literature you must know about:

Types of Poetic Devices with 50 Examples

There are different types of Poetic Devices which can be incorporate in a poem to make it more meaningful and filled with imagery. The major forms of poetic devices are based on:

  • To add sounds of words
  • To enhance the meaning of words
  • To arrange the words in a certain order or sequence
  • To create imagery through words

Now, let’s take a look at the list of 50 poetic devices of each of these purposes:

English Poetic Devices Used to Create Rhythm/Sound

  1. Onomatopoeia: In simple words, onomatopoeia can be termed as the creation of a word describing its sound. Some of the popular examples of words sounding similar to their meanings are roar, clap, moo, etc. It is one of the popular poetic devices used in children rhymes to give them a rhythmic and easy to remember structure similar to a jingle.
Courtesy: Pinterest

Examples: Splash, Murmur, Bang, Fwoosh, Buzz

2. Alliteration: One of the most used poetic devices, Alliteration is a phonetic structure and repeated usage of sound or letter used in the first syllable of a word. It is considered as the oldest poetic tool that is generally used for two or more words in a poem. Most of the poets take alliteration into account while framing a particular poem as it adds charm and effectiveness. Sometimes, alliteration perfectly fits in tongue twisters. 

Examples: “She sells seashells by the sea-shore.”

3. Rhyme: Being the most important poetic devices, these are widely used while framing poems. They play a decisive role in adding more charm and mood in the poem. It is a tool that brings music to the poem in a proper rhythmic structure.

Examples: Night-Bright, Skin-Grin, Frog-Log

4. Assonance: In a literary landscape, when two or more words that are close to each other repeats the same vowel sounds then such English poetic devices are known as Assonance. However, they commence with different consonant sounds.

Examples: “The crumbling thunder of seas” (Robert Louis Stevenson); “Strips of tinfoil winking like people” (Sylvia Plath)

5. Consonance: Falling under the list of poetic devices, Consonance is used in both prose and poetry. It can be understood as the repetition of sounds that are produced by the consonants in a phrase or a sentence. It is quite contrary to assonance’s repetition of vowel sounds. Sometimes, the usage of this word gives a rhythmic mood in a writeup.

Examples: Toss the glass, boss; Dawn goes down; Don’t creep and beep while grandpa falls asleep

6. Euphony: Euphony is the repetitive use of mellow, melodic tones that are enjoyable to read or listen to. Soft consonant sounds like m, n, w, r, and f as well as consonants that vibrate, such s, sh, and th, are used to create this.

Examples: “So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see, So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.” (Shakespeare)

7. Repetition: In order to put extreme emphasis on our writing style, we use the repetition technique. Through such poetic devices in English, the words or phrases are repeated in sentences. It is used in poetry as well as the prose sections.

Examples: Robert Frost’s Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
“The woods are lovely dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.”

8. Cacophony: Cacophony is the use of unappealing, repulsive, or harsh noises (mostly consonants) to evoke chaos, disorder, or dread.

Examples: “Beware the Jabberwock, my son! The jaws that bite, the claws that catch! The frumious Bandersnatch!” (Lewis Carroll)

9. Rhythm: The flow of words throughout each meter and stanza creates rhythm and highlights particular elements of the poem.

Examples: “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” (Shakespeare)

10. Allusion: By this term, we can understand it is a phrase or a word that is meant to call something without mentioning it clearly. Allusion, which is yet another popularly used poetic device in English, is an ambiguous statement or phrase that leaves a reader in oblivion. 

Examples: Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay. (Robert Frost)

English Poetic Devices Used to Change the Meaning of Words

  1. Irony: In the literary landscape, words are often framed in such a way that their original meaning gets changed. As a popular English poetic device, it is actually a figure of speech that helps us understand the difference between reality and appearance.

Examples: Stevie Smith’s Not Waving But Drowning
“Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.”

12. Allegory: An allegory is a narrative or description in which certain abstractions or concepts are represented by certain events, behaviours, characters, locations, or objects.

Examples: The Tortoise and the Hare – Aesop’s Fables

13. Euphemism: Euphemism is the act of replacing a term that can offend or imply something unpleasant with one that is less hurtful or pleasing. These kind of phrases are known as euphemisms. In writing or speaking, euphemisms are frequently employed in place of harsher or more direct language.

Examples: “If I pass during some nocturnal blackness, mothy and warm,
When the hedgehog travels furtively over the lawn,
One may say, “He strove that such innocent creatures should come to no harm,
But he could do little for them; and now he is gone.
– Thomas Hardy

14. Ambiguity: Ambiguity happens when a statement’s structure or substance leaves room for alternative interpretations and obscures its intended meaning.

Examples: “O Rose thou art sick.
The invisible worm,
That flies in the night
In the howling storm: Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy;
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy”
(William Blake’s The Rose)

  1. Personification: Amongst all the poetic devices, personification is a simple one to understand. As the name suggests, you need to personify inanimate objects or plants or animals or any other living beings with human qualities thus transforming your poetry into lively and filled with imagery and description.

Example:She sweeps with many-colored brooms,
And leaves the shreds behind;
Oh, housewife in the evening west,
Come back, and dust the pond! (Emily Dickinson)

16. Analogy: An analogy is a literary device that establishes a relationship between two concepts based on similarities or connections. Establishing this connection makes the new topic simpler to understand by introducing it through a relatable contrast.

Example: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other word would smell as sweet.
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo called”
(William Shakespeare)

17. Denotation: The denotation of a term refers to its neutral, objective meaning. No matter the language or aspect of speech, every word that has a definition in a dictionary also has a denotation.

Example: “When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.” (William Wordsworth)

18. Cliche: A scenario or term that is overused to the extent that it is deemed unoriginal is referred to as a cliché (klee-SHAY). Any element of a literary story, including a specific phrase, scene, genre, or character, might be considered a cliché. The word carries a bad reputation since sloppy writing is frequently connected with clichés.

Example: A heart full of sorrow

19. Connotation: Connotation is the use of a word to imply an unique association from its denotative, or literal, meaning.

Example: “She’s all states, and all princes, I” (John Donne)

20. Contrast: A writer will often use contrast as a rhetorical tactic to highlight the contrasts between two persons, places, or objects. The simplest definition of contrast is the antithesis of two things, highlighting and clarifying their differences.

Example: “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.”
(William Shakespeare)

21. Apostrophe: It addresses the subject that is not present in the work. In this case, the object is absent or inanimate. Here are some of the examples of apostrophes. 

Example: “Busy old fool, unruly Sun,
Why dost thou thus,
Through windows, and through curtains, call on
(John Donne)

22. Metaphor: As a figure of speech is a poetic device, a metaphor is used in order to draw a comparison between unrelated things in an implicit or hidden way. Or, this is used when a poet tries to resemble two opposite things or objects on the basis of some common characteristics. 

Example: “An elephant, a ponderous house
A melon strolling on two tendrils.” (Sylvia Plath)

23. Pun: Puns are among the most frequently used figures of speech in daily conversation. They may be great conversation starters since they make you sound clever and occasionally even humorous.

Example: “Apocalypse soon
Coming our way
Ground zero at noon
Halve a nice day.”
(Edmund Conti)

24. Hyperbole: A hyperbole is a figure of speech that consists of an exaggeration. It is the usage of exaggerated terms in order to emphasise or heighten the effect of something. 

Example: “And I will love thee still, my dear,
Till a’ the seas gang dry.
Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi’ the sun:”
(Robert Burns)

25. Simile: A simile is a figure of speech that compares two things that are different from each other but have similar qualities. These are generally formed through the usage of the words ‘as’ or ‘like’.

Example: “Is love a tender thing? It is too rough, too rude, too boisterous, and it pricks like thorn.” (Shakespeare)

26. Metonymy: Metonymy is a figure of speech when one term or phrase is used in place of another with which it is closely related. It is also a rhetorical technique used to describe something indirectly by making references to objects around. 

Example: “O, for a draught of vintage!” (John Keats) [Here Vintage is a metonymy for Wine]

27. Oxymoron: This figure of speech, which should not be confused with ironies and paradoxes, links two opposing ideas at once. This indicates that two opposing concepts are utilised inside a single sentence to create levity in an oxymoron figure of speech.

Example: “Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health,
Still-waking sleep, that is not what it is!
This love feel I, that feel no love in this.”

28. Paradox: These figures of speech, like ironies, emphasise something by discussing the exact opposite of it. A paradox, on the other hand, differs from an irony in that it does not make the contrast as evident. 


Example: “To be natural is such a very difficult pose to keep up.” (Oscar Wilde)

29. Synecdoche: Synecdoche is defined in English as a literary device where a term for a minor aspect of anything may be used to represent the main idea or vice versa. The likelihood is that you frequently employ synecdoche in your daily life, despite the fact that it may seem perplexing.

Example: “‘Tis given out that, sleeping in my orchard,
A serpent stung me; so the whole ear of Denmark
Is by a forged process of my death
Rankly abused: but know, thou noble youth,
The serpent that did sting thy father’s life
Now wears his crown.”

30. Symbolism: Poets employ symbolism to communicate underlying ideas. There are several levels of meaning associated with symbols, including places, things, and actions. The literal meaning of the poem is deepened by symbolism.

Courtesy: Pinterest

Example: I am of one element,
Levity my matter,
Like enough a withered leaf
For the winds to scatter. (The Archepoet)

English Poetic Devices for Arranging the Words

31. Rhyme Scheme: The sequence of sounds that repeats at the conclusion of a line or stanza is known as a rhyme scheme. Line by line, stanza by stanza, or throughout the entire poem, rhyme schemes might alter.

Example: “The sun is shining bright
This is a lovely sight”

32. Stanza: A stanza is a method of splitting and grouping lines in a poem, separating one group of lines from other groups of lines by line spacing or indentation.

Example: As I behold the beautiful sunrise
It is like seeing a lovely surprise.

34. Kenning: A two-word sentence that uses metaphors to describe an item is known as a kenning. A riddle made up of a few lines of kennings that describe someone or something in perplexing detail is known as a kenning poem. It is sometimes referred to as a “compressed metaphor,” which refers to meanings expressed in a limited number of words.

Example: a two-word phrase “whale-road” represents the sea.

35. Verse Line: Writing technique Single-line poetry is referred to as verse. A stanza or other poetic components may also be mentioned while using this phrase.

Example: I’ll buy you a diamond ring my friend if it makes you feel alright
I’ll get you anything my friend if it makes you feel alright
Cos I don’t care too much for money, and money can’t buy me love

36. Blank Verse & Free Verse: Blank verse is written in strict iambic pentameter, but has no rhyme scheme and Free verse contains no rhyme and no meter.

Example: This Is Just to Say by William Carlos Williams.

37. Snippet: A snippet is a brief segment of anything.

Example: where you only hear a short amount of information is example of snippet.

38. Ballad: A ballad is a type of narrative poem written in a sequence of four-line stanzas as a literary device.

Example:  La Belle Dame sans Merci by John Keats

39. Epitaph: An epitaph is described as an inscription or written remembrance of a person on a gravestone or in a work of literature.

Example: “The Best Is Yet To Come.”—Frank Sinatra

40. Haiku: Japanese poetry known as haiku is composed of only a few brief, unrhymed lines. These lines can be expressed in a variety of short poems. The most typical haiku structure, however, consists of three lines of five, seven, and five syllables each. A haiku poetry often focuses on a single, intense feeling or picture.

Example: “The Old Pond” by Matsuo Bashō 

41. Limerick: limerick, a common kind of quick, funny poem that is usually inappropriate and nonsensical. It is composed of five lines that rhyme with each other in the pattern aabba. The primary metre is anapestic, with two metrical feet in the third and fourth lines and three feet in the other lines.

Example: There was a young woman named Bright,
Whose speed was much faster than light.
She set out one day,
In a relative way,
And returned on the previous night.

42. Ode: An ode is a brief, lyrical poetry that frequently praises something.

Example: “Ode on a Grecian Urn” by John Keats 

43. Rondeau: The rondeau, so named because it uses the term “round” in French, is distinguished by its two rhyme sounds and rentrement, or refrain, which repeats throughout.

Example: Geoffrey Chaucer’s “Now welcome, summer” at the close of The Parlement of Fowls

44. Sestina: A poem composed in a highly particular, intricate form is called a sestina. The poem is in the French sestina style, with six stanzas of six lines each and a final triplet of three lines.

Example: Elizabeth Bishop’s “A Miracle for Breakfast” was published in 1972.

45.Triolet: The first line of Triolet is repeated as the fourth and seventh lines, while the second line is repeated as the eighth line. Triolet has just two rhymes.

Example: Hardy’s poem, “How Great My Grief,”

46. Villanelle: The first and third lines of the first stanza are repeated alternately in the subsequent stanzas of this French poetic form, which has five three-line stanzas and a concluding quatrain.

Example: Dylan Thomas’s poem “Do not go gentle into that good night”.

English Poetic Devices for Adding Imagery

  1. Synthesia: Synesthesia is a figure of speech in which terminology from one sense are used to describe another. Since similes are a simple method to connect two previously disparate pictures, examples of synesthesia frequently take this form.

Example: “The silence was as thick as a forest.”

49. Imagery: In a literary or poetic context, imagery refers to the author’s use of vivid language and description to enhance the reader’s comprehension of the work by appealing to their senses.

Example: The autumn leaves are a blanket on the ground.

50. Tone or Mood: The basic definition for “tone” is created by the reader’s perception of the cumulative moods and mental or emotional states of the narrator, characters, and writer. This is the technical definition of “tone”: The general mood that a work of literature radiates.


“Shall I compare thee to a

Summer’s day?

Thou art more lovely and

More temperate.”

50 Common Difficult Idioms with Examples

Poetic Devices in Fire and Ice

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

Fire and Ice by Robert Frost

  • Assonance: Same vowels are repeated in I hold with those who favor fire
  • Alliteration: Favor fire; Some say
  • Imagery: for Destruction Ice, the world will end in fire
  • Rhyme: Desire -> Fire; Twice -> Ice -> Suffice
  • Personification: Fire and Ice are given human qualities by showing them as capable of destruction.

Why are Poetic Devices Used?

Poetic devices are important literary tools that are used to intensify an emotion, add rhythm or make a poem more meaningful. A poetic device plays a significant role in putting a poem in all its beauty by intensifies its meaning, enhancing the emotional feeling and leaving the reader mesmerized! Here are the top reasons why poetic devices are used:

  • To add rhythm and tone to a poem by rhyming words, using sounds, etc.
  • To enhance the imagery in a poem by using metaphors, natural imagery, etc.
  • To improve or intensify a certain feeling in the poem by personification, irony, etc.
  • To make a poem more meaningful with wordplay, similes, metaphors, allusion, etc.
  • To add structure to a poem like with stanzas, ballet, sonnet, etc.
YouTube: Ms Stetson

Certainly, the expansion of the English language is unmissable, so is the poetic or literary landscape which has managed to produce wonderful and prolific poets of times. Do you want to take your zest for literature to new heights but are not sure of where to pursue such programs? Don’t worry! Reach out to our experts at Leverage Edu who will help you choose a university and complete the documentation process hassle-free!

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