Learn Spanish Literary Vocabulary

Classics Spanish Books - Spanish vocabulary

The Spanish language is a very rich language with lots of vocabulary. Mastering the Spanish vocabulary can help you a lot if you want to be able to understand everything you hear or read, even if you don't understand the whole meaning perfectly. The best way of learning new Spanish vocabulary is by reading a lot or practicing with flashcards or a similar technique.

Literary Spanish vocabulary

Literary Spanish vocabulary can be tricky, especially when it's very technical. However, you'll notice many words sound and look almost the same, and this will make learning them easier. When you learn Spanish in Spain you'll be able to show off your extensive literary knowledge with this list of literary terms.

Spanish word English word Meaning
acotación side note / stage direction an instruction to an actor or director, written into the script of a play
alegoría allegory a representation of an abstract or spiritual meaning through concrete or material forms;
alejandrino Alexandrine line of poetic meter comprising 12 syllables
aliteración alliteration repetition of a particular sound in the first syllables of a series of words and/or phrases
antítesis antithesis juxtaposition of contrasting ideas in balanced phrases
argumento plot events that make up a story, particularly as they relate to one another through cause and consequences
arquetipo archetype universally understood symbol or term
“arte por el arte” art for art's sake the only "true" art, is divorced from any didactic, moral or utilitarian function
asonante assonant the use of the same vowel sound with different consonants or the same consonant with different vowels in successive words or stressed syllables
barroco Baroque artistic style prevalent from the late 16th century to the early 18th century in Europe
clímax climax The most intense, exciting, or important point of something
comedia comedy A book, play, or poem intended to make an audience laugh
contrapunto counterpoint An argument, idea, or theme used to create a contrast with the main element
copla couplet Two lines of verse, usually in the same meter and joined by rhyme, that form a unit
costumbrismo costumbrism literary or pictorial interpretation of local everyday life, mannerisms, and customs, primarily in the Hispanic scene
creacionismo creationism literary movement, initiated by Chilean poet Vicente Huidobro around 1912. Creationism is based on the idea of a poem as a truly new thing, created by the author for the sake of itself
cultismo learned word or expression
desenlace ending / denouement / resolution An end or final part of something, esp. a period of time, an activity, or a book or movie
discurso speech / discourse Written or spoken communication or debate
égloga eclogue A short poem, esp. a pastoral dialogue
elegía elegy A poem of serious reflection, typically a lament for the dead
enciplopedista encyclopedist A person who writes, edits, or contributes to an encyclopedia
endecasílabo pentameter A line of verse consisting of five metrical feet, or (in Greek and Latin verse) of two halves each of two feet and a long syllable
entremés interlude / short farce A pause between the acts of a play
epístola epistle A poem or other literary work in the form of a letter or series of letters
epíteto epithet An adjective or descriptive phrase expressing a quality characteristic of the person or thing mentioned
escena scene A sequence of continuous action in a play, movie, opera, or book
esperpento macabre story
estribillo chorus A part of a song that is repeated after each verse, typically by more than one singer
estrofa stanza A group of lines forming the basic recurring metrical unit in a poem; a verse
existencialismo existentialism A philosophical theory or approach that emphasizes the existence of the individual person as a free and responsible agent determining their own development through acts of the will
fábula fable A short story, typically with animals as characters, conveying a moral
figuras retóricas figures of speech The rhetorical devices often used to give decorative and imaginative expression to literature
hipérbaton (el) hyperbaton An inversion of the normal order of words, esp. for the sake of emphasis, as in the sentence “this I must see.”
hipérbole hyperbole any rhetorical device or figure of speech that employs exaggeration
Ilustración Enlightenment A European intellectual movement of the late 17th and 18th centuries emphasizing reason and individualism rather than tradition
ironía irony The expression of one's meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite, typically for humorous or emphatic effect
leyenda legend A traditional story sometimes popularly regarded as historical but unauthenticated
lírica lyric A lyric poem or verse
marco escénico setting The place and time at which a play, novel, or film is represented as happening
metáfora metaphor A figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable
metonimia metonymy The substitution of the name of an attribute or adjunct for that of the thing meant, for example suit for business executive, or the track for horse racing
métrica metric The meter of a poem
modernismo Modernism A movement toward modifying traditional beliefs in accordance with modern ideas
monólogo monologue A long speech by one actor in a play or movie, or as part of a theatrical or broadcast program
monólogo interior interior monologue A piece of writing expressing a character's inner thoughts
motivo reason A cause, explanation, or justification for an action or event
narrador narrator A person who narrates something, esp. a character who recounts the events of a novel or narrative poem
narrativo narrative A spoken or written account of connected events; a story
naturalismo Naturalism A style and theory of representation based on the accurate depiction of detail
neoclasicismo Neoclassicism The revival of a classical style or treatment in art, literature, architecture, or music
novela de tesis thesis novel  a novel that advances, illustrates, or defends a thesis 
novela negra thriller A novel, play, or movie with an exciting plot, typically involving crime or espionage
objetivismo Objectivism The belief that certain things, esp. moral truths, exist independently of human knowledge or perception of them
octava octave A poem or stanza of eight lines; an octet
octosílabo octosyllabic A line of verse that has eight syllables
oda ode A lyric poem in the form of an address to a particular subject, often elevated in style or manner and written in varied or irregular meter
onomatopeya onomatopoeia The formation of a word from a sound associated with what is named (e.g., cuckoo, sizzle)
oxímoron oxymoron A figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction (e.g., faith unfaithful kept him falsely true)
paradoja paradox A statement or proposition that, despite sound (or apparently sound) reasoning from acceptable premises, leads to a conclusion that seems senseless, logically unacceptable, or self-contradictory
paralelismo parallelism The use of successive verbal constructions in poetry or prose that correspond in grammatical structure, sound, meter, meaning, etc
parnasianismo Parnassianism A mid nineteenth-century movement in French literature. Followers of the movement stressed adherence to well-defined artistic forms as a reaction against the often chaotic expression of the artist's ego that dominated the work of the Romantics
parodia parody An imitation of the style of a particular writer, artist, or genre with deliberate exaggeration for comic effect
perspectivismo Perspectivism The theory that knowledge of a subject is inevitably partial and limited by the individual perspective from which it is viewed
personificación personification The attribution of a personal nature or human characteristics to something nonhuman, or the representation of an abstract quality in human form
prosopopeya prosopopoeia A figure of speech in which an abstract thing is personified
poesía pura pure poetry Poetry written without instructional intent or moral purpose that aims only to please a reader by its imagery or musical flow.
realismo Realism The movement or style of representing familiar things as they actually are
regionalismo Regionalism Regionalism is an American realist modern art movement that was popular during the 1930s. The artistic focus was from artists who shunned city life, and rapidly developing technological advances, to create scenes of rural life
retórica rhetoric Language designed to have a persuasive or impressive effect on its audience, but is often regarded as lacking in sincerity or meaningful content
retrospectiva retrospective Looking back on or dealing with past events or situations
rima rhyme Correspondence of sound between words or the endings of words, esp. when these are used at the ends of lines of poetry
ritmo rhythm The measured flow of words and phrases in verse or prose as determined by the relation of long and short or stressed and unstressed syllables
romance ballad A poem or song narrating a story in short stanzas. Traditional ballads are typically of unknown authorship, having been passed on orally from one generation to the next as part of the folk culture
romanticismo Romanticism A movement in the arts and literature that originated in the late 18th century, emphasizing inspiration, subjectivity, and the primacy of the individual
simbolismo Symbolism An artistic and poetic movement or style using symbolic images and indirect suggestion to express mystical ideas, emotions, and states of mind.
símil simile A figure of speech involving the comparison of one thing with another thing of a different kind, used to make a description more emphatic or vivid (e.g., as brave as a lion, crazy like a fox)
sinecdoque synecdoche A figure of speech in which a part is made to represent the whole or vice versa, as in Cleveland won by six runs (meaning “Cleveland's baseball team”)
sinestesia synesthesia The poetic description of a sense impression in terms of another sense, as in “a loud perfume” or “an icy voice.”
soliloquio soliloquy An act of speaking one's thoughts aloud when by oneself or regardless of any hearers, esp. by a character in a play
soneto sonnet A poem of fourteen lines using any of a number of formal rhyme schemes, in English typically having ten syllables per line
subjetivismo Subjectivism The doctrine that knowledge is merely subjective and that there is no external or objective truth
surrealismo Surrealism A 20th-century avant-garde movement in art and literature that sought to release the creative potential of the unconscious mind, for example by the irrational juxtaposition of images
teatro del absurdo Absurd theatre Tragic farces in which human existence is seen to be pointless
tema theme / topic A matter dealt with in a text, discourse, or conversation; a subject
tragedia Tragedy A play dealing with tragic events and having an unhappy ending, esp. one concerning the downfall of the main character
tropo trope A figurative or metaphorical use of a word or expression
ultraísmo ultraism The Ultraist movement was a literary movement born in Spain in 1918, with the declared intention of opposing Modernismo, which had dominated Spanish poetry since the end of the 19th century
verso verse Writing arranged with a metrical rhythm, typically having a rhyme
vanguardismo avant-garde New and unusual or experimental ideas, esp. in the arts, or the people introducing them
verso libre free verse Poetry that does not rhyme or have a regular meter
villancico carol A religious folk song or popular hymn, particularly one associated with Christmas
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