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 wordEnglish wordMeaning
acotaciónside note / stage directionan instruction to an actor or director, written into the script of a play
alegoríaallegorya representation of an abstract or spiritual meaning through concrete or material forms;
alejandrinoAlexandrineline of poetic meter comprising 12 syllables
aliteraciónalliterationrepetition of a particular sound in the first syllables of a series of words and/or phrases
antítesisantithesisjuxtaposition of contrasting ideas in balanced phrases
argumentoplotevents that make up a story, particularly as they relate to one another through cause and consequences
arquetipoarchetypeuniversally understood symbol or term
“arte por el arte”art for art's sakethe only "true" art, is divorced from any didactic, moral or utilitarian function
asonanteassonantthe use of the same vowel sound with different consonants or the same consonant with different vowels in successive words or stressed syllables
barrocoBaroqueartistic style prevalent from the late 16th century to the early 18th century in Europe
clímaxclimaxThe most intense, exciting, or important point of something
comediacomedyA book, play, or poem intended to make an audience laugh
contrapuntocounterpointAn argument, idea, or theme used to create a contrast with the main element
coplacoupletTwo lines of verse, usually in the same meter and joined by rhyme, that form a unit
costumbrismocostumbrismliterary or pictorial interpretation of local everyday life, mannerisms, and customs, primarily in the Hispanic scene
creacionismocreationismliterary 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
cultismolearned word or expression
desenlaceending / denouement / resolutionAn end or final part of something, esp. a period of time, an activity, or a book or movie
discursospeech / discourseWritten or spoken communication or debate
églogaeclogueA short poem, esp. a pastoral dialogue
elegíaelegyA poem of serious reflection, typically a lament for the dead
enciplopedistaencyclopedistA person who writes, edits, or contributes to an encyclopedia
endecasílabopentameterA 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
entremésinterlude / short farceA pause between the acts of a play
epístolaepistleA poem or other literary work in the form of a letter or series of letters
epítetoepithetAn adjective or descriptive phrase expressing a quality characteristic of the person or thing mentioned
escenasceneA sequence of continuous action in a play, movie, opera, or book
esperpentomacabre story
estribillochorusA part of a song that is repeated after each verse, typically by more than one singer
estrofastanzaA group of lines forming the basic recurring metrical unit in a poem; a verse
existencialismoexistentialismA 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
fábulafableA short story, typically with animals as characters, conveying a moral
figuras retóricasfigures of speechThe rhetorical devices often used to give decorative and imaginative expression to literature
hipérbaton (el)hyperbatonAn inversion of the normal order of words, esp. for the sake of emphasis, as in the sentence “this I must see.”
hipérbolehyperboleany rhetorical device or figure of speech that employs exaggeration
IlustraciónEnlightenmentA European intellectual movement of the late 17th and 18th centuries emphasizing reason and individualism rather than tradition
ironíaironyThe expression of one's meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite, typically for humorous or emphatic effect
leyendalegendA traditional story sometimes popularly regarded as historical but unauthenticated
líricalyricA lyric poem or verse
marco escénicosettingThe place and time at which a play, novel, or film is represented as happening
metáforametaphorA figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable
metonimiametonymyThe 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
métricametricThe meter of a poem
modernismoModernismA movement toward modifying traditional beliefs in accordance with modern ideas
monólogomonologueA long speech by one actor in a play or movie, or as part of a theatrical or broadcast program
monólogo interiorinterior monologueA piece of writing expressing a character's inner thoughts
motivoreasonA cause, explanation, or justification for an action or event
narradornarratorA person who narrates something, esp. a character who recounts the events of a novel or narrative poem
narrativonarrativeA spoken or written account of connected events; a story
naturalismoNaturalismA style and theory of representation based on the accurate depiction of detail
neoclasicismoNeoclassicismThe revival of a classical style or treatment in art, literature, architecture, or music
novela de tesisthesis novel a novel that advances, illustrates, or defends a thesis 
novela negrathrillerA novel, play, or movie with an exciting plot, typically involving crime or espionage
objetivismoObjectivismThe belief that certain things, esp. moral truths, exist independently of human knowledge or perception of them
octavaoctaveA poem or stanza of eight lines; an octet
octosílabooctosyllabicA line of verse that has eight syllables
odaodeA 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
onomatopeyaonomatopoeiaThe formation of a word from a sound associated with what is named (e.g., cuckoo, sizzle)
oxímoronoxymoronA figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction (e.g., faith unfaithful kept him falsely true)
paradojaparadoxA 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
paralelismoparallelismThe use of successive verbal constructions in poetry or prose that correspond in grammatical structure, sound, meter, meaning, etc
parnasianismoParnassianismA 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
parodiaparodyAn imitation of the style of a particular writer, artist, or genre with deliberate exaggeration for comic effect
perspectivismoPerspectivismThe theory that knowledge of a subject is inevitably partial and limited by the individual perspective from which it is viewed
personificaciónpersonificationThe attribution of a personal nature or human characteristics to something nonhuman, or the representation of an abstract quality in human form
prosopopeyaprosopopoeia A figure of speech in which an abstract thing is personified
poesía purapure poetryPoetry written without instructional intent or moral purpose that aims only to please a reader by its imagery or musical flow.
realismoRealismThe movement or style of representing familiar things as they actually are
regionalismoRegionalismRegionalism 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
retóricarhetoricLanguage designed to have a persuasive or impressive effect on its audience, but is often regarded as lacking in sincerity or meaningful content
retrospectivaretrospectiveLooking back on or dealing with past events or situations
rimarhymeCorrespondence of sound between words or the endings of words, esp. when these are used at the ends of lines of poetry
ritmorhythmThe measured flow of words and phrases in verse or prose as determined by the relation of long and short or stressed and unstressed syllables
romanceballadA 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
romanticismoRomanticismA movement in the arts and literature that originated in the late 18th century, emphasizing inspiration, subjectivity, and the primacy of the individual
simbolismoSymbolismAn artistic and poetic movement or style using symbolic images and indirect suggestion to express mystical ideas, emotions, and states of mind.
símilsimileA 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)
sinecdoquesynecdocheA 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”)
sinestesiasynesthesiaThe poetic description of a sense impression in terms of another sense, as in “a loud perfume” or “an icy voice.”
soliloquiosoliloquyAn act of speaking one's thoughts aloud when by oneself or regardless of any hearers, esp. by a character in a play
sonetosonnetA poem of fourteen lines using any of a number of formal rhyme schemes, in English typically having ten syllables per line
subjetivismoSubjectivismThe doctrine that knowledge is merely subjective and that there is no external or objective truth
surrealismoSurrealismA 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 absurdoAbsurd theatreTragic farces in which human existence is seen to be pointless
tematheme / topicA matter dealt with in a text, discourse, or conversation; a subject
tragediaTragedyA play dealing with tragic events and having an unhappy ending, esp. one concerning the downfall of the main character
tropotropeA figurative or metaphorical use of a word or expression
ultraísmoultraismThe 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
versoverseWriting arranged with a metrical rhythm, typically having a rhyme
vanguardismoavant-gardeNew and unusual or experimental ideas, esp. in the arts, or the people introducing them
verso librefree versePoetry that does not rhyme or have a regular meter
villancicocarolA religious folk song or popular hymn, particularly one associated with Christmas
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