Literacy - Dictionary

Word Description
abbreviation: A word which has been shortened. Some abbreviations have become words in their own right, e.g. phone (telephone), plane (aeroplane).
accent: A way of pronouncing words that is specific to a geographical area.
acronym: A word or recognisable letter string that is made up of a letter from each of the words in a phrase, e.g. NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard). Acronyms are a form of abbreviation.
acrostic: A poetic form in which a word related to the theme of the poem is created by taking a letter from each line.
adjective: A word or phrase that is used to describe or modify a noun. Often called a 'describing word' in primary education.
adverb: A word or phrase which is used to describe or modify a verb. Many adverbs end with the suffix '-ly'.
affix: A group of letters which do not make a word in themselves but which can be added to some words to alter their meaning.
alliteration: A sentence or phrase in which many of the words begin with the same letter.
analogy: The use of existing knowledge in reading, spelling or grammar to help with new situations.
anecdote: A short, amusing account of an incident usually told to illustrate a point.
antonym: A word with the opposite meaning of another word.
apostrophe ('): A punctuation mark used either to indicate possession or to indicate missing letters where two words have been shortened into one.
appendix: A section at the end of a document which includes useful but non-essential information.
ascender: The stick of a letter, e.g. b, d, f, h, etc.
assonance: The repetition of a vowel sound, e.g. blue moon.
asterisk (*): A punctuation mark which can be used to identify items in a list, draw attention to a footnote or mark missing letters in a swear word.
autobiography: An account of a person's life written by the person themselves.
ballad: A song or poem which tells a story.
bibliography: A suggested reading list provided at the end of a document.
biography: An account of a person's life written by another person.
blend: A combination of two or more sounds.
blurb: A passage of text giving some information about a book. Usually printed on the back cover.
calligram: A word, phrase or poem in which the handwriting or font used form part of the focus.
character: A person, animal or object in a story, play or poem that speaks or performs actions.
cinquain: A poetic form created by Adelaide Crapsey with 5 lines and a total of 22 syllables in the sequence: 2, 4, 6, 8, 2.
clause: The part of a sentence which includes a verb. A main clause makes sense on its own whereas a subordinate clause does not and may come before or after the main clause.
clerihew: A comic poetic form created by E. Clerihew Bentley consisting of 4 lines set out as 2 rhyming pairs. The first line being the name of the person that the clerihew is about.
cliché: An expression or opinion that has been over-used.
cloze: An exercise in which some words in a passage of text have been omitted for another to fill in.
colloquial: Words or phrases that are used in informal or familiar settings.
colon (:): A punctuation mark used as an introduction for a list, a quotation or a second clause which illustrates or expands upon the first.
comma (,): A punctuation mark used to separate items in a list or parts of a sentence.
compound word: A word made up by joining two or more other words, e.g. bedroom.
comprehension: The level of understanding of a text. Comprehension can be literal in which the reader is able to recount details which have been directly related to them, inferential in which the reader is able to infer understanding that has not been directly related, or evaluative in which the reader is able to express an opinion of the effectiveness of the text for its purpose.
concrete poem: A poem in which the layout of the words form part of the focus.
conjunction: A word or phrase used to link sentences or clauses or to connect words within the same phrase, e.g. and, but, because, then, etc.
connective: A word or phrase used to link different parts of the text.
consonant: A letter in which its sound is made using lips, tongue, teeth or a combination of these to cause friction or a short burst of air. All of the letters of the alphabet other than a, e, i, o and u are consonants.
contraction: The shortening of words or sentences, e.g. cannot = can't.
couplet: Two consecutive lines of poetry, paired either by rhyme or by length.
cue: Something which helps a child to read an unfamiliar word. Cues may be contextual, grammatical, graphic or phonological.
dash (-): A punctuation mark used instead of brackets, to indicate an afterthought or informally in place of other punctuation marks.
decode: To convert sounds and letter patterns into words.
derivation: Finding out the origin of a word or phrase.
descender: The tail of a letter, e.g. g, j, p, q, y.
dialect: Grammar and vocabulary specific to a locality.
dialogue: A conversation between two characters.
digraph: A combination of two letters which produce one phoneme, e.g. ch, sh, ph, etc.
double negative: The use of two negative terms in a phrase or sentence which cancel each other out, e.g. I didn't see nobody.
draft: A text written for the purpose of making improvements.
ellipsis: Often marked with a series of dots (...), an ellipsis is place in a text where there is an omission, pause or interruption.
epic: A story or poem about a heroic or legendary figure.
epitaph: The wording engraved on a tombstone.
etymology: The study of the origin and history of words.
eulogy: Apiece of writing or speech which praises a person or thing, particularly when read at a funeral.
exclamation mark (!): A punctuation mark used to express emotion, e.g. shock, humour, fear, etc.
fable: A story which contains a moral message.
fact: A statement which is the unarguable truth.
fairy tale: A story which contains magic or magical characters.
fiction: Text which contains non-factual elements made up by the writer.
flow chart: A diagram which represents either the events of a story, a process or an activity.
footnote: Additional information related to a text which is printed at the foot of the page.
format: The arrangement of a text.
free verse: Poetry which contains no rhyme or rhythm.
genre: The type of writing, e.g. science fiction, romance, adventure, etc.
glossary: Part of a text that gives selected definitions of terms used. Usually an appendix.
grapheme: The graphic or written representation of a sound.
grammar: The relationship between words in a particular language.
guided reading: Part of the literacy hour. A group of children working at the same level of ability focus on the same text. Added input is given by the teacher or a classroom assistant.
guided writing: Part of the literacy hour. A same-ability group of children work at producing a piece of written work. Added input is given by the teacher or a classroom assistant.
haiku: A Japanese poetic form which has three lines and 17 syllables in total in the pattern: 5, 7, 5.
half-rhyme: Words which half-rhyme almost rhyme, e.g. wash/fish.
homograph: A word with the same spelling as another but with a different meaning. Pronunciation may also be different. 
homonym: A word which has the same spelling or pronunciation as another but with a different meaning.
homophone: A word with the same pronunciation as another but with a different meaning or spelling.
hyphen (-): A punctuation mark used to either link two words or parts of words to make a single expression (well-behaved), join a prefix to a proper noun (anti-Blair), clarify meaning where the word or sentence would mean something different without the hyphen (re-cover/recover) or divide words that are at the end of the line.
idiom: A phrase which has a meaning to the people that use it which differs from the literal meaning of the words, e.g. He'll drive me round the bend.
imperative: A sentence which contains a request or demand for action.
inflection: An affix which alters the meaning of a word by changing its tense or making it plural, e.g. pick, picks, picking, picked, picker, pickers
information text: A text written to provide information.
instruction text: A text written to give instructions to the reader on how to complete a task.
interjection: A remark abruptly uttered by the listener that interrupts the speaker.
internal rhyme: Rhyming within the lines of a poem rather than at the end of the lines.
intonation: The tone of voice used by a speaker to convey further information.
jargon: Terms related to a specific topic that may be unknown to those without a specific interest in that topic.
jingle: A short verse written to attract attention and be memorable, e.g. in advertising.
kenning: A 2-word phrase used instead of the noun for something, e.g. pond hopper = frog.
legend: A traditional story that may be loosely based on actual historic events such as the story of Robin Hood.
limerick: A comic poetic verse with the syllable pattern 8, 8, 6, 6, 8 and the rhyme scheme A, A, B, B, A.
logograph: A symbol or character used to represent a morpheme or a word.
metaphor: A word or phrase literally used to describe one object or idea, being used to describe something else in order to suggest a similarity between them, e.g. "a sea of troubles".
mnemonic: A memory technique used to aid the learning of particular spellings or groups of spellings, e.g. Big Elephants Can Always Understand Small Elephants.
monologue: A speech given by a lone speaker.
morpheme: A unit of meaning within a word, e.g. happy (one morpheme), unhappy (two morphemes).
myth: A traditional story that explains a belief, practice or natural phenomenon.
narrative poem: A poem which tells a story.
noun: A "naming" word. Gives a name to an object or feeling.

      Last updated:  30th September 2006


© First School Years - A Literacy Dictionary