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Literature Glossary

Don’t be an oxymoron. Know your literary terms.

Over 200 literary terms, Shmooped to perfection.

Apostrophe

Definition:

O, the apostrophe, how we love thee!

Nope, we're not just talking about the punctuation mark. In poetry, an apostrophe is a term used when a speaker directly addresses someone or something that isn't present in the poem.

The speaker could be addressing an abstract concept like love, a person (dead or alive), a place, or even a thing, like the sun or the sea.

Check out William Wordsworth's sonnet "London, 1802" for an apostrophe to (the much older and way dead poet) John Milton. Emily Dickinson also has a lot of apostrophes in her poetry, like the one to summer in "The gentian weaves her fringes". Can you spot the apostrophe?