Choose Your Test

Sat / act prep online guides and tips, the 55 ap language and composition terms you must know.

author image

Advanced Placement (AP)


One of the competencies you need to develop for AP Language and Composition is a thorough understanding of rhetorical strategies and techniques. This is because you will both be expected to identify these strategies and techniques in the writing of others and to use them in your own writing.

But given the huge number of rhetorical terms there are, how do you know which ones you need to know and understand? Do you need to know what anaphora is? What about synecdoche?

In this article I'll provide two lists: one of essential key AP Language and Composition terms to know for the exam, and one list of useful bonus words that will serve you well on the exam. Then I'll advise how to learn and use these terms for AP success!

Essential AP Language and Composition Terms

The following list of 37 terms, based on consulting both the AP English Language and Composition Course and Exam Description and free-response material from past years, provides an important overview of the major AP Lang rhetorical devices and techniques you need to know. With all of this AP Language and Composition vocabulary at your disposal, you'll be a top-notch rhetorical analyst in no time!

Each entry has a definition and example or further explanation. Don't be intimidated by the size of this list—many of these are terms you are probably already familiar with!

Essential Rhetorical Analysis Terms

ap lang essay words

Want to build the best possible college application?

We can help. PrepScholar Admissions is the world's best admissions consulting service. We combine world-class admissions counselors with our data-driven, proprietary admissions strategies . We've overseen thousands of students get into their top choice schools , from state colleges to the Ivy League.

We know what kinds of students colleges want to admit. We want to get you admitted to your dream schools .

Learn more about PrepScholar Admissions to maximize your chance of getting in.

Get Into Your Top Choice School

Let your voice be heard!

Bonus AP Language and Composition Terms

Here are 18 bonus AP Language vocabulary terms that, while not absolutely essential to your success on the exam, will be very helpful. They identify some common but obscurely named rhetorical techniques and some additional rhetorical and argumentative strategies.

These terms also each have a definition and an example or explanation.

Bonus Rhetorical Terms


The Angry Storm: a story of personification.

How to Learn and Use AP Language Terms

You might be tempted to bust out some flashcards, do some aggressive memorization, and call yourself finished. However, that's really only the first step of the three-step process of actually learning AP Lang terms.

Step 1: Learn Rhetorical Terms

As you initially try to familiarize yourself with these terms and what they mean, it's fine to make flashcards. You could use the term on one side and the definition on the other, or the definition and the example from the chart on one side and the term on the other—whatever's easier for you.

You can make physical flashcards if you like to learn things with a tactile element involved, but for the sake of convenience, you might consider making online flashcards at a site like Quizlet, where a free account lets you make and save flash cards and then quiz yourself with a variety of games and strategies.

When you know the terms and their definitions inside and out, you're ready to move on to the next step.

Step 2: Identify Rhetorical Strategies and Devices

Next, you need to work on identifying rhetorical strategies and devices in actual written works. Make an effort when you read to seek out examples of the different rhetorical techniques at work.

Think about the larger context of the piece: what's the author's purpose in writing this piece? Is the speaker the same as the author? What genre is it? What devices are being used repeatedly? You might try jotting down your thoughts about how pieces you read are using rhetorical devices.

When you feel you can consistently identify these strategies at work in the writing of others, it's time to try your hand at using them yourself.

Step 3: Deploy Rhetorical Strategies and Devices

Once you feel you have a handle on identifying a given device/concept in other pieces, it's time to think about using it in your own writing. Consider your own purpose and argument when you write. Think about audience. Deploy hyperbole and irony.

See what works and what doesn't. Trying to apply the terms will help you learn the concepts much better than simple memorization.

Looking for help studying for your AP exam?

Our one-on-one online AP tutoring services can help you prepare for your AP exams. Get matched with a top tutor who got a high score on the exam you're studying for!

Get a 5 On Your AP Exam

Deploy rhetorical parachutes!

Final Thoughts: AP Language and Composition Terms

There are so many rhetorical terms that it can be hard to determine which ones you need to know for AP Language and Composition! This list gives you an overview of all the essential AP English Language and Composition vocabulary.

When you're trying to learn these concepts, it's better to try to apply them—by seeing how other authors use them and using them in your own writing—than to just memorize the terms and their definitions. The important thing is to understand the concepts, not just know the terms!

What's Next?

Need to familiarize yourself with the format of the AP Lang test? We go over exactly what's included on the AP Language test and how to tackle the multiple choice section here . Plus, check out our complete list of released practice AP Language tests .

If you're also taking AP Literature, see our ultimate guide to the AP English Literature test and our AP Literature Reading List .

Studying poetry in class? Whether you're reading " Do not go gentle into that good night " by Dylan Thomas or a Shakespearean sonnet, you're going to want to make sure you know important poetic devices and terms like assonance and iambic pentameter , just to name a few.

We can help if you're not sure how to study for AP exams .

Looking for other practice AP tests? See our complete lists for AP Human Geography , AP Literature , AP US History , AP Chemistry , AP Biology , AP Psychology , and AP World History . Or see our guide to finding the best AP practice tests for any exam .

Thinking ahead to college applications?

If you’re a freshman, sophomore, or junior worried about college admissions, our world-class admissions counselors can help. We know exactly what kinds of students colleges want to admit and can make sure your profile shines.

PrepScholar Admissions is the world's best admissions consulting service. We've helped thousands of students get into their top choice schools , from state colleges to the Ivy League.

Join our mentoring program today:

Start Planning for College Now

Ellen has extensive education mentorship experience and is deeply committed to helping students succeed in all areas of life. She received a BA from Harvard in Folklore and Mythology and is currently pursuing graduate studies at Columbia University.

Student and Parent Forum

Our new student and parent forum, at , allow you to interact with your peers and the PrepScholar staff. See how other students and parents are navigating high school, college, and the college admissions process. Ask questions; get answers.

Join the Conversation

Ask a Question Below

Have any questions about this article or other topics? Ask below and we'll reply!

Improve With Our Famous Guides

  • For All Students

The 5 Strategies You Must Be Using to Improve 160+ SAT Points

How to Get a Perfect 1600, by a Perfect Scorer

Series: How to Get 800 on Each SAT Section:

Score 800 on SAT Math

Score 800 on SAT Reading

Score 800 on SAT Writing

Series: How to Get to 600 on Each SAT Section:

Score 600 on SAT Math

Score 600 on SAT Reading

Score 600 on SAT Writing

Free Complete Official SAT Practice Tests

What SAT Target Score Should You Be Aiming For?

15 Strategies to Improve Your SAT Essay

The 5 Strategies You Must Be Using to Improve 4+ ACT Points

How to Get a Perfect 36 ACT, by a Perfect Scorer

Series: How to Get 36 on Each ACT Section:

36 on ACT English

36 on ACT Math

36 on ACT Reading

36 on ACT Science

Series: How to Get to 24 on Each ACT Section:

24 on ACT English

24 on ACT Math

24 on ACT Reading

24 on ACT Science

What ACT target score should you be aiming for?

ACT Vocabulary You Must Know

ACT Writing: 15 Tips to Raise Your Essay Score

How to Get Into Harvard and the Ivy League

How to Get a Perfect 4.0 GPA

How to Write an Amazing College Essay

What Exactly Are Colleges Looking For?

Is the ACT easier than the SAT? A Comprehensive Guide

Should you retake your SAT or ACT?

When should you take the SAT or ACT?

Stay Informed

ap lang essay words

Get the latest articles and test prep tips!

Looking for Graduate School Test Prep?

Check out our top-rated graduate blogs here:

GRE Online Prep Blog

GMAT Online Prep Blog

TOEFL Online Prep Blog

Holly R. "I am absolutely overjoyed and cannot thank you enough for helping me!”
  • Hayes High School
  • Hayes Athletics
  • Dempsey Middle School
  • Delaware City Elementary Schools


Achieving Excellence, Honoring Tradition

  • AP - General Files

Auvdel, Jason

Page navigation.

  • AP - Articles
  • AP - Jude the Obscure
  • AP - White Noise
  • AP - A Clockwork Orange
  • AP - Philosophy
  • AP - Review
  • English 10 - Gerenal Files
  • English 10 - Vocabulary
  • English 10 - Analysis Notes
  • English 10 - Rubrics
  • English 10 - Grammar
  • English 10 - Paragraph Review
  • English 10 - Antigone
  • English 10 - Julius Caesar
  • English 10 - Poetry
  • English 10 - Documents
  • English 10 - Final Project
  • English 09 - General Files
  • English 09 - Root Words
  • English 09 - Vocabulary Lists
  • English 09 - Writing Guides
  • English 09 - Grammar
  • English 09 - The Odyessy
  • English 09 - Poetry
  • English 09 - Romeo & Juliet
  • English 09 -To Kill A Mockingbird
  • English 09 - Career Project
  • Multiple Choice for Corrections
  • Online Asignments

AP Vocabulary List


The device of using character and/or story elements symbolically to represent an abstraction in addition to the literal meaning.


The repetition of sounds, especially initial consonant sounds in two or more neighboring words.

A direct or indirect reference to something which is presumably commonly known, such as an event, book, myth, place, or work of art.

The multiple meanings, either intentional or unintentional, of a word, phrase, sentence, or passage.

A similarity or comparison between two different things or the relationship between them. An analogy can explain something unfamiliar by associating it with or pointing out its similarity to something more familiar.

The word, phrase, or clause referred to by a pronoun.

A terse statement of known authorship which expresses a general truth or a moral principle.

A figure of speech that directly addresses an absent or imaginary person or a personified abstraction, such as liberty or love.

The emotional mood created by the entirety of a literary work.

A writer's intellectual position or emotion regarding the subject of the writing.

A grammatical unit that contains both a subject and a verb.


The use of slang or informalities in speech or writing.

A fanciful expression, usually in the form of an extended metaphor or surprising analogy between seemingly dissimilar objects.


The nonliteral, associative meaning of a word; the implied, suggested meaning. Connotations may involve ideas, emotions, or attitudes.

The strict, literal, dictionary definition of a word.

Related to style, diction refers to the writer's word choices, especially with regard to their correctness, clearness, or effective ness.

From the Greek, didactic literally means "teaching." Didactic works have the primary aim of teaching or instructing.

From the Greek for "good speech," euphemisms are a more agreeable or less offensive substitute for a generally unpleasant word or concept.

extended metaphor

A metaphor developed at great length, occurring frequently in or throughout a work.

figurative language

Writing or speech that is not intended to carry literal meaning and is usually meant to be imaginative and vivid.

This term literally means "sermon," but more informally, it can include any serious talk, speech, or lecture involving moral or spiritual advice.

A figure of speech using deliberate exaggeration or overstatement. Hyperboles often have a comic effect; however, a serious effect is also possible.

The sensory details or figurative language used to describe, arouse emotion, or represent abstractions.


To draw a reasonable conclusion from the information presented.

An emotionally violent, verbal denunciation or attack using strong, abusive language.


The contrast between what is stated explicitly and what is really meant.

loose sentence

A type of sentence in which the main idea (independent clause) comes first, followed by dependent grammatical units such as phrases and clauses.

A figure of speech using implied comparison of seemingly unlike things or the substitution of one for the other, suggesting some similarity.

A term from the Greek meaning "changed label" or "substitute name," metonomy is a figure of speech in which the name of one object is substituted for that of another closely associated with it.

The telling of a story or an account of an event or series of events.


A figure of speech in which natural sounds are imitated in the sounds of words. Simple examples include such words as buzz, hiss, hum, crack, whinny, and murmur.

From the Greek for "pointedly foolish," an oxymoron is a figure of speech wherein the author groups apparently contradictory terms to suggest a paradox.

A statement that appears to be self-contradictory or opposed to common sense but upon closer inspection contains some degree of truth or validity.


Also referred to as parallel construction or parallel structure. It refers to the grammatical or rhetorical framing of words, phrases, sentences, or paragraphs to give structural similarity.

A work that closely imitates the style or content of another with the specific aim of comic effect and/or ridicule.

An adjective that describes words, phrases, or general tone that is overly scholarly, academic, or bookish.

periodic sentence

A sentence that presents its central meaning in a main clause at the end. This independent clause is preceded by a phrase or clause that cannot stand alone.


A figure of speech in which the author presents or describes concepts, animals, or inanimate objects by endowing them with human attributes or emotions. Personification is used to make these abstractions, animals, or objects appear more vivid to the reader.

The duplication, either exact or approximate, of any element of language, such as a sound, word, phrase, clause, sentence, or grammatical pattern.

From the Greek for "orator," this term describes the principles governing the art of writing effectively, eloquently, and persua sively .

From the Greek meaning "to tear flesh," sarcasm involves bitter, caustic language that is meant to hurt or ridicule someone or something.

A work that targets human vices and follies or social institutions and conventions for reform or ridicule.

The branch of linguistics that studies the meaning of words, their historical and psychological development, and their relation to one another.

An evaluation of the sum of the choices an author makes in blending diction, syntax, figurative language, and other literary devices.

Deductive system of formal logic that presents two premises (the first one called "major" and the second "minor") that inevitably lead to a sound conclusion.

The way an author chooses to join words into phrases, clauses, and sentences. Syntax is similar to diction, but you can differentiate them by thinking of syntax as the groups of words, while diction refers to the individual words.

The central idea or message of a work, the insight it offers into life. Usually, theme is unstated in fictional works, but in nonfic t ion, the theme may be directly stated, especially in expository or argumentative writing.

In expository writing, the thesis statement is the sentence or group of sentences that directly expresses the author's opinion, purpose, meaning, or proposition. Expository writing is usually judged by analyzing how accurately, effectively, and thoroughly a writer has proven the thesis.

Similar to mood, tone describes the author's attitude toward his or her material, the audience, or both.

A word or phrase that links different ideas.


The ironic minimalizing of fact, understatement presents something as less significant than it is.

In modern usage, intellectually amusing language that surprises and delights. 

ap lang essay words

  • Questions or Feedback? |
  • Web Community Manager Privacy Policy (Updated) |


  1. Ap Lang Overrated Essay Examples

    ap lang essay words

  2. 010 Essay Example Ap Lang Argument Prompts Types Of Exam Study ~ Thatsnotus

    ap lang essay words

  3. Synthesis Essay Example and Definition at KingEssays©

    ap lang essay words

  4. Incredible Ap Lang Argument Essay Prompts ~ Thatsnotus

    ap lang essay words

  5. Ap Lang Rhetorical Analysis Essay Examples

    ap lang essay words

  6. Ap Lang Rhetorical Analysis Essay Example

    ap lang essay words


  1. vocabularies

  2. AP Lang Essays Made easy


  4. How hard is AP Lang?

  5. Unit 4 Reading and Writing (RW): Grammar-Articles

  6. M23: IB English A Lang & Lit Paper 1 Non-Written Essay Outlining, TZ 2


  1. How Long Is a 500-Word Essay?

    A 500-word essay averages two double-spaced pages. The length of a document depends on the paper and margin sizes as well as the general text formatting.

  2. How Long Is a 200 Word Essay?

    An essay containing 200 words is limited in length, requiring between three and five paragraphs depending on the sentence structure and vocabulary used. An essay is a short piece of writing about a particular topic.

  3. How Many Pages Typed Is a 500-Word Essay?

    A 500-word essay is approximately one page single-spaced, or two pages double-spaced. This approximation assumes a common, 12-point font with 1-inch margins on standard printing paper.

  4. The 55 AP Language and Composition Terms You Must Know

    With all of this AP Language and Composition vocabulary at your disposal, you'll be a top-notch rhetorical analyst in no time! Each entry has a

  5. AP English Language & Composition SAT Vocabulary Lists #1-13

    I recommend flash cards to commit these words to memory. Further, they are also beneficial to include in all writing in this class (e.g., blog, formal essays

  6. Comprehensive Vocab List (AP Lang)

    diction: the particular words an author uses in an essay. 293. distractor: a possible answer that seems to be correct, but is either wrong or is not as good

  7. AP Language Terms

    Full list of words from this list: · alliteration. use of the same consonant at the beginning of each word · allusion. passing reference or indirect mention.

  8. AP Language and Composition Glossary of Literary and Rhetorical

    Diction - Word choice, particularly as an element of style. Different types of words have significant effects on meaning. An essay written in academic diction

  9. Include These Words in Your AP Lang Essay

    Looking to strategize for the upcoming AP Lang exam? Check out Coach Hall's Game Plan Workshop here:

  10. AP English Language and Composition Comprehensive Vocabulary

    ... words an author uses in an essay. distractor. a possible answer that seems to be correct, but is either wrong or is not as good as other answers. ellipsis.

  11. AP English Language Vocabulary Words Flashcards

    Related Essays. To Kill A Mockingbird Character Analysis. Noisy and difficult to control Vehement - Adjective. Intensely emotional Cordiality - Noun.

  12. Words To Know For Ap English Language Exam!

    Related Essays. Example Of Vocab Essay. 67 Belauded, verb-------to load with praise Wont, noun-------a habit Pg. 69 Betokens, verb-------to be a sign of or

  13. AP Vocabulary List

    AP Vocabulary List. TERMS FOR THE MULTIPLE-CHOICE AND ESSAY SECTIONS. allegory. The device of using character and/or story elements symbolically to represent

  14. Glossary of Rhetorical Terms

    Syntax – The way an author chooses to join words into phrases, clauses, and