46 arts and humanities glossaries

Heraldry, literature, painting and art are fascinating fields, but do you speak the lingo? If you don’t, or if you are struggling with certain terms, or maybe you want to specialise in one of these fields, this is the right place. All the glossaries have been selected to make sure they cover most terms you may come across. They are split into categories for ease of use. The descriptions will also come in handy.


Helaldsnet – This very interesting glossary of heraldry-related terms will offer anyone clear, easy to understand information on heraldry and on how coats of arms looked throughout the ages.

Heraldica – You can find here useful explanations of the European Noble/ Royal/ Imperial/ Princely titles. The explanations can sometimes include the etymology of the words, as well as historical references related to them.

Apl385 – This glossary of heraldic terms gives step-by-step explanations on heraldry and it is perfect for those who are just beginning to show interest in this field.

Heraldica – On this website you will be able to find a translator of heraldic terms (which translates into six different languages), as well as pictures representing each of these terms.

Burke’s Peerage – You can find here an alphabetically-arranged list of heraldic terms, as well as a brief introduction in the art of heraldry and its history.

Civic Heraldry – Although not as rich as other similar glossaries, this one will help you if you are looking for brief explanations on some of the most important heraldry-related terms.

Armorial Gold – A glossary of heraldry terms which contains a lot of words and brief, comprehensive explanations for each of them. Perfect to use when you are looking for very specific terms related to heraldry.

Thurrock Community – A relatively short but comprehensive glossary of commonly encountered heraldry-related terms.

NYG&B – The New York Genealogical and Biographical Society – Also a short glossary of terms used in heraldry. Some of the words explained here cannot be found in the previously mentioned short glossary. Also, for those looking for further information, the site provides the reader with references (a book on American heraldry and another website that has been mentioned here as well).


Menrath-online – A glossary of literary terms. Although the introduction is in German, the definition of each entry is in English. Being designed to be used in lessons, the explanations are simple and easy to understand.

UNCP -University of North Carolina at Pembroke – This glossary has put together literary terms and extensive explanations and examples for each of them. You can consider this to be a reliable source, especially because the glossary was originally built for teaching purposes.

Virtual Salt – This glossary of literary terms will give both extensive, easy to understand explanations and examples of books where certain literary terms are well portrayed.

Carson-Newman College – Dr Wheeler – A long list of literary terms, focusing mostly on medieval, classical and science-fiction literature, as well as on the history of the English language.

Wikipedia – This is probably one of the most complete glossaries of literary terms available out there. Most of the terms come with a brief explanation and, by clicking on them, you can get to a page dedicated entirely to explaining and exemplifying them.

University of Cambridge – You can find here both a short list of literary terms and one of grammatical terms. The explanations are well-put together and you can consider this as one of the most reliable sources out there.

Dictionary.com – This online dictionary has dedicated a fair amount of its space to collecting literary and grammatical terms. You can find here both very short, very easy to understand explanations and, by clicking on the words you can learn their pronunciation and you can find extensive definitions (including the meanings some of the words have outside of literature).

Cyber English – This glossary of literary terms focuses on both literary techniques and on figures of speech commonly used in literature. Although it is a shorter list (as compared to others), it will provide you with comprehensive definitions and examples.

Bedford St Martin’s – A carefully put together glossary of literary terms. Other than detailed definitions, this glossary will also link you to terms that are related to your search.

Manchester Township School District – Again, one of the most complete online resources when it comes to literature-related terminology. The explanations, as well as the relationship the site builds with other related terms, are perfect to be used in teaching, but they can be a very good source of personal information as well.

Poets’ Graves – This is a literary glossary that focuses on poetry. You will find here a lot of terms connected to poetry, from types of verses to professional associations and literary movements.

ITS – Clearly put together with the purpose of teaching, this glossary can be a very useful resource for those who learn better by cross-referencing and link-building. All in all, you can find here almost any literary term you may be searching for (from literary techniques, to movements and genres).

Painting & art

MartinLawrence – A glossary of art terminology, focusing especially on basic terms. The explanations given are complete and easy to understand.

Your way to Florence – This glossary of art terms will go deeper into the specific language used by artists. It includes explanations for various styles and techniques, and you will be able to find here some architecture-related terms as well.

Watercolour painting – This art terminology glossary contains terms related both to arts in general and to watercolour painting in particular (including techniques, styles and tools). The site provides cross-referencing links when further explanations are necessary.

ArtLex – This website is a very rich source of information for those looking for very specific art-related terms. Also, besides fairly comprehensive definitions, you will be able to find here photos exemplifying certain terms, as well as cross-references that will give you a better understanding of them.

Golden Glow Paints – This glossary focuses especially on painting and its terminology. There is a fair number of words included and their definitions are brief and easy to understand.

Will Kemp Art School – A good source for those looking for oil painting-related terms. Besides good explanations, the website will also help you with pronunciation (especially for those words that are of Italian origins).

About.com – Another rich resource when it comes to art terminology. Although the number of terms may be lower than in other cases, their explanations are more complete and the cross-referencing may prove extremely useful for some of you.

Essential Vermeer – This art glossary does not contain a lot of words, but the explanations are truly great. You will find here definitions and details on some artistic movements (the Renaissance, for instance) as well as on very specific techniques.

Rex Art – Very short, very easy to understand definitions of art-related terms (including tools and techniques).

The Fine Arts Conservancy – In addition to a fair and short explanation of each term, this art glossary will exemplify each of them with several high-quality pictures.

MoMA Learning – A glossary of art terminology with very good cross-references and related links that will help you gain a better understanding.

Umaine Museum of Art – A glossary of watercolouring terms. Although it does not go as deep as the previously-mentioned similar glossary, this one can be considered to be a very reliable source of information as well (especially since it is official educational material).

Painters Online – This glossary of art-related terms was built with the specific purpose of helping beginners, so if you find art terminology confusing as well, you can rely on this source of information.

CFISD – If you are looking for very brief, concise definitions of particular art-related terms, then this is the place to be.

Artist Terms – A glossary of general art terminology. You can find here a lot of words and their definitions will be easy to understand even for a non-professional.

Victor Ostrovsky – Some of the terms included in this list of art terms cannot be found in other similar glossaries.

Artcyclopedia – Probably the most complete glossary of art-related terms. You can find here very well organised cross-references, brief, comprehensive definitions as well as useful examples.

Modern Sculpture – This glossary of art-related terms focuses especially on modern art, but you can find here general terms as well.

Masterworks Fine Art – This dictionary of art terms and techniques is centred mainly around print arts.

Art in Action – A glossary of terms you are very likely to encounter in an art gallery. The explanations are short, but extremely easy to understand.

Zatista – A good resource to use when you are looking for rather general art-related terms and when you want clear, short definitions.

AskArt – A rich glossary of art and art history-related terms. It includes artistic movements, schools and universities, professional associations and artistic techniques alike.

Heritage Auctions – A list of basic art terminology, with explanations suitable for anyone.

The Conservation Center – An art glossary that contains general terms related to arts (including tools, techniques, and so on).

Wikipedia – A short but concise list of terms connected to glass art. For some of the words, Wikipedia provides links to extensive explanations, so if you are looking for a good resource in this specific field, then this glossary is for you.