What Is a Colloquialism? Learn About How Colloquialisms Are Used in Literature With Examples

What Is a Colloquialism?

Colloquialism ((kuh-LOH-kwee-uh-liz-um) is the use of informal, everyday conversational language in a writing piece. The word ​colloquialism​ stems from the Latin word ​colloquium​, which roughly translates to speaking together. Colloquialism writing often occurs in everyday speech and is used in poetry, prose and drama. Colloquialism is often used in first-person narration or dialogue in order to make characters seem more realistic, or lifelike.

List common forms:

  • Idiomatic Expressions
    • Example: "Quitting cold turkey," "Driving me nuts."
  • Profanities
    • Example: "Damn!"
  • Regional Phrases
    • Example: "Wicked," "Hella," "Mad."
  • Nonstandard Grammar
    • Example: "I ain't going there!"
  • Proverbs and Aphorisms
    • Example: "Absence makes the heart grow fonder."

Colloquialism Definition

noun.​ a colloquial expression; characteristic of spoken or written communication that seeks to imitate informal speech.

What Are the Differences between Colloquialism, Slang, and Jargon?

Though both colloquialism and slang are spoken forms of language, slang is mostly used with a specific culture or social group, while colloquialism is used by ordinary people. On the other hand, jargon is a technical language that is used by people in a specific profession, field or social group.

What Are Appropriate Uses for Colloquialism?

Some uses of colloquialism can be found all around us. Colloquialism is an everyday language, so it is often used in pop culture, advertising, texts, emails, social media, and letters to family and friends.

How do writers use colloquialism?

  • Dialogue
    • Example: "You're gonna wanna see this," "He needs to step up to the plate."
  • Setting
  • Characters

Colloquialism in American Literature

Mark Twain's ​Huckleberry Finn.

All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn. - Ernest Hemingway

Examples of Colloquialism in Literature

John Steinbeck, ​Of Mice and Men

William Shakespeare, ​Romeo and Juliet

J.D. Salinger, ​The Catcher in the Rye