Genre – Defined

books-768426_640Authors and readers frequently refer to a book as falling within a specific genre but does everyone truly understand what a genre is? Do they understand what type of work each genre encompasses?

Prior to considering a variety of genre it is worth understanding what the word itself means.

‘Style of art or literature.’ (Oxford English Dictionary)

‘A category of artistic, musical or literary composition characterized by a particular style, form, or content.’ (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

The word originates from 1770 French and meant ‘kind, sort, style’. In particular it was used to refer to ‘independent style’. There is suggestion the word is further rooted within the definition of gender (membership of a word or grammatical form).

In modern usage the word principally refers to style and category.

Types of Genre

Though most of the following ‘high-level’ genre are commonly used, does everyone truly comprehend what each covers? For the purposes of conciseness only dictionary definitions will be given below. A simple search of the internet will provide more comprehensive explanations for those who want them.

Note: The order in which the genre are presented is not indicative of any preference or suggested value of one above the other.


‘The imagining of improbable things.’; ‘An imagined situation.’; ‘Fiction involving magic or adventure.’ (Oxford English Dictionary)

‘A pleasant situation that you enjoy thinking about but is unlikely to happen, or the activity of imagining things like this.’; ‘A story or type of literature that describes situations that are very different from real life, usually involving magic.’ (Cambridge Dictionary)


‘Fiction dealing principally with the impact of actual or imagined science on society or individuals or having a scientific factor as an essential orienting component.’ (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

‘Fiction based on imagined future scientific or technological advances and major social or environmental changes, frequently portraying space or time travel and life on other planets.’ (Oxford Dictionary)


‘A medieval tale based on legend, chivalric love and adventure, or the supernatural.’; ‘A prose narrative treating imaginary characters involved in events remote in time or place and usually heroic, adventurous, or mysterious.’; ‘A love story especially in the form of a novel.’ (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

‘A genre of fiction dealing with love in a sentimental or idealized way.’ (Oxford Dictionary)


‘A thriller is a book, film, or play that tells an exciting fictional story about something such as criminal activities or spying.’ (Collins Dictionary)

‘A book, film, play, etc. depicting crime, mystery, or espionage in an atmosphere of excitement and suspense.’ (The Free Dictionary)


‘A mystery story is a story in which strange things happen that are not explained until the end.’ (Collins Dictionary)

‘A novel, play, or film dealing with a puzzling crime, especially a murder.’ (Oxford Dictionary)


‘A quality in a work of fiction that arouses excited expectation or uncertainty about what may happen.’ (Oxford Dictionary)

Note: The suspense genre is often included under, or with, Thriller (See above).


‘An imaginary place or state in which the condition of life is extremely bad, as from deprivation, oppression, or terror.’; ‘A work describing such a place or state.’; ‘An imaginary society in which social or technological trends have culminated in a greatly diminished quality of life or degradation of values.’ (The Free Dictionary)

‘An imagined state or society in which there is great suffering or injustice, typically one that is totalitarian or post-apocalyptic.’ (Oxford Dictionary)


‘A biography of someone is an account of their life, written by someone else.’; ‘Biography is the branch of literature which deals with accounts of people’s lives.’ (Collins Dictionary)

‘An account of a person’s life written, composed, or produced by another.’ (The Free Dictionary)


‘The story of a person’s life written by that person.’ (Oxford English Dictionary)

‘The biography of a person narrated by himself or herself.’ (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)


‘A written account of events etc. that you remember.’ (Oxford English Dictionary)

‘A narrative composed from personal experience.’ (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)


Some may consider the above as ‘Teaching grandmother to suck eggs’ (giving advice to someone in a subject with which they are already familiar). It is not intended to be such. The aim is simply to try and bring some clarity where there may be uncertainty: Linguistic understandings can differ from culture to culture, society to society.

It is also a fact some authors, to give books greater exposure, may include terms in descriptions that do not truly align with the book’s content or are only marginal. Sometimes this is simply from not fully comprehending a genre’s definition.

Naturally, the above is by no means a complete list of genre but, as already stated, for the purposes of conciseness (most people are very busy) it has been restrained to primary high-level ones.

If there is an additional genre you would like defined, please add a comment stating which and it will be seen what may be done.

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