English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

There is a word in English which is used to describe the technique used by authors where they describe the surroundings (like sight, sounds, smells, etc.) to make the scene more rich.

Like "there was fresh sand between the driveway paving stones and a diminutive sapling on the lawn" to describe that the house is new.

What is that word?

share|improve this question
The word is embellishment. – satyrwilder Aug 16 '13 at 3:18


The type of imagery from your example ("there was fresh sand between the driveway paving stones and a diminutive sapling on the lawn") would be visual. You're attempting to paint a picture in the reader's mind to describe the house as being new.

You can use imagery to appeal to any of your reader's senses. Attempting to describe a particular smell would be one...

The acrid stench of burnt hair lingered in the air.

EDIT: Wikipedia has a decent description of sensory imagery.

share|improve this answer
All the other answers made me laugh, so this must be the right one. – nohat Aug 13 '10 at 19:33
As far as I know, this kind of writing is generally referred to as a descriptive sentence/passage/paragraph, so why this answer was upvoted I have no idea. Perhaps it's a portmanteau or something. – delete Aug 14 '10 at 3:26
@Shinto - I simply supplied an answer that I felt fit the question. The manner in which Surya asked and described the question made me think of sensory imagery. – Jagd Aug 14 '10 at 4:58
I don't really have a problem with your answer so much as that it has been upvoted four or more times. – delete Aug 14 '10 at 5:03
This is part of the answer, but not all of it. The question asks about "sight, sounds, smells, ect (sic)". – Neil Fein Aug 23 '10 at 17:58

Could it be descriptive?

share|improve this answer
+1 This is the right answer. Unfortunately a wrong answer has been upvoted. – delete Aug 14 '10 at 3:24
Descriptive terms: -Sight -- Visual description -Sound -- Auditory or aural description -Smell -- Olfactory description – Neil Fein Aug 23 '10 at 18:03
If the OP is asking for a noun ("the technique used by authors"), then I don't think "descriptive" is a suitable answer. – Andrew Vit Apr 12 '11 at 9:54

The word I think you are looking for is "Setting"

share|improve this answer

When overdone, this is known as Purple prose. Purple prose refers to applying descriptive imagery excessively, extravagantly or unnecessarily. That may be the term you're looking for.

If you're not after a disparaging term, then "descriptive" is probably right.

share|improve this answer

That would be an example of a sensory image. Sensory imagery includes: visual/sight, auditory/sounds, tacile/touch, Smell, etc.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.