Apostrophe is a direct address of an inanimate object, abstract qualities, a god, or a person not living or present. 

History of Apostrophe

The term “apostrophe” comes from the Greek for "turning away.” The term first described orators turning to a particular individual in a crowd and addressing them directly. In the literary definition of apostrophe, the addressee is not present, but apostrophe might figuratively represent turning toward someone or something and addressing them.

Commonly used by playwrights and poets, apostrophe allows a character or speaker to philosophize about the abstract or speak to someone or something that isn’t present. In playwriting, apostrophe can be used in soliloquies. In poetry, apostrophe often involves personification, assigning human or living qualities to nonhuman things. 

John Donne uses apostrophe in “The Sun Rising” to address the sun. He begins “Busy old fool, unruly Sun” and continues, describing the sun’s actions, asking it questions, and giving it human commands. Other poems that use apostrophe include “O Captain! My Captain!” by Walt Whitman, “[London, my beautiful]” by F.S. Flint, “Grace” by Joy Harjo, and “Cherry Blossoms” by Toi Derricotte.