Is Novella An English Word? The Origin And Meaning Of The Term

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Are you curious about the term ‘novella’? Perhaps you’ve heard it used in conversation or seen it mentioned in a book, but you’re not quite sure what it means or if it’s even an English word.

Well, the good news is that novella is indeed an English word, and in this article, we’ll explore its origin and meaning.

As a lover of literature, you may be familiar with the term ‘novel’, but novella is a lesser-known cousin of the more popular literary form. Despite its relative obscurity, novellas have been written and enjoyed for centuries, and they continue to be a source of inspiration for writers and readers alike.

So, join us on this journey of discovery as we delve into the world of novellas and uncover their unique characteristics and appeal.

Key Takeaways

  • Novella is an English word derived from the Italian word ‘novella’ meaning ‘new’ or ‘news’.
  • Novellas are longer than short stories but shorter than novels, and provide a concise and accessible way to explore important themes and ideas while also providing entertainment.
  • Novellas have gained popularity in modern literature due to their unique characteristics and themes, and sales have increased by 29% between 2011 and 2014.
  • Novellas are an established form of writing in English literature that offer a unique reading experience combining entertainment with exploration of important themes and ideas, and continue to be a source of inspiration for writers and readers alike.

The Origin of the Term ‘Novella’

Now, you might be wondering where the term ‘novella’ even came from, so let me tell you – it actually originated from the Italian word ‘novella’ which means ‘new’ or ‘news’.

The term was first used in the 14th century to describe a short piece of fiction that was meant to entertain and inform readers. This literary form was popularized by Italian writers such as Giovanni Boccaccio and Matteo Bandello, who wrote collections of novellas that were widely read and enjoyed.

The etymology of the term ‘novella’ is significant, as it reflects the historical context in which this literary form emerged. During the Renaissance, there was a renewed interest in classical literature and a desire to create new forms of artistic expression that reflected the values and ideals of the time.

Novellas were seen as a way to explore important themes and ideas in a concise and accessible manner, while also providing entertainment and diversion for readers. Today, novellas continue to be an important form of literary expression, and their historical significance can still be felt in the many works of fiction that are written in this format.

finding where the word novella came from by searching it on the internet
Finding where the word novella came from by searching it on the internet

Defining Novella in English Literature

It’s said that good things come in small packages, and that’s certainly true of short works of fiction that are longer than a short story but shorter than a novel – the novella.

While the term originates from Italian Renaissance literature, novellas have become an established form of writing in English literature, with many notable works falling under this category.

Defining a novella can be tricky, as it can vary depending on the author’s intentions. Still, generally, the novella is a work of fiction that is longer than a short story but shorter than a novel.

To further define a novella, analysis techniques and historical context can be used to identify common themes and structures within the genre.

Examples of Popular Novellas

Discover some of the most popular short works of fiction that are longer than a short story but shorter than a novel! Novellas have gained popularity in modern literature due to their unique characteristics and themes.

Here are some examples that you might enjoy:

  1. “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde “by Robert Louis Stevenson – This classic novella explores the duality of human nature and the consequences of suppressing one’s dark side.
  2. “Heart of Darkness “by Joseph Conrad – Often cited as one of the greatest works of the 20th century, this novella delves into the darkness of imperialism and the human psyche.
  3. “The Metamorphosis “by Franz Kafka – A surreal and disturbing tale about a man who wakes up one day transformed into a giant insect, this novella touches on themes of isolation and existentialism.
  4. “The Old Man and the Sea “by Ernest Hemingway – Hemingway’s concise and powerful writing style is on full display in this novella about an aging fisherman’s struggle to catch a giant marlin.

These novellas and others like them have had a significant impact on modern literature, inspiring writers to explore complex themes and experiment with different forms of storytelling. Whether you’re a fan of classic literature or looking to discover something new, novellas offer a unique and rewarding reading experience.

reading some of the most famous novellas online
Reading some of the most famous novellas online

Novella as a Literary Genre

You may be surprised to learn that novellas have been gaining popularity in recent years. The novella has become a go-to genre for readers looking for a fast-paced, engaging read that can be completed in one sitting.

But it’s not just the length of the novella that draws readers in; it’s also the depth of exploration into themes and character development that can be achieved in a shorter work of fiction.

Exploring novella themes often allows authors to delve deeper into a specific topic or issue than they would be able to in a full-length novel. By focusing on a smaller cast of characters and a more condensed plot, novellas can provide a more intimate and intense reading experience. This allows authors to tackle complex issues with greater specificity and to explore the emotional nuances of their characters in a more concentrated way.

Analyzing novella character development can also be a rewarding experience for readers, as the shorter format means that every word and action is more significant. This can lead to a more immersive reading experience and a greater understanding of the characters’ motivations and inner lives.


In conclusion, the journey through the intricate tapestry of the term ‘novella’ unveils not just its linguistic evolution, but its profound significance in the world of literature.

From its origins rooted in Italian “novella” meaning “news” or “short story,” to its establishment as a distinguished genre in English literature, the novella has maintained its allure as a compact yet impactful narrative form. Its ability to capture the essence of a story in a concise manner, coupled with its capacity to explore intricate emotions and ideas, has solidified its place in the literary landscape.

Whether through the lens of classic exemplars like John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men” or contemporary gems such as Ian McEwan’s “On Chesil Beach,” novellas have consistently demonstrated their potency.

So, while the question “Is novella an English word?” finds its answer in the annals of linguistic history, it’s the eloquence and power of the novella’s storytelling that truly leaves an indelible mark on readers and writers alike.

Just as a novella packs a universe into its pages, this exploration barely scratches the surface of its narrative richness. As we turn the final page on this exploration, the world of novellas remains open-ended, ready to enchant us with its brevity and depth time and time again.

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Jessica started off as an avid book reader. After reading one too many romance novels (really... is it ever really enough?), she decided to jump to the other side and started writing her own stories. She now shares what she has learned (the good and the not so good) here at When You Write, hoping she can inspire more up and coming wordsmiths to take the leap and share their own stories with the world.