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A rhyme is a correspondence in sound between two or more words, most often used in poetry and songs. The word "rhyme" may also refer to a short rhyming poem, such as a rhyming couplet or a nursery rhyme.


Rhyme (rhyme) n. [OE. ryme, rime, AS. r***imacr]m number; akin to OHG. r***imacr]m number, succession, series, G. reim (rhyme). The modern sense is due to the influence of F. rime, which is of German origin, and original]

  1. An expression of thought in numbers, measure, or verse; a composition in verse; a rhymed tale; poetry; harmony of language. "Railing rhymes." Daniel. "A ryme I learned long ago." Chaucer. "He knew / Himself to sing, and build the lofty rime." Milton.
  2. Correspondence of sound in the terminating words or syllables of two or more verses, one succeeding another immediately or at no great distance. The words or syllables so used must not begin with the same consonant, or if one begins with a vowel the other must begin with a consonant. The vowel sounds and accents must be the same, as also the sounds of the final consonants if there be any. "For rhyme with reason may dispense, / And sound has right to govern sense." Prior.
  3. Verses, usually two, having this correspondence with each other; a couplet; a poem containing rhymes. A word answering in sound to another word.
  4. Female rhyme. See under Female. - -
  5. Male rhyme. See under Male. --
  6. Rhyme or reason, sound or sense. --
  7. Rhyme royal (Pros.), a stanza of seven decasyllabic verses, of which the first and third, the second, fourth, and fifth, and the sixth and seventh rhyme.

Rhyme (rhyme), v.i. Rhyme imp. *** p.p. Rhymed *** vb. n. Rhyming. [OE. rimen, rymen, AS. r&imacr]man to count: cf. F. rimer to rhyme. See Rhyme, n.]

  1. To make rhymes, or verses. "Thou shalt no longer ryme." Chaucer.

"There marched the bard and blockhead, side by side, / Who rhymed for hire, and patronized for pride." Pope.

  1. To accord in rhyme or sound. "And, if they rhymed and rattled, all was well. Dryden.

Rhyme (rhyme) v.t. Rhyme

  1. To put into rhyme. Sir T. Wilson.
  2. To influence by rhyme. "Hearken to a verser, who may chance / Rhyme thee to good." Herbert.

Rhymeless (rhymeless) a. Rhyme"less

  1. Destitute of rhyme. Bp. Hall.

Rhymer (rhymer) n. Rhym"er

  1. One who makes rhymes; a versifier; -- generally in contempt; a poor poet; a poetaster. "This would make them soon perceive what despicaple creatures our common rhymers and playwriters be." Milton.

Rhymery (rhymery) n. Rhym"er*y

  1. The art or habit of making rhymes; rhyming; -- in contempt.

Rhymester (rhymester) n. Rhyme"ster

  1. A rhymer; a maker of poor poetry. Bp. Hall. Byron.[1]


The word rime, derived from Old Frankish language *rīm, a Germanic term meaning "series, sequence" attested in Old English (Old English rīm - "enumeration, series, numeral") and Old High German rīm, ultimately cognate to Old Irish rím, Greek ἀριθμός arithmos "number".

The spelling rhyme (from original rime) was introduced at the beginning of the Modern English period, due to a learned (but etymologically incorrect) association with Greek ῥυθμός (rhythmos, rhythm).[2] The older spelling rime survives in Modern English as a rare alternative spelling. A distinction between the spellings is also sometimes made in the study of linguistics and phonology, where rime/rhyme is used to refer to the nucleus and coda of a syllable. In this context, some prefer to spell this rime to separate it from the poetic rhyme covered by this article (see syllable rime).

Types of rhymeEdit

Perfect rhymesEdit

Main article: Perfect rhyme

Two words, and two lines of verse , rhyme if their final stressed vowel and all following sounds are identical. A rhyme in this sense is also called a perfect rhyme. Examples are sight and flight, deign and gain, madness and sadness.

A rhyme is not classified as a rhyme if one of the words being rhymed is the entirety of the other word (for example, ball and all). In a perfect rhyme the last stressed vowel and all following sounds are identical in both words. If the sound preceding the last stressed vowel is also identical, the rhyme is sometimes considered to be inferior and not a perfect rhyme after all.[3][4]

An example of such a "super-rhyme" or "more than perfect rhyme" is the "identical rhyme", in which not only the vowels but also the stressed syllables are identical, as in gun and begun. Punning rhymes such are "bare" and "bear" are also identical rhymes. Two identical syllables are not considered a rhyme, unless the previous stressed syllable contains a rhyme. (If the previous stressed syllables are also identical, the same rule applies.)ot

Perfect rhymes can be classified according to the number of syllables included in the rhyme, which is dictated by the location of the final stressed syllable.

  • masculine: a rhyme in which the stress is on the final syllable of the words (rhyme, sublime)
  • feminine: a rhyme in which the stress is on the penultimate (second from last) syllable of the words (picky, tricky)
  • dactylic : a rhyme in which the stress is on the antepenultimate (third from last) syllable (cacophonies, Aristophanes)

The rhyme may of course extend even farther back than that. If it extends all the way to the beginning of the line, so that there are two lines that sound identical, then it is called a "holorhyme" ("For I scream/For ice cream").

Near rhymesEdit

Near rhyme refers to various kinds of rhyme-like similarity between words, and to the use of such similar-sounding words in organizing verse. Near rhymes in this general sense are classified according to the degree and manner of the phonetic similarity:

  • syllabic: a rhyme in which the last syllable of each word sounds the same but does not necessarily contain vowels. (cleaver, silver, or pitter, patter)
  • imperfect rhyme: an otherwise perfect rhyme between a stressed and an unstressed syllable. (wing, caring)
  • semirhyme: a rhyme with an extra syllable on one word. (bend, ending)
  • oblique (or slant, or forced) rhyme: a rhyme with an imperfect match in the sounds following the final stressed vowel. (green, fiend; one, thumb).
  • half rhyme (or sprung rhyme): matching final consonants. (bent, ant)
  • assonance: matching vowel/s (shake, hate) Assonance is sometimes used to refer to slant rhymes.
  • consonance: matching consonant/s. (rabies, robbers)
  • alliteration (or head rhyme): matching initial consonants. (short,ship)

Eye rhymeEdit

Main article: Eye rhyme Eye rhymes or sight rhymes refer to similarity in spelling but not in sound, as with cough, bough, or love, move. These are not rhymes in the strict sense, but are also of use to the poet composing verse to be read.

Mind rhymeEdit

Main article: Mind Rhyme

'Mind Rhyme is a kind of substitution rhyme similar to rhyming slang, but it is less generally codified, and is “heard” only when generated by a specific verse context. For instance, “this sugar is neat / and tastes so sour.” If a reader or listener thinks of the word “sweet” instead of “sour”, then a mind rhyme has occurred. Mind rhymes are used in children's verse or censored writing to replace forbidden words.

Classification by positionEdit

Rhymes can also be classified by position.

So far we have been discussing end rhyme' (also called tail rhyme or rime couée): two lines rhyme if their final stressed vowel and all following sounds are identical. Lines rhyme when their end words rhyme. However, more than the end words of a line can rhyme. When a word other than an endword rhymes, with the end word of the line or with a word of another line, the result is called an internal rhyme.

  • Holorhyme has already been mentioned, by which not just two individual words, but two entire lines rhyme.

Turco's classification of rhymesEdit

In his book The New Book of Forms (University Press of New England, 1986), Lewis Turco gives the following classification of rhymes:

  1. End rhyme full rhyme at line endings
  2. Falling rhyme (or feminine rhyme) is rhyme for feminine endings with stress pattern / x, example: falling / calling
  3. Light rhyme example: falling / ring (DaleTemplate:Ref calls this Uneven Rhyme)
  4. Internal rhyme rhymes line end with word in the middle of the same line
  5. Linked rhyme rhyme end of one line with beginning of next
  6. Interlaced rhyme rhymes middle of one line with middle of next line
  7. Cross rhyme rhymes ending of one line with middle of adjacent line
  8. Head rhyme rhymes syllables at the beginning of lines
  9. Apocopated rhyme breaks a word across a line-break; example: morn- / -ing / born
  10. Enjambed rhyme uses first sound of next line to make rhyming unit; example: he / descended / seed)
  11. single rhyme
  12. double rhyme
  13. triple rhyme
  14. compound rhyme treats groups of words as though they were one word; example: people call work / maid-of-all-work.
  15. mosaic rhyme is compound + normal; example: shy lot / pilot
  16. trite rhyme is the used of overused rhymes
  17. omoioteleton
  18. rich rime, rime riche, false rhyme example: cyst / persist / insist
  19. consonance, slant-rhyme, off-rhyme, near-rhyme allows similar sounds, example: bridge / hedge / gouge / rage / rouge)
  20. analyzed rhyme example: moon / divine / chide / brood
  21. wrenched rhyme ... a pun ... example: rhinestones / noses to their grindestones
  22. amphisbaenic rhyme or backward rhyme; examples: later / retail, or stop / pots
  23. Lyon rime ... word by word pailindrome structure of a stanza
  24. sight rhyme or eye rhyme: example: eight / sleight
  25. dialect rhyme is rhyme that s true rhyme in a particular dialect
  26. historical rhyme is rhyme that was true rhyme in another historical period
  27. echo
  28. alliteration
  29. cynghanedd


Rhyme schemeEdit

Main article: Rhyme scheme

Rhymes can also be classified by Rhyme scheme.


The earliest surviving evidence of rhyming is the Chinese Shi Jing (ca. 10th century BC). Rhyme is used occasionally in the poems of classical antiquity. For instance, Catullus wrote a poem that rhymed, given here.[6] The ancient Greeks knew rhyme, and rhymes in The Wasps by Aristophanes are noted by a translator[7]. Rhyme is also occasionally used in the Bible[8]. According to some archaic sources, Irish literature introduced the rhyme to Early Medieval Europe, though this is a disputed claim;[9] in the 7th century we find the Irish had brought the art of rhyming verses to a high pitch of perfection. Also in the 7th Century, rhyme was used in the Qur'an. The leonine verse is notable for introducing rhyme into High Medieval literature in the 12th century. From the 12th to the 20th centuries, European poetry is dominated through rhyme.


See English poetry

Old English poetry is mostly alliterative verse. One of the earliest rhyming poems in English is The Rhyming Poem. Beginning with Chaucer, rhyme began to become a defining characteristic of English poetry. English literature is somewhat unique among European literatures, however, because of its periodic regression to unrhymed blank verse: most famously, in the Elizabethan period the dramatic poetry of Marlowe, Shakespeare, and other playwrights almost never rhymed. Nonetheless, by the eighteenth-century English poetry was so dominated by rhyme that some students of English literature today disregard eighteenth-century English poetry entirely, solely on the basis of its incessant rhymes.

Unrhymed blank verse reappeared in the nineteenth century with the long poems of William Wordsworth, Percy Bysshe Shelley and John Keats, and again several decades later in the poetry of Alfred, Lord Tennyson. By the twentieth century, rhyme began to fall out of favor in English poetry, replaced either by blank verse (as in the works of Hart Crane and Wallace Stevens) or entirely free verse (as in the works of T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound). Nonetheless, throughout the century some notable poets such as Robert Frost and Robert Graves continued to use rhyme; by the close of the twentieth century, free verse had begun to give way again to New Formalism, and many young English-language poets today utilize rhyme.

The most famous brief remark in English on rhyme may be from John Milton's preface to his blank-verse epic poem, Paradise Lost:

The measure is English heroic verse without rime, as that of Homer in Greek, and of Virgil in Latin—rime being no necessary adjunct or true ornament of poem or good verse, in longer works especially, but the invention of a barbarous age, to set off wretched matter and lame metre; graced indeed since by the use of some famous modern poets, carried away by custom, but much to their own vexation, hindrance, and constraint to express many things otherwise, and for the most part worse, than else they would have expressed them.[10]

A more temperate view is taken by W.H. Auden in The Dyer's Hand:

Rhymes, meters, stanza forms, etc., are like servants. If the master is fair enough to win their affection and firm enough to command their respect, the result is an orderly happy household. If he is too tyrannical, they give notice; if he lacks authority, they become slovenly, impertinent, drunk and dishonest.[11]

Rhyme in other languagesEdit


In French poetry, unlike in English, it is common to have "identical rhymes," in which not only the vowels of the final syllables of the lines rhyme, but their onset consonants ("consonnes d'appui") as well. To the ear of someone accustomed to English verse, this often sounds like a very weak rhyme. For example, an English perfect rhyme of homophones flour and flower, would seem weak, whereas a French rhyme of homophones doigt and doit is not only common but quite acceptable.

Rhymes are sometimes classified into the categories "rime pauvre" ("poor rhyme"), "rime suffisante" ("sufficient rhyme"), "rime riche" ("rich rhyme") and "rime richissime" ("very rich rhyme"), according to the number of rhyming sounds in the two words. For example to rhyme "parla" with "sauta" would be a poor rhyme (the words have only the vowel in common), to rhyme "pas" with "bras" a sufficient rhyme (with the vowel and the silent consonant in common), and "tante" with "attente" a rich rhyme (with the vowel, the onset consonant, and the coda consonant with its mute "e" in common). The authorities disagree, however, on exactly where to place the boundaries between the categories.

Holorime is an extreme example of rime richissime spanning an entire verse. Alphonse Allais was a notable exponent of holorime. Here is an example of a holorime couplet from Marc Monnier:

Gall, amant de la Reine, alla (tour magnanime)
Galamment de l'Arène à la Tour Magne, à Nîmes.
Gallus, the Queen's lover, went (a magnanimous gesture)
Gallantly from the Arena to the Great Tower, at Nîmes.

Classical French rhyme only differs from English rhyme in its different treatment of onset consonants. It also treats coda consonants in a peculiarly French way.

Classical French rhyme is similar to English rhyme only in its different treatment of onset consonants. It also treats coda consonants in a peculiarly French way.

French spelling includes many final letters that are not enunciated. In truth, these were once pronounced, and in Classical French versification these silent final "sounds" cause a number of very unusual complications in the rules of French poetics. The most important "silent" letter is the "mute e." In spoken French today, this silent "e" is entirely silent; but in Classical French prosody, it was considered an integral part of the rhyme even when following the vowel. "Joue" could rhyme with "boue," but not with "trou." Rhyming words ending with this silent "e" were said to make up a "feminine rhyme," while words not ending with this silent "e" made up a "masculine rhyme." It was a principle of stanza formation that masculine and feminine rhymes had to alternate in the stanza.

The "silent" final consonants present a more complex case. They, too, were considered an integral part of the rhyme, so that "pont" could rhyme only with "vont" not with "long"; but this cannot be reduced to a simple rule about the spelling, since "pont" would also rhyme with "rond" even though one word ends in "t" and the other in "d." This is because the correctness of the rhyme depends not on the spelling on the final consonant, but on how it would have been pronounced. There are a few simple rules that govern word-final consonants in French prosody:

  • The consonants must "rhyme" give or take their voicing. So "d" and "t" rhyme because they differ only in voicing. So too with "g" and "c", and "p" and "b", and also "s" and "z" (and "x"). (Rhyming words ending with a silent "s" "x" or "z" are called "plural rhymes".)
  • Nasal vowels rhyme no matter what their spelling. ("Essaim" can rhyme with "sain", but not with "saint" because the final "t" counts in "saint".)
  • If the word ends in a consonant cluster, only the final consonant counts. ("Temps" rhymes with "lents" because both end in "s".)

All of this stems from the fact that the letters that are now silent used to be sounded in Old French. These rhyming rules are almost never taken into account from the twentieth century on. Still, they apply to almost all of pre-twentieth-century French verse. For example, all French plays in verse of the seventeenth century alternate masculine and feminine alexandrines.


Ancient Hebrew verse generally did not employ rhyme. However, many Jewish liturgical poems rhyme today, because they were written in medieval Europe, where rhymes were in vogue.


Portuguese classifies rhymes in the following manner:

  • rima pobre (poor rhyme): rhyme between words of the same grammatical category (e.g. noun with noun) or between very common endings (-ão, -ar);
  • rima rica (rich rhyme): rhyme between words of different grammatical classes or with uncommon endings;
  • rima preciosa (precious rhyme): rhyme between words with a different morphology, for example estrela (star) with vê-la (to see her);
  • rima esdrúxula (odd rhyme): rhyme between proparoxitonic words (example: última, "last", and vítima, "victim").


See Homoioteleuton rhyme


In Latin rhetoric and poetry homeoteleuton and alliteration were frequently used devices. Tail rhyme was occasionally used, as in this piece of poetry by Cicero:

O Fortunatam natam me consule Romam.
(O fortunate Rome, to be born with me consul)

But tail rhyme was not used as a prominent structural feature of Latin poetry until it was introduced under the influence of local vernacular traditions in the early Middle Ages. This is the Latin hymn Dies Irae:

Dies irae, dies illa
Solvet saeclum in favilla
Teste David cum Sybilla
(The day of wrath, that day
which will reduce the world to ashes,
as foretold by David and the Sybil.)

Medieval poetry may mix Latin and vernacular languages. Mixing languages in verse or rhyming words in different languages is termed macaronic.


Patterns of rich rhyme (prāsa) play a role in modern Sanskrit poetry, but only to a minor extent in historical Sanskrit texts. They are classified according to their position within the pada (metrical foot): ādiprāsa (first syllable), dvitīyākṣara prāsa (second syllable), antyaprāsa (final syllable) etc.


The Qur’an is written in saj‘, a prosaic genre that uses end rhymes. This particular style was widespread in the Arabic peninsula during the time of the Qur’an's appearance.

Celtic languagesEdit

For Welsh, see cynghanedd

Rhyming in the Celtic Languages takes a drastically different course from most other Western rhyming schemes despite strong contact with the Romance and English patterns. Even today, despite extensive interaction with English and French culture, Celtic rhyme continues to demonstrate native characteristics. Brian Ó Cuív sets out the rules of rhyme in Irish poetry of the classical period: the last stressed vowel and any subsequent long vowels must be identical in order for two words to rhyme. Consonants are grouped into six classes for the purpose of rhyme: they need not be identical, but must belong to the same class. Thus 'b' and 'd' can rhyme (both being 'voiced plosives'), as can 'bh' and 'l' (which are both 'voiced continuants') but 'l', a 'voiced continuant', cannot rhyme with 'ph', a 'voiceless continuant'. Furthermore, 'for perfect rhyme a palatalized consonant may be balanced only by a palatalized consonant and a velarized consonant by a velarized one.' [12] In the post-Classical period, these rules fell into desuetude, and in popular verse simple assonance often suffices, as can be seen in an example of Irish Gaelic rhyme from the traditional song Bríd Óg Ní Mháille:

Is a Bhríd Óg Ní Mháille / 'S tú d'fhág mo chroí cráite

Translation: Oh young Bridget O'Malley / You have left my heart breaking Here the vowels are the same, but the consonants, although both palatalized, do not fall into the same class in the bardic rhyming scheme.


There are some unique rhyming schemes in Dravidian languages like Tamil. Specifically, the rhyme called etukai (anaphora) occurs on the second consonant of each line. The effect of etukai, though a little strange at first, rapidly becomes pleasant to the reader, and to the Tamil it is as enjoyable as the end rhyme. The other rhyme and related patterns are called nai (alliteration), toṭai (epiphora) and iraṭṭai kiḷavi (parallelism). Some classical Tamil poetry forms, such as veṇpā, have rigid grammars for rhyme to the point that they could be expressed as a context-free grammar.

Function of rhymeEdit

Partly it seems to be enjoyed simply as a repeating pattern that is pleasant to hear. It also serves as a powerful mnemonic device, facilitating memorization. The regular use of tail rhyme helps to mark off the ends of lines, thus clarifying the metrical structure for the listener. As with other poetic techniques, poets use it to suit their own purposes; for example William Shakespeare often used a rhyming couplet to mark off the end of a scene in a play. Evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey Miller hypothesizes that rhyme is a form of sexually selected handicap imposed on communication making poetry harder and more reliable as a signal of verbal intelligence and overall fitness.[13]

See alsoEdit


  • Fenton, James. An Introduction to English Poetry. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002. ISBN 0374104646
  • Lang, Peter. Onward: Contemporary Poetry and Poetics. New York: Columbia University Press, 1996. ISBN 0820430323
  • Wesling, Donald. The Chances of Rhyme: Device and Modernity. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1980. ISBN 0520038614


  1. Rhyme, Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913),, Web, Nov. 19, 2012.
  2. AskOxford: Rhyme, Oxford Dictionaries. Retrieved August 13, 2007.
  3. [1], which cites Whitfield's University Rhyming Dictionary, 1951
  4. [2]
  5. ^ Turco, L. A Sheaf of Leaves: Literary memoirs. Scottsdale, AZ: Star Cloud Press, 2005. Print.
  8. "Old Testament survey: the message, form, and background of the Old Testament pg. 236"
  9. "Article about early Irish literature by prof. Douglas Hyde in The Catholic Encyclopedia"
  10. John Milton, "Paradise Lost: The Verse,", Web, July 11, 2011.
  11. "Writing," pt. 1, The Dyer's Hand (1962). "Quotation from W.H. Auden,", Web, July 10, 2011.
  12. Ó Cuív, Brian (1967). 'The Phonetic Basis of Classical Modern Irish Rhyme'. Ériu 20, pp. 96-97
  13. Miller G (2000) The mating mind: how sexual choice shaped the evolution of human nature, London, Heineman, ISBN 0-434-00741-2 (also Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-49516-1)

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