Rhyme Definition

A rhyme is a repetition of similar sounding words occurring at the end of lines in poems or songs.

A rhyme is a tool utilizing repeating patterns that brings rhythm or musicality in poems which differentiate them from prose which is plain. A rhyme is employed for the specific purpose of rendering a pleasing effect to a poem which makes its recital an enjoyable experience. Moreover, it offers itself as a mnemonic device smoothing the progress of memorization. For instance, all nursery rhymes contain rhyming words in order to facilitate learning for children as they enjoy reading them and the presence of repetitive patterns enables them to memorize that particular poem effortlessly. We do not seem to forget the nursery rhymes we learnt as a kid. Below are a few nursery rhyme examples with rhyming words in bold and italics:

Baa baa black sheep, have you any wool?
Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full!
One for the master, one for the dame,
And one for the little boy who lives down the lane.

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the King’s horses, And all the King’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again!

Mary had a little lamb its fleece was white as snow;
And everywhere that Mary went, the lamb was sure to go.
It followed her to school one day, which was against the rule;
It made the children laugh and play, to see a lamb at school.
And so the teacher turned it out, but still it lingered near,
And waited patiently about till Mary did appear.

Various Types of Rhyme

Poems written in English employ the following kinds of rhyme:

Perfect Rhyme

A perfect rhyme is a case in which two words rhyme in such a way that their final stressed vowel and all following sounds are identical e.g. sight and light, right and might, rose and dose etc.

General Rhyme

The term general rhyme refers to a variety of phonetic likeness between words.

  • Bottle and fiddle, cleaver and silver, patter and pitter etc. are examples of syllabic rhyme  i.e. words having a similar sounding last syllable but without a stressed vowel
  • Wing and caring, sit and perfect, reflect and subject etc, are examples of imperfect rhyme i.e. a rhyme between a stressed and an unstressed syllable.
  • Assonance  or Slant Rhyme exists in words having the same vowel sound e.g. kill and bill, wall and hall, shake and hate etc.
  • Consonance exist in words having the same consonant sound e.g. rabbit and robber, ship and sheep
  • Alliteration or Head Rhyme refers to matching initial consonant sounds e.g. sea and seal, ship and short etc.

Eye Rhymes

Eye Rhymes, also called sight or spelling rhymes, refer to words having the same spelling but different sounds. In such case, the final syllables have the same spellings but are pronounce differently e.g. cough and bough, love and move etc.

Types of Rhyme According to Position

Classification of rhymes may be based on their positions such as the following examples of rhyme.

Example #1

“Twinkle, twinkle little star
How I wonder what you are”

Classification: Tail Rhyme
This is the most common type of rhyme. It occurs in the final syllable of a verse or line.

Example #2

“Just turn me loose let me straddle my old saddle,
Underneath the western skies,
On my cayuse let me wander over yonder,
‘Til I see the mountains rise.”

Classification: Internal Rhyme
This is a type of rhyme in which a word at the end of a verse rhymes with another word in the same line.

Example #3

“In Ayrshire hill areas, a cruise, eh, lass?”
“Inertia, hilarious, accrues, hélas!”

Classification: Holo-rhyme
This is a type of rhyme in which all the words of two entire lines rhyme.

Example #4

“Had I but lived a hundred years ago
I might have gone, as I have gone this year,
By Warmwell Cross on to a Cove I know,
And Time have placed his finger on me there”

Classification: Cross rhyme
This refers to matching sounds at the end of intervening lines.

Function of Rhyme

As discussed above, a rhyme serves two distinct functions in the art of writing poetry:

  • 1. It gives poetry a typical symmetry that differentiates poetry from prose.
  • 2. It makes recital of poetry a pleasurable experience for the readers as the repetitive patterns renders musicality and rhythm to it

W.H Auden gives his views on the function of rhyme and other tools of prosody saying that these are like servants that a master uses in the ways he wants.

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4 comments for “Rhyme

  1. Sadaf
    December 29, 2015 at 1:08 pm

    Thanks! This is very helpful…

  2. shakyra
    February 19, 2016 at 8:39 pm

    This awesome website for people to get there definition and examples.

  3. Yo Yo!
    February 29, 2016 at 12:11 pm

    A correction: “rose and dose” is not a perfect rhyme! However, “rose and does” is, provided “does” means “female deer (plural)”. 🙂

  4. Yo Yo!
    February 29, 2016 at 12:18 pm

    You give confusing examples of “Slant Rhyme … e.g. kill and bill, wall and hall, shake and hate”. The third example is fine, but the first two are actually perfect rhymes, aren’t they? Perhaps better examples might be (depending on your speech dialect!) “cad and bat”, “walk and hall”, “battle and gradual”.

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