A rhyme is a repetition of similar sounds in two or more words and is most often used in poetry and songs. The word "rhyme" may also refer to a short poem, such as a rhyming couplet or other brief rhyming poem such as nursery rhymes.



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).

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 rhyme

The word rhyme can be used in a specific and a general sense. In the specific sense, two words rhyme if their final stressed vowel and all following sounds are identical; two lines of poetry rhyme if their final strong positions are filled with rhyming words. A rhyme in the strict sense is also called a perfect rhyme. Examples are sight and flight, deign and gain, madness and sadness.

Mirror rhymes

The same word can infact rhyme because it has the exact same sound so it technically has to rhyme. For example, "Jacob" rhymes with "Jacob".

Perfect rhymes

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)

General rhymes

In the general sense, general rhyme can refer to various kinds of phonetic similarity between words, and to the use of such similar-sounding words in organizing verse. 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: a 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/forced): a rhyme with an imperfect match in sound. (green, fiend; one, thumb)
  • assonance: matching vowels. (shake, hate) Assonance is sometimes used to refer to slant rhymes.
  • consonance: matching consonants. (rabies, robbers)
  • half rhyme (or sprung rhyme): matching final consonants. (bent, ant)
  • alliteration (or head rhyme): matching initial consonants. (short, ship)

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).

As stated above, in a perfect rhyme the last stressed vowel and all following sounds are identical in both words. If the sound preceding the stressed vowel is also identical, the rhyme is sometimes considered to be inferior and not a perfect rhyme after all.[1][2] 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 onsets of the rhyming syllables are identical, as in gun and begun. Punning rhymes such are "bare" and "bear" are also identical rhymes. The rhyme may of course extend even farther back than the last stressed vowel. 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").

Eye rhyme

Though not strictly rhymes, 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 often were in earlier language periods.

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.

Classification by position

The preceding classification has been based on the nature of the rhyme; but we may also classify rhymes according to their position in the verse:

  • tail rhyme (also called end rhyme or rime couée): a rhyme in the final syllable(s) of a verse (the most common kind)
  • When a word at the end of the line rhymes with a word in the interior of the line, it is called an internal rhyme.
  • Holorhyme has already been mentioned, by which not just two individual words, but two entire lines rhyme.

A rhyme scheme is the pattern of rhyming lines in a poem.


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.[3] The ancient Greeks knew rhyme, and rhymes in The Wasps by Aristophanes are noted by a translator[4]. Rhyme is also occasionally used in the Bible[5].

According to some archaic sources, Irish literature introduced the rhyme to Early Medieval Europe, though this is a disputed claim;[6] 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.

Rhyme in various languages


See English poetry

Old English poetry is mostly alliterative verse. One of the earliest rhyming poems in English is The Rhyming Poem.

Some words in English, such as "orange", are commonly regarded as having no rhyme. Although a clever writer can get around this (for example, by obliquely rhyming "orange" with combinations of words like "door hinge" or with lesser-known words like "Blorenge", a hill in Wales), it is generally easier to move the word out of rhyming position or replace it with a synonym ("orange" could become "amber").

One view of rhyme in English is from John Milton's preface to 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 Meeter; grac't indeed since by the use of some famous modern Poets, carried away by Custom...

A more tempered 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.

Forced or clumsy rhyme is often a key ingredient of doggerel.


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 acceptable but quite common.

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 or in the parts of the two verses. 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). 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.

French spelling includes several final letters that are no longer pronounced, and that in many cases have never been pronounced. Such final sounds, which were sometimes once pronounced, continue to live a shadowy existence in Classical French versification. They are in almost all of the pre-20th-century French verse texts, but these rhyming rules are almost never taken into account from the 20th century it. The most important "silent" letter is the "mute e". In spoken French today, final "e" is, in some regional accents (in Paris for example), omitted after consonants; 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. All 17th-century French plays in verse alternate masculine and feminine alexandrine couplets.

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" and 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".)

In fact, only the "silent" final consonants which would be able to be pronounced the same way, if they were followed by a vowel, are able to rhyme together.


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 languages

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.' [7] 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
[is ə vrʲiːdʲ oːɡ nʲiː wɒːlʲə / stuː dɒːɡ mə xriː krɒːtʲə]

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 rhyme

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.[8]

See also


External links

  • Rhymes.net – An online rhyming tool that provides rhymes for almost any given word, along with its definition and translation options.

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Rhyme — Rhyme, n. [OE. ryme, rime, AS. r[=i]m number; akin to OHG. r[=i]m number, succession, series, G. reim rhyme. The modern sense is due to the influence of F. rime, which is of German origin, and originally the same word.] [The Old English spelling… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • rhyme — [rīm] n. [ME rime < OFr < rimer, to rhyme, prob. < Frank * rim, row, series, akin to OE, OHG rim, series, number < IE * rei (> OIr rim, number) < base * are , to join, fit (> ART1, RATIO, RITE): form infl. by assoc. with L… …   English World dictionary

  • Rhyme — Rhyme, v. i. [imp. & p. p. {Rhymed};p. pr. & vb. n. {Rhyming}.] [OE. rimen, rymen, AS. r[=i]man to count: cf. F. rimer to rhyme. See {Rhyme}, n.] 1. To make rhymes, or verses. Thou shalt no longer ryme. Chaucer. [1913 Webster] There marched the… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Rhyme — Rhyme, v. t. 1. To put into rhyme. Sir T. Wilson. [1913 Webster] 2. To influence by rhyme. [1913 Webster] Hearken to a verser, who may chance Rhyme thee to good. Herbert. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • rhyme — [n] poetry in which lines end with like sounds alliteration, beat, cadence, couplet, doggerel, half rhyme, harmony, iambic pentameter, measure, meter, nursery rhyme, ode, poem, poesy, poetry, rhythm, rune, slant rhyme, song, tune, verse, vowel… …   New thesaurus

  • rhyme — ► NOUN 1) correspondence of sound between words or the endings of words, especially when used in poetry. 2) a short poem with rhyming lines. 3) rhyming poetry or verse. 4) a word with the same sound as another. ► VERB 1) (of a word, syllable, or… …   English terms dictionary

  • rhyme — rhymer, n. /ruym/, n., v., rhymed, rhyming. n. 1. identity in sound of some part, esp. the end, of words or lines of verse. 2. a word agreeing with another in terminal sound: Find is a rhyme for mind and womankind. 3. verse or poetry having… …   Universalium

  • rhyme — rhyme1 [raım] n [Date: 1100 1200; : Old French; Origin: rime, probably from Latin rhythmus; RHYTHM] 1.) a short poem or song, especially for children, using words that rhyme ▪ a collection of traditional rhymes with illustrations →↑nursery rhyme… …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • rhyme — [[t]ra͟ɪm[/t]] rhymes, rhyming, rhymed 1) V RECIP ERG If one word rhymes with another or if two words rhyme, they have a very similar sound. Words that rhyme with each other are often used in poems. [V with n] June always rhymes with moon in old… …   English dictionary

  • rhyme — I UK [raɪm] / US noun Word forms rhyme : singular rhyme plural rhymes * 1) [countable] a short poem, often for children, that has lines ending in the same sound 2) a) [countable] a word that ends with the same sound as another word rhyme for: Can …   English dictionary

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”