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Masculine Rhyme

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English

Masculine rhyme is a rhyming technique that places stress on the final syllable of a rhyme. It is the most common form of rhyme in the English language and can be found in poetry, theatre, song lyrics, and even in everyday sayings.

What are some examples of masculine rhyme?

Let's look at some examples of masculine rhyme in a variety of contexts.

Examples of masculine rhyme in poetry

Note: in the following extracts, we have emphasised the masculine rhymes in bold to help you understand the concept. This is not how the poems were originally printed.

Inebriate of air on the I,

And debauchee of dew,

Reeling, through endless summer days,

From inns of molten blue.

When landlords turn the drunken bee

Out of the foxglove's door,

When butterflies renounce their drams,

I shall but drink the more!

(Emily Dickinson, ‘I Taste a Liquor Never Brewed,’ 1861)

This poem, like much of Dickinson's work, is rich with imagery and meaning, but the rhyme scheme is very simple. Notice how the second and fourth lines of each stanza end in a stressed, single-syllable rhyme (‘dew’/‘blue,’ ‘door’/‘more’.) These are masculine rhymes, and they are arranged in a classic ABCB scheme.

Masculine Rhyme Emily Dickinson StudySmarterDaguerreotype of Emily Dickinson, around 1847, Wikimedia Commons.

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,

Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore -

While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,

As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.

“'Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door -

Only this and nothing more."

(Edgar Allen Poe, ‘The Raven,’ 1845)

In this dark narrative poem, Poe uses masculine rhyme to punctuate the end of his lines. Read this stanza out loud and you'll notice how the single-syllable rhymes (‘lore’/‘door’/‘more’) create natural pauses in the rhythm.

It is worth noting how Poe uses internal rhymes such as ‘dreary’/‘weary’ and ‘napping’/‘tapping,’ which are slightly more complex and are classed as feminine rhymes. However, it is the masculine rhymes (‘lore’/‘door’/‘more’) that add punch to the end of each section. The different types of rhyme work together to reinforce the poem's steady, hypnotic rhythm, helping to draw you into Poe's haunting story.

Tip: Masculine and feminine rhyme are different because of where they place the stressed syllables. ‘Forgotten lore’/‘chamber door’ is a masculine rhyme, as it is the final syllable of the rhyme that is stressed. Feminine rhymes, on the other hand, contain a stressed syllable followed by one or more unstressed syllables. ‘Dreary’/‘weary’ is an example of a feminine rhyme, as the stressed syllables in these words (‘drear-’ and ‘wear-’) are followed by unstressed syllables (-‘y’ in both words.)

He's an East End lad, East End Ed

East End born, East End bred

See his muscles, have a feel

Made in England, made of steel

East End lad, East End lad

Square jaw, gift of the gab

Packs a punch to find a clue

See his victims, black - and blue

(Patience Agbabi, ‘The Black, The White and The Blue’, 1995)

Agbabi, whose work lends itself brilliantly to live performance, uses masculine rhyme to describe a ‘masculine’ character.

The single-syllable rhymes and staccato rhythm make you feel as if you're being continually poked or jabbed. The simplicity of the poem's style conceals the violent, disturbing story of a racist hooligan, and the punchy, masculine rhymes fit the theme perfectly.

Notice Agbabi's use of the rhyme ‘lad’/‘gab.’ This is not a ‘perfect’ rhyme but rather a half rhyme, or slant rhyme. ‘Lad’/‘bad’ would be a perfect rhyme, as would ‘gab’/‘lab,’ but ‘lad’/‘gab’ is a half (or slant) rhyme. Can you tell why? It is because ‘lad’ and ‘gab’ share the same vowel sound (‘ah’ or /æ/), but end in different consonants (/b/ and /d/). Half (or slant) rhyme can be an extremely useful technique as it helps writers to expand their rhyming vocabulary.

Examples of masculine rhyme in song lyrics

I never miss a beat

I'm lightning on my feet

(Taylor Swift, ‘Shake it Off,’ 2014)

If you've ever heard this huge hit song, you'll know that Swift stresses the final syllable of each line in the verses before adding a pause. Masculine rhymes such as ‘beat’/‘feet’ help her to emphasise this pattern.

Here it is: a groove slightly trans formed

Just a bit of a break from the norm

(DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, ‘Summertime,’ 1991)

In this laid-back 1990s hit, Will Smith (then known as The Fresh Prince) opens with these lines to set the mood. This is an example of how masculine rhymes can be used with words longer than one syllable: ‘transformed’ is a two-syllable word, but it is only the final, stressed syllable (- ‘formed’) that rhymes with ‘norm.’ The simple nature of the rhymes work perfectly with the relaxed nature of the song.

I can't, no, I won't hush

I'll say the words that make you blush

(Ed Sheeran, ‘You Need Me, I Don't Need You,’ 2011)

This is an interesting use of masculine rhyme, as for most of the song, Sheeran uses more complex rhyming techniques, such as feminine rhyme (e.g., ‘heart is’/‘artists’) and multisyllabic rhyme (e.g., ‘stadium heights’/‘Damien Rice’/‘Arabian Nights’.) The relatively basic masculine rhyme of ‘hush’/‘blush’ stands out because of its simplicity. Not only does this give Sheeran and the listener some space to breathe (as he packs fewer syllables in these lines than in the rest of the verse), but it arguably emphasises his point about dumbing himself down to pander to a crowd.

Multisyllabic rhyme is a technique that matches every stressed vowel sound in a word or short phrase containing two or more syllables. If we look again at the example from Ed Sheeran's ‘You Need Me, I Don't Need You,’ you can see that the vowel sounds match in the rhymes ‘stadium heights,’ ‘Damien Rice,’ and ‘Arabian Nights.’ The vowels sounds are ah-e-um-i, which could be written phonetically (using the IPA) as /eɪ/-/i/-/ə/-/aɪ/. This may look complicated, but read the words out loud and it will make sense: ah-e-um-i/sta-di-um-heights/da-mi-en-rice/[a]-ra-bi-an -nights. This is an advanced rhyming technique, so to learn more check out our dedicated article on multisyllabic rhymes.

Examples of masculine rhyme in drama

More relative than this: the play's the thing

Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king.

(William Shakespeare, Hamlet, 1599–1601)

Most of Hamlet is in blank verse, meaning that it has a meter (a rhythmic structure) but does not rhyme. However, Shakespeare did sneak a few rhyming couplets in there. This one is perhaps the most famous rhyme from the entire play.

These lines appear at the end of a soliloquy spoken by Hamlet, in which he plots to stage a scene similar to the murder of his father in order to stir up some remorse in the king (who he suspects is guilty). These final two lines seem to clarify or summarise his speech, and the fact that they rhyme arguably represents a moment of clarity, or the ‘clicking together’ of his thoughts. The use of masculine rhyme means that these lines are simple and satisfying for the audience. Much like Hamlet's plan, they seemingly fit together rather neatly.

Bankrupt the bloom of youth on woman's brow,

Bankrupt the flower of passion in her breast,

Bankrupt the husband's battle-ardor now,

Bankrupt each spark of passion he po sse ssed.

Bankrupt the whole estate, below, a bove, -

And yet this broken pair were once con fessed

A first-class house in all the wares of love!

(Henrik Ibsen, Love's Comedy, 1862)

Ibsen uses verse throughout this play to talk about the everyday mundanity of married life in a stylised, often-flamboyant fashion. Note the scheme in this section (ABABCBC). This adds a layer of complexity to an otherwise simple set of rhymes.

Examples of masculine rhyme in everyday expressions

We use masculine rhymes in many everyday expressions. For example: ‘name and shame,’ ‘shop till you drop,’ and ‘make or break.’ Certain proverbs (phrases that offer advice or wisdom) also use masculine rhyme. For example: ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away,’ and ‘a stitch in time saves nine.’ Many proverbs that use masculine rhyme have an informal feeling to them, such as ‘you snooze, you lose’ and ‘no pain, no gain.’

People love to make up rhymes to make a piece of advice more memorable, or just to make everyday language more interesting. Masculine rhymes often stick in your mind due to their simplicity, so it is easy to see why there are so many of them in everyday speech.

Why use masculine rhyme?

There are other types of rhymes that are more ‘intricate’ than masculine rhyme, such as feminine rhyme (e.g., forming/swarming), pararhyme (e.g., forming/farming), and multisyllabic rhyme (e.g., transform/ant swarm). These can all be seen as more complex than the simple, monosyllabic emphasis of masculine rhyme. But does this make them better? Well, it all depends on context.

Look at the examples throughout this article and you'll see that many highly-accomplished writers, who are more than capable of creating technically-impressive works, use masculine rhyme as a stylistic choice. The simplistic nature of masculine rhyme sometimes fits the mood or the message of the piece. Many writers use masculine rhyme in conjunction with other types of rhyme (think of Poe's ‘The Raven’ for example), making their work more sonically rich and varied. As illustrated by the examples in this article, masculine rhyme can be a great way to emphasise the rhythm of a piece and add a ‘punch’ where needed.

Like all types of rhyme, masculine rhyme can make things more memorable. This is why we hear it in so many everyday expressions.

Masculine Rhyme - Key takeaways

  • Masculine rhyme is a technique that places stress on the final syllable of a rhyme.
  • Poets, dramatists, songwriters, and many other types of artists commonly use masculine rhyme.
  • An example of masculine rhyme in poetry is the following stanza from Emily Dickinson's ‘I Taste a Liquor Never Brewed’ (1861): Inebriate of air am I, And debauchee of dew, Reeling, through endless summer days, From inns of molten blue. ‘Dew’ and ‘blue’ are the masculine rhyme. These words punctuate the final syllables of the second and fourth lines.
  • An example of masculine rhyme in song lyrics is the opening couplet from DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince's ‘Summertime’ (1991):

    Here it is: a groove slightly trans formed

    Just a bit of a break from the norm

    This is an example of how masculine rhymes can be used with words longer than one syllable: ‘transformed’ is a two-syllable word, but it is only the final, stressed syllable (-‘formed’) that rhymes with ‘norm.’

  • An example of masculine rhyme in drama is this famous couplet from William Shakespeare's, Hamlet (1599–1601):

    More relative than this: the play's the thing

    Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king.

  • Masculine rhyme also appears in many everyday expressions. For example: ‘name and shame,’ ‘shop till you drop,’ and ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away.’

  • Many writers use masculine rhyme to emphasise the rhythm of their work, adding ‘punch’ where needed. Often writers use masculine rhyme in conjunction with other types of rhyme in order to make their work more sonically rich and varied.

Masculine Rhyme

Masculine rhyme is a technique that places stress on the final syllable of a rhyme. It is the most common form of rhyme in the English language. Some examples of masculine rhyme include:


I never miss a beat

I'm lightning on my feet

(Taylor Swift, ‘Shake it Off,’ 2014)


More relative than this: the play's the thing

Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king.

(William Shakespeare, Hamlet, 1599–1601)

Masculine rhyme gets its name, not because of any resemblance to societal notions of ‘masculinity,’ but because of its origin in the French language, which as you may be aware, classes each noun as either masculine or feminine.


Adjectives in French are gendered based on the noun that they relate to. For example, in French, ‘a black hat’ is ‘un chapeau noir,’ and ‘a black shirt’ is ‘une chemise noire.’ Note the silent ‘e’ in ‘noire,’ which follows the feminine noun ‘chemise.’


Feminine rhyme in Middle French was a rhyme that came before the silent ‘e’ of a feminine suffix. This is why we refer to a rhyme that contains a stressed syllable followed by one or more unstressed syllables as a feminine rhyme, and a rhyme that ends in a stressed syllable as a masculine rhyme.

A masculine rhyme places stress on the final syllable of the rhyme. ‘Below’/‘ago’ is an example of a masculine rhyme. Notice how the first syllable of each word (‘be’-/‘a’-) is unstressed, and the final syllable (-‘low’/-‘go’) is stressed. As you can see, the rhyme comes from this final, stressed syllable.


A feminine rhyme contains a stressed syllable followed by one or more unstressed syllables. ‘Climbing’/‘timing’ is an example of a feminine rhyme. Notice how the first syllable of each word (‘climb’/‘time’) is stressed and the second syllable (‘ing’ in both words) is unstressed.

Masculine rhyme is often simple, direct and punchy. Writers use masculine rhyme to help place emphasis at the end of their lines.

Final Masculine Rhyme Quiz

Question

What does masculine rhyme do?

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Answer

Places stress on the final syllable of a rhyme.

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Question

Masculine rhyme is the most common form of rhyme in the English language.

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Answer

True

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Question

Masculine rhyme is always used to portray a tough, macho character.


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Answer

False

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Question

I tripped and fell and bumped my head

And had to lay all day in bed


This is an example of masculine rhyme. 

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Answer

True

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Question

Come and gather round the table

Let me tell you all a fable


This is an example of masculine rhyme.

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Answer

False

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Question

The ghastly beast rose up and roared

I braced myself, and grasped my sword


This is an example of masculine rhyme. 

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Answer

True

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Question

What knowledge should we all be gleaning?

What’s the point, and what’s the meaning?


This is an example of masculine rhyme.

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Answer

False

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Question

The phrase, ‘nearest and dearest’ is an example of masculine rhyme.


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Answer

False

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Question

The phrase, ‘a friend in need is a friend indeed’ is an example of masculine rhyme. 


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Answer

True

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Question

Which of the following is an example of masculine rhyme?


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Answer

Red sky at night, shepherd’s delight.

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Question

Masculine rhyme is never used by female poets.


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Answer

False

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Question

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,

Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;

But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,

And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, “Lenore?”


Which of the following are the masculine rhymes in this extract from Edgar Allen Poe’s ‘The Raven’?

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Answer

‘Before’/‘Lenore’

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Question

Which language do the terms ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ (in relation to rhyme) come from?


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Answer

French

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Question

Which of the following Shakespeare couplets does NOT use masculine rhyme?


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Answer

But since she prick'd thee out for women's pleasure

Mine be thy love and thy love's use their treasure.

(‘Sonnet 20,’ 1590–1605)

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Question

Which of the following is an example of masculine rhyme?


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Answer

Revoke/joke

Show question

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