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Rhymes

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Rhymes

A rhyme is when two words sound alike, for example, 'blue' sounds like 'blew'. Even though the spelling is different, the sound is the same.

'Blue' or 'blew' can also rhyme with 'shoe' and 'too': the initial sounds of these words are different (i.e. 'sh' and 't'), but the ending sounds the same.

Rhyming can add musicality to text, and it can also make a text more memorable. We can find rhymes in poetry, children's nursery rhymes, and songs. These are often divided into sections that contain several consecutive lines that rhyme, which we call verses.

Let's take a look at some more rhyming words:

True - through - crew

Need - lead - knead

Knot - not - dot

Shine - line - mine

Even though these words open with different consonants, the last parts sound the same, such as in 'true', 'through', and 'crew'.

Can you think of any other words that rhyme?

It is not definitely known when rhyming was first used; very possibly it has been around since human speech began. The earliest written rhymes in English can be found dating back to the 7th century in a 'Hymn' by the Anglo-Saxon poet Caedmon.

Types of rhyme with examples

There are several types of rhyme including: perfect rhyme, imperfect rhyme, end rhyme, feminine rhyme, masculine rhyme, eye rhyme, pararhyme, monorhyme, monosyllabic rhyme, multisyllabic rhyme and dactylic rhyme.

The three most common types of rhyme, and the types that we will concentrate on in this article, are:

  • Perfect rhyme

  • Imperfect rhyme

  • End rhyme

Perfect or full rhyme

Perfect rhyme is when two words share the same vowel sound in the final syllable and have identical final consonants.

  • The words 'fleet' and 'treat' rhyme perfectly because the vowel sounds 'ee' and 'ea' sound identical, and both words end with the consonant 't'.
  • The words 'brought' and 'thought' also match perfectly because the vowel sounds 'ough' in each word sound the same, and both words end with the consonant 't'.

There are many words that rhyme in this way. Can you think of more?

Perfectly rhyming words can also have more than one syllable.

'Double' and 'trouble'

'Able' and 'table'

'Flower' and 'power'

'Reasonable' and 'seasonable'

Shakespeare often uses perfect rhyme in his plays and sometimes entire speeches are written in perfect rhyme. We can see this in the speech below:

ADRIANA:

Patience unmoved! no marvel though she pause;

They can be meek that have no other cause.

A wretched soul, bruised with adversity,

We bid be quiet when we hear it cry;

But were we burdened with like weight of pain,

As much or more would we ourselves complain:

So thou, that hast no unkind mate to grieve thee,

With urging helpless patience wouldst relieve me,

But, if thou live to see like right bereft,

This fool-begg'd patience in thee will be left.

(Shakespeare, Comedy of Errors, 1589–94)

At some time in the past, some words may have rhymed perfectly (eg, 'adversity' and 'cry') but over time the pronunciation has changed so they cease to rhyme in modern pronunciation. These are called historical rhymes .

Imperfect or Half Rhyme

In this kind of rhyme, the rhyming words do not sound identical; they only sound 'half' similar (hence half-rhyme).

In the first verse of Emily Dickinson's 'Hope', for example, the words 'soul' and 'all' are not an exact match, and are only vaguely similar in sound:

"Hope" is the thing with feathers -

That perches in the soul -

And sings the tune without the words -

And never stops - at all -

(Emily Dickinson, 'Hope', 1891)

In another one of Dickinson's poems, 'Because I could not stop for Death', the words 'day' and 'eternity' each end in a 'y' but share little else, relying on rhythm instead.

Try reading the lines aloud to hear the half-rhymes in the poem.

Since then - 'tis Centuries - and yet

Feels shorter than the day

I first surmised the Horses' Heads

Were toward Eternity - '

(Emily Dickinson, 'Because I could not stop for Death', 1890)

End rhyme

End rhymes are the most frequently used rhyme and occur when phrases end in rhyming syllables.

We can see examples of end rhymes in TS Eliot's poem 'Macavity the Mystery Cat'. Can you identify where the rhyming words are?:

Macavity's a Mystery Cat: he's called the Hidden Paw—

For he's the master criminal who can defy the law.

He's the bafflement of Scotland Yard, the Flying Squad's despair:

For when they reach the scene of crime - Macavity's not there!

(TS Eliot, 'Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats', 1939)

'Paw' in the first line rhymes with 'law ' in the second line, and 'despair' rhymes with '(not) there'.

Because these rhymes fall at the end of each line, we call them end rhymes.

Shakespeare often used end rhymes to show the audience that a scene was coming to an end.

Nursery song rhymes

Rhyming is a helpful tool for memorizing words, which is possibly why rhyming has traditionally been used in songs and riddles for children.

Nursery rhymes have been handed down through oral tradition and often have historical or political origins. The following rhyme, for example, is believed to commemorate the bubonic plague, otherwise known as the 'Black Death', and its symptoms:

A ring a ring of roses

A pocket full of posies

Atishoo Atishoo

All fall down! '

(Anon)

The first line 'a ring of roses' describes the circular rash that would appear on the victim's skin. In the second line 'posies' refers to a mix of herbs and flowers which were carried by people to protect themselves from catching the plague. 'Atishoo!' refers to the final symptom of sneezing, and the last line 'all fall down' means 'we all fall down - dead!'

Other rhymes were more satirical, as in 'Georgy Porgy' which is thought to refer to George IV:

Georgy Porgy pudding and pie

Kissed the girls and made them cry

When the boys came out to play

Georgy Porgy ran away.

(Anon)

'Georgy', or Prince Regent (later George IV), was keen on food and women; the line 'when the boys came out to play' might be referring to the women's husbands retaliating - at which point George, who was noted for his cowardice, would withdraw.

Types of rhyme Hickory Dickory Dock visual StudySmarterThe nursery rhyme Hickory Dickory Dock is another that uses rhyming to create a fun, memorable rhyme and rhythm. - Wikimedia Commons (Fig. 1)

Types of poetry rhyme

Poets not only rely on rhyming when writing poetry, they also rely on structure, or rhyme scheme, to help them build or 'sculpt' their works on paper. Let's explore what rhyme schemes are and then take a closer look a few specific types of rhyme scheme: rhyming couplets, alternate rhymes, and the sonnet.

Types of rhyme scheme with examples

Rhyme schemes are patterns of rhyme used when writing a poem. When describing the pattern we use letters of the alphabet:

Georgy Porgy pudding and pie A.

Kissed the girls and made them cry A.

When the boys came out to play B.

Georgy Porgy ran away. B.

Because 'pie' and 'cry' rhyme in the first two lines, these lines are marked 'A'.

Because 'play' and 'away' rhyme in the second two lines, these lines are marked 'B'.

The letters mark the rhyme scheme of the poem. So, in this example, we can see that 'Georgy Porgy' has an AABB rhyme scheme. This is just one example of a rhyme scheme - there are many different possible combinations!

Rhyming couplets

Let's take another look at TS Eliot's 'Macavity' and see which lines rhyme:

Macavity's a Mystery Cat: he's called the Hidden Paw—

For he's the master criminal who can defy the law.

He's the bafflement of Scotland Yard, the Flying Squad's despair:

For when they reach the scene of crime - Macavity's not there!

'Macavity' has lines that rhyme in pairs, such as 'paw' and 'law', 'despair' and '(not) there'. We call these rhyming couplets. So, just like in the previous example of 'Georgy Porgy', 'Macavity' has an AABB rhyme scheme which means that it is made up of pairs of lines that rhyme and usually share the same rhythm.

Typically, rhyming lines in couplets will also be similar in length. Try counting the syllables in each line of 'Macavity'. Are they the same? Now read it aloud and listen to the rhythm.

Alternate rhyme

Another typical rhyme scheme is ABAB. This means the first line will rhyme with the third, and the second line will rhyme with the fourth. This is also called alternate rhyme and can be seen in poems with verses of 4 lines (called stanzas).

Take a look at the rhyming words in this section of 'The Song of the Jellicles' by TS Eliot.

Jellicle Cats have cheerful faces,

Jellicle Cats have bright black eyes;

They like to practice their airs and graces

And wait for the Jellicle Moon to rise.

'Faces' in line 1 rhymes with 'graces' from line 2 (so we have A _ A _).

'Eyes' from line 3 matches 'rise' from line 4 (so we have _B_B).

If we combine these together, we can see that the poem has the rhyme scheme ABAB.

The sonnet

A sonnet is a poem of 14 lines with a varying rhythm scheme; originally Italian, it was introduced into England in the 16th century and has remained a popular poetic form ever since.

The English or Shakespearean sonnet has three 4-line stanzas, each line containing ten syllables, and finishes with a couplet. The rhyme scheme, therefore, is ABAB CDCD EFEF GG.

Types of rhyme Picture of Shakespeare StudySmarterWilliam Shakespeare famously used the same rhyming scheme for his many sonnets. - Wikimedia Commons.

Shakespeare wrote over 150 sonnets using this scheme. In 'Sonnet 12' (1609), the speaker observes the passing of time and ends with a couplet advising to cheat death by having children and, thereby, living on through them.

'When I do count the clock that tells the time, A.

And see the brave day sunk in hideous night; B.

When I behold the violet past prime, A.

And sable curls, all silvered o'er with white; B.

When lofty trees I see barren of leaves, C

Which only from heat did canopy the stove, D

And summer's green all girded up in sheaves, C.

Borne on the beer with white and bristly beard, D

Then of thy beauty do I question make, E.

That thou among the wastes of time must go, F.

Since sweets and beauties do themselves forsake E.

And die as fast as they see others grow; F.

And nothing 'gainst Time's scythe can make defence G

Save breed, to brave him when he takes thee hence. ' G

Have you ever tried writing a sonnet? How would you write about the topic of time? Is time something to be afraid of, or to embrace?

Rhyme is not everyone's favourite (some poets avoid it altogether!), But many use it for its capacity to add harmony and impact to their work, thereby enriching the reader's experience and understanding.

Rhymes - Key takeaways

  • A rhyme is when two words sound alike.
  • Rhyming can make it easier to remember things and adds musicality to text.
  • The three most common types of rhyme are: Perfect rhyme, Imperfect rhyme and End rhyme.
  • The perfect rhyme is when two words share the same vowel sound in the final syllable and the final consonants of the two words are identical.
  • The imperfect rhyme is when the rhyming words do not sound identical; they only sound 'half' similar.
  • End rhymes happen when the phrases end in rhyming syllables.

References

  1. Fig. 1. AbbythePup, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Frequently Asked Questions about Rhymes

Perfect, Imperfect and End rhyme

An imperfect rhyme is where the rhyming words do not sound identical.

Macavity’s a Mystery Cat: he’s called the Hidden Paw—

For he’s the master criminal who can defy the Law.

Poetry can be split into three types, these are: lyric poetry, narrative poetry and dramatic poetry. All of these can make use of rhyme.

The most common type of rhyme is perfect rhyme. This is where two words share the same vowel sound in the final syllable and have identical final consonants.

Rhyme is when two words sound alike, they can have identical sounds in them or can just be similar. There are several types of rhyme including: perfect rhyme, imperfect rhyme, end rhyme, feminine rhyme, masculine rhyme, eye rhyme, pararhyme, monorhyme, monosyllabic rhyme, multisyllabic rhyme and dactylic rhyme. 

Final Rhymes Quiz

Question

What is an Imperfect Rhyme?

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Answer

An imperfect rhyme is where the rhyming words do not sound identical.

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Question

What is rhyme?

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Answer

A rhyme is when two words sound alike

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Why is rhyme used?

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Answer

To add musicality to text or to make text more memorable.

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Where can we most often see rhyme being used?

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Answer

Poetry, nursery rhymes and song writing.

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What do you call a collection of consecutive lines that rhyme?

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Answer

A verse

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True or false: Words have to start with the same letter in order to rhyme.

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Answer

False

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Question

Try to list five different types of rhyme.

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Answer

Any five of the following: perfect rhyme, imperfect rhyme, end rhyme, feminine rhyme, masculine rhyme, eye rhyme, pararhyme, monorhyme, monosyllabic rhyme, multisyllabic rhyme or dactylic rhyme.

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What are the three most common types of rhyme?

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Answer

Perfect rhyme, imperfect rhyme and end rhyme.

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What is perfect rhyme also known as?

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Full rhyme

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What is perfect rhyme?

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Answer

Perfect rhyme is when two words share the same vowel sound in the final syllable and also have identical final consonants.

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Question

What is imperfect rhyme also known as?

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Answer

Half rhyme

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What is imperfect rhyme?

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Answer

Imperfect rhyme is where words sound similar but are not identical such as 'soul' and 'all.'

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What is end rhyme?

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Answer

End rhyme is when phrases end in rhyming syllables.

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Question

In the nursery rhyme 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,' which words rhyme?

Twinkle twinkle little star,

How I wonder what you are,

Up above the world so high,

Like a diamond in the sky,

Twinkle twinkle little star,

How I wonder what you are

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Answer

'Star' and 'are', and also 'sky' and 'high.'

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Question

What is rhyme scheme used for in poetry?

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Answer

To create structure

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What are three types of rhyme scheme?

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Rhyming couplets, alternate rhymes and sonnets.

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What is a rhyme scheme?

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Answer

Rhyme schemes are patterns of rhyme used when writing a poem.

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What are rhyming couplets?

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Answer

Rhyming couplets are when lines rhyme in pairs.

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What is the rhyme scheme of rhyming couplets?

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Answer

AABB

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What is alternate rhyme?

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Answer

Alternate rhyme is similar to rhyming couplets however the lines rhyme with their alternate lines rather than in direct pairs.

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What is the rhyme scheme for alternate rhyme?

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Answer

ABAB

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Question

How many lines does a sonnet have?

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Answer

14

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How many stanzas does a sonnet have, and how many lines are in each stanza?

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Answer

There are three four-line stanzas and a rhyming couplet in a sonnet.

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True or false: Sonnets end with a rhyming couplet?

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Answer

True

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What is the rhyme scheme of a sonnet?

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Answer

ABAB CDCD EFEF GG

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Which playwright famously wrote over 150 sonnets?

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Answer

William Shakespeare.

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