Types of Rhyme

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The poet who wishes to write a rhyming poem has several different sorts of rhyme from which to choose. Some are strong, some more subtle, and all can be employed as the poet sees fit. The following are some of the main types : 

End Rhymes
Rhyming of the final words of lines in a poem. The following, for example, is from Seamus Heaney’s “Digging” : 

      Under my window, a clean rasping sound
      When the spade sinks into gravelly ground 

Internal Rhymes
Rhyming of two words within the same line of poetry. The following, for example, is from Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” : 

      Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
      Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore, 

Slant Rhymes (sometimes called imperfect, partial, near, oblique, off etc.)
Rhyme in which two words share just a vowel sound (assonance – e.g. “heart” and “star”) or in which they share just a consonant sound (consonance – e.g. “milk” and “walk”). Slant rhyme is a technique perhaps more in tune with the uncertainties of the modern age than strong rhyme. The following example is also from Seamus Heaney’s “Digging” : 

      Between my finger and my thumb
      The squat pen rests; snug as a gun 

Rich Rhymes
Rhyme using two different words that happen to sound the same (i.e. homonyms) – for example “raise” and “raze”. The following example – a triple rich rhyme – is from Thomas Hood’s” A First Attempt in Rhyme” : 

      Partake the fire divine that burns,
      In Milton, Pope, and Scottish Burns,
      Who sang his native braes and burns. 

Eye Rhymes
Rhyme on words that look the same but which are actually pronounced differently – for example “bough” and “rough”. The opening four lines of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18, for example, go : 

      Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
      Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
      Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
      And summer’s lease hath all too short a date: 

Here, “temperate” and “date” look as though they rhyme, but few readers would pronounce “temperate” so that they did. Beware that pronunciations can drift over time and that rhymes can end up as eye rhymes when they were originally full (and vice versa). 

Identical Rhymes
Simply using the same word twice. An example is in (some versions of) Emily Dickinson’s “Because I Could not Stop for Death” : 

      We paused before a House that seemed
      A Swelling of the Ground—
      The Roof was scarcely visible—
      The Cornice—in the Ground— 

It’s clear there is often a certain amount of overlap between rhyme and other poetical devices such as assonance – subjects to be covered in future poetry writing tips.

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11 thoughts on “Types of Rhyme”

  1. Most informative and edifying. I write poetry but wasn’t really schooled in the formal rules of it, so these terms and styles were new to me. Thank you, Simon, for the post.

    A question occurs: Is there any prohibition against using more than one type of rhyme in a single work?

  2. Re: Types of rhymes

    A question about types of rhymes, specifically the rhymes in the University of Kansas cheer:


    I occasionally tell KU fans I don’t like the cheer (maybe because ‘though I live near Lawrence, Kansas, I’m not a KU fan (I’m a Univ. of Arkansas fan who’s learned to love the school’s unique “Wooo, pig. Sooie!” cheer)) mainly because the three words rhyme imperfectly, and I doubt this occurs for any poetic effect. It’s merely poor rhyming, like an ESL student might create. In fact, it’s difficult to say the cheer aloud without almost conscious awareness of the awkward contortions your mouth and tongue have to go through. I try to explain that it’s a slant rhyme – or other similar term – because it has consonance: the three same ending consonant sounds but the imperfect matching of the vowel sounds.

    School cheers are silly (q.v.: Univ. of Ark. cheer). Perhaps the silliness is semi-intentional; maybe it gives the cheers a certain partisan resonance with the fans. If they weren’t silly, they’d be boring and not worth shouting. But the KU cheer really annoys me. I ask people who have trouble understanding my criticism to say “hawk” aloud, and then follow that word with “rock” and “chalk,” using precisely the same vowel sounds in each. As they go through this unnatural-sounding exercise, they begin to understand me, I think.

    My question, finally: Is there a better, more specific term for this type of rhyme than slant rhyme? I’d love to come off as more authoratative in these arguments, and maybe use fewer words doing it.

    Humbly, etc.,

    James Norman

  3. James Norman, I believe that the words in the cheer are examples of perfect rhyme.

    From Wikipedia: 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.

    A perfect rhyme — also called a full rhyme, exact rhyme,[1] or true rhyme — is when the later part of the word or phrase is identical sounding to that of another.[2]

    The following conditions are required for a rhyme to be perfect:
    1. The vowel sound in both words must be identical. — e.g. “sky” and high”
    2. The articulation that precedes the vowel sound must differ. “leave” and “believe” is an imperfect rhyme, whereas “green” and “spleen” are perfect rhymes.

    The vowel sound (if you hadn’t noticed) would be the short -a sound…as in paw.

    Hope that helps.

  4. I love to write kids poems but nearly always use Sky bye. too blue warm charm whether its every other line or every fourth line. Am I too boring. ? I did get an offer of publishing but was contibutionary based. I couldnt afford it. Christine

  5. What d’you call a rhyme that uses the end of one word and the start of the next?
    An example I can think of is in Elvis Costello’s This Year’s Girl:
    Forget your fancy manners
    Forget your English grammar
    ‘Cause you don’t really give a damn about this year’s girl

    ‘Damn a’ from ‘damn about’ rhymes with the previous two lines.
    Does this have a name?


  6. A bit late, but regarding the KU cheer, those three words don’t rhyme for me (I’m from southern England) — only the second and third. However, I’ve always found it amusing that Bob Dylan, in his song Simple Twist of Fate makes these lines rhyme (v.5):

    He hears the ticking of the clocks
    And walks along with a parrot that talks
    Hunts her down by the waterfront docks

    To me, the first and third rhyme with ‘rocks’ but not ‘talks’, which does, however rhyme with ‘chalks’ and ‘hawks’ for me. Maybe it’s a matter of what region of the US you’re from?

  7. What is it called when you rhyme the same word with itself but the meaning changes drastically based on the context of the line it is in? I’ve heard very modern rappers use this device in verse but cannot think of a specific maybe a famous Rick Ross line:

    “I’m into distribution. I’m like Atlantic / I’m flying birds back & forth across the Atlantic”

    The word Atlantic completed changed in meaning because of the context, the first Atlantic was referring to a music distribution company as a metaphor for the distribution of cocaine, the second Atlantic was actually referring to moving cocaine across the Atlantic ocean.

    Pardon the drug references, it was the only example I could think of, off the top of my head.

  8. Hey Jarrod,
    So what you’re referencing there is actually called a double entendre, which really has nothing to do with rhyming in itself. Double entendres are considered ‘word play’, along the same lines as things like puns, similes, & metaphors. Double entendre, simply put, means double meaning. So the sentence imploying a double entendre can be interpreted in two different ways, & more often than not, is usually in the realm of a ‘risque’ innuendo of some sorts.
    No offense, but Rick Ross is probably one of the least effective ‘rappers’ in the use of clever word play. He is in fact quite dull, perhaps even dim-witted 😉 Although the example that you used of his is still in fact a double entendre.
    If you’re a young blood, getting into hip hop or lyricism, check out emcees like Big Pun for starters his song ‘twinz deep cover’ has the famous rhyme scheme, “dead in the middle of little Italy little did we know that we riddled some middle men who didn’t do diddly”. Kool G rap who’s also known for his technical, multisyllabic, rhyme schemes. Big L employed use of puns, metaphors, & word play like no one else in his time . Of course Wu-tang clan, & Another personal favorite of mine who’s one of the most prolific lyricists still alive today is no other than MF DOOM. Every line he writes has a purpose and meaning to it, so much so that it usually just goes over the general public’s heads… but i digress, double entendres are probably one of the rarer, slightly more difficult writing devices to come up with. Most commonly used in today’s hip hop are the more common; Puns, metaphors, & similes…but shoot, nowadays the hiphop listener is lucky if the more ‘contemporary’ artists even know how to rhyme half decently…hell some of them don’t even write their own songs! Like how Cardi B is always getting called out for using a ghost writer…

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