Consonance (Word Sounds)

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

Broadly, consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds; more specifically, consonance is the repetition of the final consonant sounds of accented syllables or important words.

William Harmon notes that "most so-called eye rhymes (such as 'word' and 'lord,' or 'blood,' 'food,' and 'good') are instances of consonance, as are the hymnals' rhymes between between 'river' and 'ever' or 'heaven' and 'given'" (A Handbook to Literature, 2006).

See Examples and Observations below.

Etymology

From the Latin, "agree" + "sounds"

Examples and Observations

  • "The repetition of final consonant sounds, as in 'First and last,' 'odds and ends,' 'short and sweet,' 'a stroke of luck,' or Shakespeare's 'struts and frets' is CONSONANCE."
    (Laurence Perrine, Literature: Structure, Sound, and Sense, Harcourt, 1978)
  • "Some few large men sat in the front parlors, without their collars, Uncles almost certainly, trying their new cigars."
    (Dylan Thomas, Quite Early One Morning. New Directions, 1954)
  • Consonance in Rap Lyrics
    Consonance is quite often employed in rap, whether to underscore rhyme or to offer a kind of rhyme substitute. Lauryn Hill's lines from the Fugees 'Zealots' show consonance at work alongside rhyme:
    • Rap rejects my tape deck, ejects projectile
    • Whether Jew or Gentile, I rank top percentile,
    • Many styles, More powerful than gamma rays
    • My grammar pays, like Carlos Santana plays
      Consonance with one sound ('eck') shifts to multisyllable rhymes with another sound ('projectile,' 'Gentile,' 'percentile') and then another ('gamma rays,' 'grammar pays,' 'Santana plays'). The result is as intricate as it is effortless."
      (Adam Bradley, Book of Rhymes: The Poetics of Hip Hop. BasicCivitas, 2009)
  • Seamus Heaney's Use of Consonance
    "[In Seamus Heaney's poem "Ocean's Love to Ireland"] the plosives i and k also serve to slow our reading, as do the alliteration and consonance of the b's and d's that begin here and continue in the second through fifth lines:
    • Ralegh has backed the maid to a tree

      As Irelan d is backed to England

    • And drives inland
      Till all her strands are breathless.

      We picture a deliberate, proud, unfrenzied man using language and physical strength to overpower the maid."
      (Karen Marguerite Moloney, Seamus Heaney and the Emblems of Hope, University of Missouri Press, 2007)

    Pronunciation

    KON-se-nens

    Also Known As

    Half rhyme, slant rhyme

    Format
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    Your Citation
    Nordquist, Richard. "Consonance (Word Sounds)." ThoughtCo, Apr. 10, 2017, thoughtco.com/consonance-word-sounds-1689913. Nordquist, Richard. (2017, April 10). Consonance (Word Sounds). Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/consonance-word-sounds-1689913 Nordquist, Richard. "Consonance (Word Sounds)." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/consonance-word-sounds-1689913 (accessed January 18, 2018).