Homoioteleuton (Figure of sound)

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

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Homoioteleuton is the use of similar sound endings to words, phrases, or sentences. 

In rhetoric, homoioteleuton is regarded as a figure of sound. Brian Vickers equates this figure with assonance or "prose rhyme" (In Defence of Rhetoric, 1988). In The Arte of English Poesy (1589), George Puttenham compared the Greek figure of homoioteleuton "to our vulgar rhyme," offering this example: "Weeping, creeping, beseeching I wan / The love at length of Lady Lucian."

Etymology: From the Greek, "like ending"

Pronunciation: ho-moi-o-te-LOO-ton

Also Known As: near rhyme, prose rhyme

Alternate Spellings: homeoteleuton, homoeoteleuton

Examples

  • "My mother weeping, my father wailing, my sister crying, our maid howling, our cat wringing her hands." (Launce in Act II, scene three of The Two Gentlemen of Verona by William Shakespeare)
  • "The quicker picker upper." (Advertising slogan for Bounty paper towels)
  • "That’s why, darling, it’s incredibleThat someone so unforgettable
    • Thinks I’m unforgettable too." ("Unforgettable," sung by Nat King Cole)
  • "Loose lips sink ships." (Public service ad during World War II)
  • "Crispety, crunchety, peanut-buttery Butterfinger." (Advertising slogan for Butterfinger candy bar)
  • "I must aim at lucidity, simplicity and euphony." (William Somerset Maugham, The Summing Up, 1938)
  • "But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow, this ground." (President Abraham Lincoln, The Gettysburg Address, 1863)
  • "He would clap his hands, lick his lips, narrow his eyes into a squinty gaze and extemporize, patronize, chastise, sermonize and crack wise all at the same time." (Linton Weeks, describing U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in "Rumsfeld, A Newsmaker Who's Certainly Hard to Follow." The Washington Post, November 9, 2006)
  • "Chieftain Iffucan of Azcan in caftanOf tan with henna hackles, halt!" (Wallace Stevens, "Bantams in Pine-Woods")
  • "A very delectable, highly respectable,Threepenny-bus young man!" (W.S. Gilbert, Patience, 1881)
  • "Reinhart and Rogoff admitted their errors but claimed, incorrectly, that it remains true that high public debt levels are correlated with slower growth. In fact, as sensible economists observed when their study first came out, correlation is not causation." (The Nation, May 13, 2013)

Homoioteleuton as a Pattern of Repetition

"Homoioteleuton is a series of words with similar endings such as those with the Latinate suffixes '-ion' (e.g., presentation, action, elaboration, interpretation), '-ence' (e.g., emergence), and '-ance' (e.g., resemblance, performance). These suffixes work to nominalize verbs (transform verbs into nouns) and tend to appear most regularly in what Williams (1990) referred to as the various '-eses' (idioms such as 'legalese' and 'bureaucratese.' Like other patterns of repetition, homoioteleuton helps to build or reinforce connections, as in this example from the English politician Lord Rosebery in an 1899 speech: 'Imperialism, sane imperialism . . . is nothing but this--a larger patriotism.'" (James Jasinski, Sourcebook on Rhetoric. Sage, 2001)

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