Definition and Examples in Rhyme in Prose and Poetry

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

In the two opening verses of the English nursery rhyme "Simple Simon," there are three sets of rhymes: Simon and pieman; fair and ware; and penny and any. (Culture Club/Getty Images)

The term rhyme refers to the identity or close similarity of sound between accented syllables

Words with similar but not identical sounds (such as mystery and mastery, or seek and beat) are called slant rhymes, near rhymes, or imperfect rhymes.  A verse or prose passage in which all the lines contain the same rhyme is called a monorhyme.

When rhyme occurs in prose, it usually serves to emphasize words in a sentence.

Alternate Spellings: rime

Rhymes in Poetry, Stories, and Literature

Poetry, literature, and even children's stories make an excellent vehicle for using rhymes, as the following examples show.

Dr. Seuss

  • "Yes, the zebra is fine.
    But I think it's a shame,
    Such a marvelous beast
    With a cart that's so tame.
    The story would really be better to hear
    If the driver I saw were a charioteer.
    A gold and blue chariot's something to meet,
    Rumbling like thunder down Mulberry Street!"
    (And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, 1937)

Robert Frost

  • "Whose woods these are I think I know,
    His house is in the village though.
    He will not see me stopping here,
    To watch his woods fill up with snow."
    ("Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening")

S.J. Perelman

- "A veritable fusillade of smells, compounded of the pungent odors of deep fat, shark's fin, sandalwood, and open drains, now bombarded our nostrils and we found ourselves in the thriving hamlet of Chinwangtao. Every sort of object imaginable was being offered by street hawkers--basketwork, noodles, poodles, hardware, leeches, breeches, peaches, watermelon seeds, roots, boots, flutes, coats, shoats, stoats, even early vintage phonograph records."
(Westward Ha! 1948)

Thomas Campion

  • "The popularitie of Rime creates as many Poets as a hot summer flies."

Willard R. Espy

- The only poet who completely solved the "orange" problem was Arthur Guiterman, who wrote in Gaily the Troubador:

  1. In sparkhill buried lies that man of mark
    Who brought the Obelisk to Central Park,
    Redoubtable Commander H.H. Gorringe,
    Whose name supplies the long-sought rhyme for "orange."
    Below is a list of words difficult to rhyme. See what you can do with them . . ..
    Orange and lemon
  2. Liquid
  3. Porringer
  4. Widow
  5. Niagra

(The Game of Words. Grosset & Dunlap, 1972)

Rhymes in Academics

Linguists and academicians have explained how rhymes work in a variety of formats, as these selections demonstrate.

  • "The most common rap rhymes are end rhymes, those rhymes that fall on the last beat of the musical measure, signaling the end of the poetic line. Two lines in succession with end rhymes comprise a couplet, the most common rhyme scheme in old-school rap. . . .
    "Rhyme is the reason we can begin to hear a rhythm just by reading these lines from 50 Cent's 2007 hit 'I Get Money': 'Get a tan? I'm already Black. Rich? I'm already that / Gangsta, get a gat, hit a head in a hat / Call that a riddle rap. . . .' The first line establishes a pattern of stressed syllables in successive phrases ('already Black,' 'already that') that he carries over into the next two lines ('get a gat, hit a head, in a hat, riddle rap'). Three of these four phrases end in rhymes, one a perfect rhyme ('gat' and 'hat') and the third a slant rhyme ('rap'). The overall effect of the performance rewards our anticipation by balancing expectation and surprise in its sounds."
    (Adam Bradley, Book of Rhymes: The Poetics of Hip Hop. BasicCivitas, 2009)

Paula LaRocque

"Deliberate rhyme in prose is amusing if the subject matter is light-hearted. Accidental rhyme seems careless, the product of a writer with a tin ear. In serious or grave material, rhyming word play in general seems inappropriate and at least undignified, if not repellant.
"Rewriting a passage that appears elsewhere in this book . . ., I tried, 'Technology may have freed us from conventional war, which in the past consumed the whole nation and annihilated an entire generation.' You'll see immediately what's wrong with that sentence: the unwitting rhyme of nation and generation. Deliberate rhyme for special effects can be pleasant; unwitting rhyme almost never is. Here the rhyme sets up an unintended poetic cadence--either nation or generation had to go. Nation was easier, and the rewrite finally read, 'Technology may have freed us from conventional war, which in the past consumed the whole country and annihilated an entire generation.'"
(The Book on Writing. Marion Street, 2003)

John Field

  • "Test with children have found a correlation between reading difficulties and insensitivity to rhyme. The finding indicates the importance of rhyme in enabling young readers to trace analogies between written forms in English (LIGHT and FIGHT). Evidence from identical twins suggests that insensitivity to rhyme may be an inherited phonological deficit."
    (Psycholinguistics: The Key Concepts. Routledge, 2004)

G.K. Chesterton

  • "The romance of rhyme does not consist merely in the pleasure of a jingle, though this is a pleasure of which no man should be ashamed. Certainly most men take pleasure in it, whether or not they are ashamed of it. We see it in the older fashion of prolonging the chorus of a song with syllables like 'runty tunty' or 'tooral looral.' We see it in the similar but later fashion of discussing whether a truth is objective or subjective, or whether a reform is constructive or destructive, or whether an argument is deductive or inductive: all bearing witness to a very natural love for those nursery rhyme recurrences which make a sort of song without words, or at least without any kind of intellectual significance."
    ("The Romance of Rhyme," 1920)

M.H. Abrams and Geoffrey Galt Harpham

  • "If the correspondence of the rhymed sounds is exact, it is called perfect rhyme, or else 'full' or 'true rhyme.' . . . Many modern poets . . . deliberately supplement perfect rhyme with imperfect rhyme (also known as 'partial rhyme,' or else as 'near rhyme,' 'slant rhyme,' or 'pararhyme'). . . . In his poem 'The Force That Through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower' (1933), Dylan Thomas uses, very effectively, such distantly approximate rhymes as (with masculine endings) trees-rose, rocks-wax, tomb-worm, and (with feminine endings) flower-destroyer-fever."
    (A Glossary of Literary Terms, 9th ed. Wadsworth, 2009)

Rhymes in Modern Culture

Television programs and films provide a clever showcase for the use of rhymes, including these two selections from film and one from a popular TV show demonstrate.

Mandy Patinkin, Wallace Shawn, and André the Giant

Inigo Montoya: That Vizzini, he can fuss.
Fezzik: Fuss, fuss. I think he likes to scream at us.
Inigo Montoya: Probably he means no harm.
Fezzik: He's really very short on charm.
Inigo Montoya: You have a great gift for rhyme.
Fezzik: Yes, yes, some of the time.
Vizzini: Enough of that.
Inigo Montoya: Fezzik, are there rocks ahead?
Fezzik: If there are, we all be dead.
Vizzini: No more rhymes now, I mean it.
Fezzik: Anybody want a peanut?
Vizzini: Dyeeaahhhh!
(The Princess Bride, 1987)

Bart Simpson

  • "I am not a lean mean spitting machine."
    (The Simpsons)

Adam Sandler

  • "Hey, why don't I just go eat some hay, make things out of clay, lay by the bay? I just may! What do ya say?"
    (Happy Gilmore, 1996)
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Your Citation
Nordquist, Richard. "Definition and Examples in Rhyme in Prose and Poetry." ThoughtCo, Jun. 6, 2021, Nordquist, Richard. (2021, June 6). Definition and Examples in Rhyme in Prose and Poetry. Retrieved from Nordquist, Richard. "Definition and Examples in Rhyme in Prose and Poetry." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 24, 2023).