rhyming compound

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

rhyming compound
The name of this American supermarket chain is a rhyming compound.


rhyming compound is a compound word that contains rhyming elements, such as blackjack, fuddy duddy, pooper-scooper, and voodoo. Also called rhyme-motivated compound, rhyming reduplication, and echo compound.

Kenneth Wilson notes that rhyming compounds are "catchy and surprisingly durable self-imitating words such as nitty-gritty, hanky-panky, hurdy-gurdy, nambypamby, and itty-bitty" (Columbia Guide to Standard American English, 2013).


See Examples and Observations below. Also see:


Examples and Observations

  • "What would the English language be without Georgie-Porgie, tootsy-wootsy, razzle-dazzle, heebie-jeebies, walkie-talkie, nitty-gritty, and polly-wolly-doodle? . . . We barely notice the presence of rhyme in picnic, humdrum, humbug, hobnob, and tidbit: the humor of their inner form has worn off."
    (Anatoly Liberman, Word Origins: Etymology for Everyone. Oxford University Press, 2009)
  • "For all the hullabaloo surrounding the 'mobile gaming revolution' there are few games that really tailor themselves well to the medium."
    (Toby Moses, "Extraction: Project Outbreak." The Observber, Nov. 26, 2011)
  • "Look out helter skelter
    She's coming down fast
    Yes she is
    Yes she is coming down fast."
    (John Lennon and Paul McCartney, "Helter Skelter")
  • "Search Medica excludes the vast penumbra of anecdotal commentary and pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo that surrounds most medical topics."
    (Jack Schofield, "Have I Got the Collwobbles?" The Guardian, September 6, 2006)
  • "The second element of a rhyming compound in baby talk . . . may represent only the repetition of the first element with the substitution of /w/ for the initial phoneme (kissy wissy, piggy wiggy)."
    (Julie Coleman, "Phonaesthesia and Other Forms of Word Play." Language History and Linguistic Modelling. Mouton de Gruyter, 1997)
  • "By now the windows of the car were so steamed up, passersby might think there was some hanky-panky going on."
    (Susan Wiggs, Table for Five. Mira, 2005)
  • "Into this Universe, and Why not knowing
    Nor Whence, like Water willy-nilly flowing,
    and out of it, as Wind along the Waste,
    I know not Wither, willy-nilly blowing."
    (Edward Fitgerald, The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam)

  • Forming Rhyming Compounds
    "Some rhyming compounds are formed by joining bases which are both pre-existing words as in Black-Jack and brain-drain. Probably more common, however, are rhyming compounds where one (or both bases) is not an independent word, as in: nitwit, titbit, nitty-gritty, helter-skelter, hobnob, teeny-weeny, namby-pamby, higgledy-piggledy, hurly burly."
    (Francis Katamba, English Words: Structure, History, Usage, 2nd ed. Routledge, 2005)
  • Hoi Polloi and Hoity-Toity
    "When we speak of the hoi polloi . . . we are firmly grounded in an error that common usage over centuries has erased. Certainly, 'the hoi polloi' translates formally and redundantly as 'the the masses" . . ..

    "The meaning of the hoi polloi should remain 'the masses,' or in less-Marxist-sounding terms, 'ordinary folk.' When the writer Pete Hamill told the interviewer Charlie Rose, 'Sinatra threw a party for Agnew in Palm Springs with all the hoi polloi in attendance,' Francis Dyer of New York objected, noting that the phrase had not taken on a new meaning of 'important people, upper classes or swells.'

    "That upside-down usage occurs often. The confusion comes from the similarity of the noun hoi polloi and the adjective hoity-toity, a rhyming compound from the English dialect term hoit, 'to play the fool,' which has come to mean 'foolishly snooty.'"
    (William Safire, No Uncertain Terms. Simon & Schuster, 2003)
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    Your Citation
    Nordquist, Richard. "rhyming compound." ThoughtCo, Aug. 22, 2016, thoughtco.com/rhyming-compound-1691919. Nordquist, Richard. (2016, August 22). rhyming compound. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/rhyming-compound-1691919 Nordquist, Richard. "rhyming compound." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/rhyming-compound-1691919 (accessed December 13, 2017).