Assonance Definition and Examples

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

Assonance is the repetition of identical or similar vowel sounds in neighboring words (as in "fish and chips" and "bad man"). Adjective: assonant.

Assonance is a method of achieving emphasis and cohesion in a short stretch of text.

Assonance is closely associated with internal rhyme. However, assonance differs from rhyme in that rhyme usually involves both vowel and consonant sounds.

Etymology
From the Latin, "sound"

Examples

  • "If I bleat when I speak it's because I just got . . . fleeced."
    (Al Swearengen in Deadwood, 2004)
  • "A heart no bigger than an orange seed has ceased to beat."
    (James Salter, "Am Strande von Tanger." Collected Stories. Pan Macmillan, 2013)
  • "It beats . . . as it sweeps . . . as it cleans!"
    (advertising slogan for Hoover vacuum cleaners, 1950s)
  • "Those images that yet
    Fresh images beget,
    That dolphin-torn, that gong-tormented sea."
    (W.B. Yeats, "Byzantium")
  • "He was soon borne away by the waves, and lost in darkness and distance."
    (Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, 1818)
  • "He diagnosed Camilla's difficulty as indigestion, and locked himself in his cabin."
    (William Gaddis, The Recognitions. Harcourt Brace & Company, 1955)
  • "Soft language issued from their spitless lips as they swished in low circles round and round the field, winding hither and thither through the weeds, dragging their long tails amid the rattling canisters."
    (James Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, 1916)
  • "The spider skins lie on their sides, translucent and ragged, their legs drying in knots."
    (Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm, 1977)
  • "Flash with a rash gimme my cash flickin' my ash
    Runnin with my money, son, go out with a blast."
    (Busta Rhymes, "Gimme Some More," 1998)
  • "The law may not change the heart, but it can restrain the heartless."
    (Martin Luther King, Jr., address to the National Press Club on July 19, 1962)
  • "But at supper that evening when I asked him to pass the damn ham, please, Uncle Jack pointed at me. 'See me afterwards, young lady,' he said."
    (Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird, 1960)
  • "Do not go gentle into that good night,
    Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
    Rage, rage, against the dying of the light. . . .
    Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
    Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light."
    (Dylan Thomas, "Do not go gentle into that good night")
  • "The setting sun was licking the hard bright machine like some great invisible beast on its knees."
    (John Hawkes, Death, Sleep, and the Traveler, 1974)
  • "I must confess that in my quest I felt depressed and restless."
    (Thin Lizzy, "With Love")
  • "I call her a ghastly girl because she was a ghastly girl. . . . A droopy, soupy, sentimental exhibit, with melting eyes and a cooing voice and the most extraordinary views on such things as stars and rabbits."
    (P.G. Wodehouse, The Code of the Woosters, 1938)
  • "In the over-mastering loneliness of that moment, his whole life seemed to him nothing but vanity."
    (Robert Penn Warren, Night Rider, 1939)
  • "A lanky, six-foot, pale boy with an active Adam's apple, ogling Lo and her orange-brown bare midriff, which I kissed five minutes later, Jack."
    (Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita, 1955)
  • "Strips of tinfoil winking like people"
    (Sylvia Plath, "The Bee Meeting")
  • "The moon, like a flower
    In heaven's high bower,
    With silent delight,
    Sits and smiles on the night."
    (William Blake, "Night." Songs of Innocence, 1789)

Observations

  • "Assonance, (or medial rime) is the agreement in the vowel sounds of two or more words, when the consonant sounds preceding and following these vowels do not agree. Thus, strike and grind, hat and man, 'rime' with each other according to the laws of assonance."
    (J.W. Bright, Elements of English Versification, 1910)
  • "Beware of excessive assonance. Any assonance that draws attention to itself is excessive."
    (John Earle, A Simple Grammar of English, 1898)
  • "The terms alliteration, assonance, and rhyme identify kinds of recurring sound that in practice are often freely mixed together. . . . It may not be easy or useful to decide where one stops and another starts."
    (Tom McArthur, The Oxford Companion to the English Language, 1992)
  • "Rhyme, alliteration, assonance, and consonance combined often produce tongue-twisting linguistics. Big Punisher's 'Twinz' includes this couplet . . .: 'Dead in the middle of little Italy / Little did we know that we riddled a middle man who didn't know diddly.' . . . Keying in on a single sound, he runs a staggering series of rhyme variations ('middle,' 'little,' 'riddled,' 'middle,' 'diddly'), which he further builds upon with consonance (d) and assonance (i) and alliteration (d and l). This is what happens when a poet is in complete control of his rhymes."
    (Adam Bradley, Book of Rhymes: The Poetics of Hip Hop. BasicCivitas, 2009)

Pronunciation: ASS-a-nins

Also Known As: medial rhyme (or rime), inexact rhyme

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Your Citation
Nordquist, Richard. "Assonance Definition and Examples." ThoughtCo, Apr. 25, 2017, thoughtco.com/what-is-assonance-1689142. Nordquist, Richard. (2017, April 25). Assonance Definition and Examples. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-assonance-1689142 Nordquist, Richard. "Assonance Definition and Examples." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-assonance-1689142 (accessed November 19, 2017).