What is a rhyme?

We explain that what an assonant rhyme and examples of consonant and assonant rhyme are. Also, how a free rhyme is composed. In addition: rhymes by languge and its history.

What is a rhyme?

A rhyme is the equality or similarity of the phonemes between two or more words from the last syllable of both. For example, are rhyming words can tion  and pray tion .

There are two types of rhymes: assonant rhymes and consonant rhymes . The difference between one and the other is that the first one only coincides in one or more vowels of the last word of a verse with one or more vowels of the last word of another verse.

In other words, it is known as a rhyming assonance to that in which the vowels that are at the end of two or more verses coincide with each other although consonants do not. For this last reason, it is also known as partial or imperfect rhyme.

On the contrary, in a consonant rhyme, the entire termination of one word with another coincides when both meet at the end of a verse.

Rhyme is used with an aesthetic purpose for basically poetry , in order to decorate or embellish a certain text with the tone .

There are two forms of assonant rhymes: an assonant rhyme can rhyme with another word from the last vowel  only or, also, can do it in more than one vowel but always from the last syllable.

In summary, an assonant rhyme only repeats the vowels found at the end of a word, while consonant rhymes coincide in the completion of the entire syllable of a word.

Examples  of  consonant  and assonant rhyme

Assonant rhymes will be underlined for their distinction, while consonant rhymes will be highlighted with bold.

  • Amid this storm id eas
    come to show me to the ma
    Beyond pel eas
    my mind plas ma
  • Where he will walk your forgetting
    that in my nights I visi ta
    They disturb my heart
    and my mind transi ta
  • Yesterday I met love
    As pure as snow
    As sweet as honey
    And as sad as ice
  • I know that between the tempest of your words
    And the sweetness of your gaze
    A path is woven
    To which I can only reach with the soul
  • No matter how much you walk,
    you will not be able to get where you want,
    because you still don’t know how to see the
    path you intertwine
  • Tell me if I have given something in error
    Tell me if with a song I can express my sorrow and pain
    Because when your gaze sinks in my eyes,
    I can only feel sorry for the pain that I have caused
  • I can express what I feel with the song of a bird
    More is not the same singing a magpie or a canary
    So my soul expresses
    Depending on what I’ve experienced


It is called a  consonant rhyme  or  perfect rhyme  (as the name implies) when the last syllable of a word that is at the end of a verse completely coincides with the syllable of another word that is also at the end of another verse. An example of consonant rhyme are the following words:

  • Can –  tion
  • O – ra –  tion
  • Pro – li – fe – ra –  tion
  • Of – duc –  tion
  • In – to – na –  tion
  • Duc –  tion
  • A – so – cia –  tion
  • Per – fo – ra –  tion

Free rhyme

A free rhyme or white rhyme is a type of rhyme that is neither assonant nor consonant. It is a type of rhyme that is not trapped or tied to the rules of poetry .

That is, a free or white rhyme is one in which the words at the end of a verse do not match , they do not rhyme. However, it keeps its poetic structure.

In other words, a free rhyme lacks a rhyme but they have a pattern since they are written in verses although they do not have consonant and / or assonant rhymes.

Finally, it is important to note that, traditional verses are composed of 4 stanzas , but the verses in the white rhyme or free rhyme do not respect this structure either . Examples of free rhymes are as follows:

I was beautiful that morning

Very bright that sun
However your absence
saddened me without reason

This time it will be as I say

Well, your fear made your heart glimpse
That heart full of love that I loved so much
And how good it made me feel years ago when I just met you

This morning when I woke up

A cup of coffee I drank
The smell of freshly made toast It brought
me back to my childhood
When my mother, tired of life,
prepared some similar toasts to
those I now enjoyed

There were four cats

Those who found themselves in the middle of the night were fighting
for a female
And fighting their life was gone

Types of rhymes

Strictly speaking, two words rhyme if their last syllables are phonetically identical (we speak of perfect rhymes ). More generally, any phonetic similarity, and even any correspondence, can be seen as a form of rhyme; the most common types are detailed below.

Perfect rhymes

The rules defining perfect rhymes depend a lot on the language, and sometimes on traditional conventions, and have only been observed at a given time. Thus, in English, a rhyme between leave and believe is considered imperfect, despite the phonetic identity between the last syllables, where in French, the rhyme between cor and encor (e)  is perfectly acceptable. Respect for the tonic accent is essential in English and ancient Greek (where one distinguishes, for example, dactyls and spondées ); in French, the difference between e silent and pronounced e (linked to the notion ofmale and female rhymes ) was the subject of long disputes in classical times.

Imperfect rhymes

The notion of rhyme most often refers to phonetic similarities, and to their use in the organization of verses; the classification of rhymes in this extended sense is based on the type of phonetic similarity. So, for example, we talk about

  • poor rhyme: rhyme between unstressed syllables; in French, rhymes between the last syllables alone.
  • demi-rhyme: rhyme between the last syllable of one word and the penultimate of another.
  • assonance  : only the vowels of the corresponding syllables are identical; in general, assonance occurs on many syllables of the verse. For example, / i / “All affl me i ge and me nu i t and Consp i re bare me i re” ( Racine , Phaedra ).
  • alliteration  : only consonants match. For example, / s /: “Who s have c es s erpents that s ifflent s ur your heads? » (Racine , Andromache ).

Rich rhymes

The rhymes between many identical syllables (in particular between homophones ) are considered very differently according to the languages: seen as imperfect in English, they are on the contrary valued under the name of rhymes rich in French. The extreme case, relating more to play than to literature, is the holorime  ; however, there are poetic uses, like this one:

“  Surprisingly monotonous and weary Is your soul in my fall, alas!  ” –  Louise de Vilmorin

Non-final rhymes

Other positions than the end of verses (or even words) can be used: we thus speak of

  • internal rhyme  (en) when the rhyme takes place between an inner syllable in the line and its final syllable (or the final syllable of the following line).
  • broken rhyme  (en) when one rejects the end of a word in the following verse to make the latter rhyme with the beginning of the truncated word.

What is a rhyme scheme?

We speak of rhyme scheme  (en) to describe the succession of rhymes between lines of a poem; many classical forms (like the sonnet or the ballad ) have a compulsory rhyme scheme; more generally, we speak for example of

  • Flat or continuous rhymes (for the simplest scheme: AA BB CC DD, etc., notation meaning that the first line rhymes with the second, the third with the fourth, etc.);
  • alternate or cross rhymes (for the ABAB CDCD scheme, etc., meaning that the first line rhymes with the third, the second with the fourth, etc.);
  • embraced rhymes (for ABBA CDDC scheme, etc.);
  • frank rhymes (for the scheme AABAB CCDCD, etc., for the stanzas of five lines, a variant exists for the stanzas of seven lines with the scheme ABBABAA, CCDCDCC, etc. which consists in fact of adding a followed rhyme)
  • terza rima (for the ABA BCB CDC DED EFE scheme, etc.);
  • ottava rima (for the diagram ABA BAB CC / DED EDE FF, etc., each stanza being also made up of eight lines of eleven syllables).

These patterns are often combined with metric patterns (defining the length of each line) and sometimes with whole line repetitions, as for the chorus of songs, or the scholarly form of pantum .

Generalized rhymes

Rhymes for the eye

A rhyme for the eye is a correspondence between the spelling, but not the pronunciation, of the final syllables; as in French between support and Martian or in English between love and move . Some ancient poems that seem to contain it often rhymed correctly when written, but pronunciation changes have destroyed the phonetic correspondence. Alphonse Allais had fun composing a poem particularly rich in rhymes of this type.

Induced rhymes

Induced rhymes, or rhymes for the mind, are obtained by replacing the word which should rhyme (and which is most often saucy, even obscene) by a more suitable synonym, but which does not necessarily rhyme, or by a rhyme without report with that expected. A technique close to rhyming slang (but less codified), it is often found in music hall songs; Alphonse Allais also offers this amusing example (which is therefore not an example of a holorimes verse ):

“  Ah! Look at the Loing bridge, from there, sailing at sea, Dante! Hâve bird, laid away from the boring vogue »

– which he follows with this comment: “The rhyme is not very rich, but I like it better than sinking into triviality” .

Semantic rhymes

Some poetic traditions make great use of repetition and synonymy (which is discouraged, even prohibited, in French poetry, at least in classical poetry). The Finnish tradition , in addition to the intensive use of alliteration , thus follows each line by a second, in resonance with it. Here are two typical examples, taken from the Kalevala  :

– “Lähe miekan mittelöhön, / käypä kalvan katselohon” “Let us contemplate the swords / Let us measure their blade” (synonymy);
– “Kulki kuusisna hakona, / petäjäisnä pehkiönä” ” Wanders like a fragile branch of spruce, / Passes like the withered branches of a fir tree” (analogy).

Rhymes by languages

Romance languages


As in most western languages, rhyme replaced the assonance medieval imposing this recovery consonant sounds that possibly after the last tonic vowel: the poets of the xvi th  century and their successors as Malherbe were also gradually defined binding rules which are imposed until the end of xix th  century; From this moment, the poets gradually freed themselves from these rules, Verlaine writing for example:

Who will say the wrongs of rhyme?
What a deaf child or what a crazy nigger
We forged this gem of a penny
Who rings hollow and false under the file?

Paul Verlaine, Poetic Art (in Jadis et Naguère )


Spanish distinguishes two types of rhymes:

  • consonant rima  : the final syllables are identical, including for the tonic accent, for example robo and lobo , or canción and montón;
  • rima asonante  : same tonic accent, but only the vowels are the same, for example zapato and brazo or relój and feróz .

The prohibition of rhymes between words that do not have the same tonic accent also leads to classifying them according to the position of this accent, for example:

  • rima llana (flat rhyme): syllables are not stressed;
  • rima grave (heavy rhyme): rhyming words are stressed on the last syllable;
  • rima esdrújula (strange rhyme): rhyming words are stressed on the antepenultimate syllable .


Early in the xiv th  century, the Divine Comedy , often considered the founding text of modern Italian , also introduced a scheme of systematic and original rhymes, the terza rima .


In Portuguese , rhymes are classified according to phonetic and grammatical rules, for example:

  • rima pobre  : between words of the same grammatical category , or between very frequent endings (like -ão or -ar );
  • rima rica  : between words of distinct categories, or with rare endings;
  • rima preciosa  : between words of different morphologies , for example estrela with vê-la.

Germanic languages


The Old English poetry is mostly alliterative , although a notable exception, from the th  century or the Rhyming Poem  (in) . Subsequently, in imitation of the Latin and Greek classical authors, several English poets considered rhyme as an unnecessary, even harmful ornament, the tonic emphasis and the metric sufficient to give a rhythmic effect to the poetry, as John Milton explains. in his preface to Paradise Lost  :

“The Measure is given by the heroic English verse, without rhyme, like that of Homer or Virgil; rhyme is by no means a necessary ornament or enrichment, but rather the invention of a barbaric age, which modern poets have seen fit to adopt. ”

The importance of the tonic accent in English leads us to consider that there is rhyme perfect ( perfect rhyme ) until the last stressed vowel phonemes and all that follow are identical.

Imperfect, forced or clumsy rhymes are an essential ingredient of doggerel  (en) , a style in which William McGonagall was particularly famous, albeit unintentionally .


As the phonology of German contains a great variety of vowels, many imperfect rhymes (in the English sense) are widely accepted in Germanic poetry, especially rhymes between “e” and “ä” or “ö”, between “i” and “ü”, between “ei” and “eu” (noted “äu” in some words), as well as rhymes between a long vowel and the corresponding short vowel, as in the following examples, all from l ‘ Ode to Joy by Friedrich von Schiller  :

  • Deine Zauber binden w ieder / Alle Menschen werden Br üder
  • Freude trinken alle W esen / Alle Guten, alle B ösen
  • Einen Freund, geprüft im T od ; / und der Cherub steht vor G ott .

Celtic languages

Despite their important contacts with Romance and Anglo-Saxon cultures, the rules of rhyme in Celtic languages followed a rather different evolution from that of other European languages. Brian Ó Cuív  (in) specified the rules of classical Celtic poetry: the last accented vowel and all those who follow it must be identical, while the consonants are only belong to the same phonetic class (for example, b can rhyme with d , as voiced stops , or bh with l, as sound spirants ) 14. These rules subsequently fell into disuse, and simple assonance replaced them. The particular case of Welsh corresponds to a much more complex scheme, known as cynghanedd  (en) , in which the consonants are repeated on either side of the hyphenation , as in this example: ”  cl aw dd i dd a l / c a l dd wy dd wy l aw  “  ; Dylan Thomas often followed these rules, and Gerard Manley Hopkins was inspired by it in his poems in English.

Slavic languages


Rhyme appears in the Russian poetry in xviii th  century; until then, poetry relied mainly on dactylic endings . The constraints imposed on rhyme were initially even more rigorous than in classical French, requiring, for example, the identity of the consonant preceding the accented vowel, as well as the identity of the grammatical class (nouns rhyming with nouns, verbs with verbs, etc.). These requirements have disappeared in modern Russian poetry.


The Polish poetry used the rhyme from the start, except in a few imitations of Latin; the Polish translators of the epic poems of Homer, Virgil and Milton made them rhyme . The rules of rhyme were attached to the xvi th  century, while not allowing feminine rhymes (in agreement with the structure of the tonic accent in Polish); thereafter, the masculine rhymes appeared, reaching the maximum of their popularity in the late xix th  century. The most common rhyming pattern in Old Polish  ( fr )(from the 16th to the 18th century) was that of flat rhymes aa bb cc dd …, but Polish poets familiar with Italian literature also experimented with ottava rima (aba bab cc) and sonnet (abba abba cdc dcd or abba abba cdcd ee).


Ancient Greek poetry is strictly metric; when rhymes or other phonetic matches appear, it is an occasional rhetorical ornament, known as homeoteleute .

Stephanos Sahlikis in the xiv th  century, seems to have been the first to use rhyme; it then became a common feature of Greek poetry.


The rhetoric and poetry Latin frequently used the homeoteleuton and alliteration . Rhyme in the modern sense (i.e. in final position) was used occasionally, but did not appear as an essential structural element until its introduction in the early Middle Ages under the influence of vernacular traditions , as in the hymn Dies Iræ . It was also common at this time to see a mixture of Latin and vernacular languages, a use known under the name of macaronic language .


Rich rhyme schemes ( prāsa ) play a role in modern Sanskrit poetry , but it was less important in classical texts. The classification of rhymes is done according to their position in the metric: ādiprāsa (first syllable), dvitīyākṣara prāsa (second syllable), antyaprāsa (final syllable), etc.

Semitic languages


The Hebrew former employs only rarely rhymes (for example, in Exodus 29 35: ועשית לאהרן ולבניו כָּכה, ככל אשר צויתי אֹתָכה, / ‘AXA / being common to two words). They took a constant character (and required) to the iv th  century, the Jewish liturgical poetry written in the Byzantine Empire , which was not even the middle of the xx th  century, after the discovery and study of thousands of piyyouts discovered in the Guéniza of Cairo . It is believed that the principle of rhyme then passed to Syriac Christian poetry (written in Aramaic), then to poetry in Low Latin and finally to other European languages.


The rhymed poetry was widespread in the Arabian Peninsula to the vi th  century, either in letters, poems and songs, or long qasidas . The Qur’an also uses a form of rhymed prose called saj ‘ .


Some rhyme schemes are unique to Dravidian languages like Tamil . Thus, the rhyme called etukai ( anaphora ) is carried by the second consonant of each line.

There are also plans called Mō n have ( alliteration ), totaI ( epiphora ) and iraṭṭai kiḷavi ( parallelism ).

Some Tamil poetic forms, like the veṇpā form , have rules so rigid that they can be expressed using non-contextual grammar .


Rhymes are used in Vietnamese to reinforce metaphors . For example :

Nghèo như con mèo
/ ŋɛu ɲɯ kɔn mɛu /
Poor as a cat

In French, this type of rhyme appears rather only in proverbs, such as “À bon chat, bon rat”.


In addition to the correspondences between vowels and consonants, Chinese rhymes generally take tones into account , or more precisely the contours of tones .

The classical Chinese poetry uses mostly followed rhymes (aa bb cc, etc.), rhyme is doing on the last syllable of each verse.

The study of Chinese classics was systematized using rhyming dictionaries , the best known is the Guangyun (compiled in the viii th  century). In linguistic studies, these structures allowed reconstructions of ancient dialects , such as medieval Chinese .


In many languages, especially modern European languages ​​and Arabic, rhymes are used in fixed poetic forms, such as ballads and sonnets  ; some of these forms are common to many literary traditions. However, even in Europe, this usage is not universal, and many contemporary poets avoid these traditional forms.

The oldest known rhyming certificate is the Classic of Poetry (Chinese collection of the th  century  BC. ). Rhymes are also used on occasion in the Bible ( Hebrew ). Classical Greek and Latin poetry only exceptionally uses rhyme , as in The Wasps of Aristophanes  or in Catullus’ poem Cui dono lepidum novum libellum. Rhyme, on the other hand, is essential in classical Arabic poetry , from its pre-Islamic roots in the sixth century. century.

According to ancient sources, it is the Irish literature who introduced rhymed poetry in Europe in the early Middle Ages, but this claim is now in doubt, even if from the vii th  century, the art of rhyme was pushed in Ireland to a point of perfection.

In the Central Middle Ages , rhymed versification developed throughout Europe, partly under the influence of Arab poetry from the kingdom of Al-Andalus: rhymes had been used from the beginning of writing in literary Arabic the vi th  century, for example in the qasidas.

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