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What Is a Rhyme?

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  • Written By: Kelly Ferguson
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 31 October 2014
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A rhyme is a literary term that means that the last sounds that two or more words make sound the same or very similar. Rhymes are frequently seen in certain types of poetry, but are also commonly found, whether intended or not, in normal writing and speech. The placement of rhymes in poetry is most often at the end of lines, especially when the lines have a similar meter, or number of stressed or unstressed syllables.

An example of two simple words that rhyme are "brave" and "save." Less intuitively, however, the word "autoclave" would also be considered a rhyme with "brave" or "save," despite its extra two syllables at the beginning. Unlike other literary terms such as alliteration, in which similar sounds can occur in the beginning or middle of words, a rhyme requires both the ending vowel and consonant combinations to sound alike. For example, while "barely" and "fairly" would be a rhyme, "bare" and "fairly" would not, although the vowel sounds remain the same.

Rhymes can also occur when two or more words sound the same together as another word. For instance, the well-known saying "You are a poet and you didn't even know it" rhymes because "poet" and "know it" produce the same sounds. In this example, the two rhyming sounds are also placed evenly apart in the meter so if the lines were written differently, "poet" and "know it" would both appear at the end of a line.

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The technique of putting rhyming words at the end of lines of similar meter has the effect of not only tying the lines together but also giving them a sort of pleasing song-like sound when said aloud. This makes the poem sound more appealing and also makes it easier to remember and recite. The rhymes also serve as audible markers to signify to the listener the poem's meter and structure. For example, if "You are a poet and you didn't even know it" were instead written as "You are a poet and you weren't even aware of that," the saying becomes no longer memorable or pleasing to listen to, and it loses its structure as a poem altogether. Some types of poetry, such as limericks, take advantage of this fact and use a very specific rhyme and meter pattern to make a silly or humorous song memorable and enjoyable to listen to.

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