What is alliteration?
However, it’s important to remember that alliteration refers to sounds, not just letters. For example, “Kate’s cat” is alliterative; even though the two words begin with different letters, they produce the same sound. Conversely, the words “cigar” and “chair” are not alliterative because “ci “and “ch” do not sound the same.
What is the purpose of alliteration?
- Rhythm. Alliteration creates rhythm and musicality that are pleasing to the ear. This makes the words flow and enhances the auditory experience of a poem or song. For example, “But you'll look sweet upon the seat / Of a bicycle built for two.”
- Emphasis. The repetition of specific sounds can help call attention to a certain subject or theme. This is common practice in public speaking. For example, the phrase “Let us go forth to lead the land we love…” from the inaugural address of President John F. Kennedy emphasizes the feeling of patriotism.
- Mood. Depending on whether the repeated sound is soft, like an “s,” or harsh, like a “k,” alliteration can have a specific emotional effect and set the tone of a passage. For example, the phrase "raging river rapids" conjures an image of water running forcefully.
- Mnemonic device. The use of alliteration helps us memorize things. This is true for poetry and nursery rhymes like “Three Gray Geese,” but we also see it in the corporate world because alliteration makes brand names and products easier to remember. Think, for example, of Dunkin’ Donuts, LuluLemon, and Coca-Cola. Alliteration is also used to create effective and memorable slogans, such as “Maybe she’s born with it. Maybe it’s Maybelline."
Frequently asked questions about alliteration
What is it called when several words start with the same letter?
When several words start with the same letter and produce the same sound, this is called alliteration (e.g., “My neighbors are not normally noisy”).
Conversely, “ten thunders” is not an example of alliteration because “t” and “th” produce different sounds.
What is the difference between alliteration and rhyme?
Alliteration and rhyme both involve repeating parts of a word. However, they repeat different parts of a word.
Whereas alliteration involves repeating the initial sound of a word (e.g., “slithering snake”), rhyme involves the repetition of ending sounds (e.g., “blue” and “flu”). Because of this, alliteration is also known as initial rhyme or head rhyme (to distinguish it from end rhyme).
What is the difference between alliteration and repetition?
Alliteration and repetition are similar literary devices in that they are both used to create rhythm or emphasize an idea. However, they should not be confused.
- Alliteration involves the repetition of the same sound at the beginning of a series of words, like in “grass grows greener.”
- Repetition involves repeating the same word in different parts of a sentence or paragraph (e.g., “As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door”).