What Is Assonance? | Definition & Examples

Rhetoric updated on  December 13, 2023 4 min read
Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in two or more nearby words, such as “dumb luck” or “squeaky wheel.” Assonance helps to create a sense of flow between words that can make phrases catchy and easy to remember. Because of this, we often find it in poetry, prose, and song lyrics.

Example of assonance
“The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain.”

This phrase from the musical My Fair Lady is used as a speech exercise to help the protagonist “improve” her accent.

What is assonance?

Assonance is a literary device that involves the repetition of the same vowel sound in a line of text or group of words. The repeated sound usually occurs in the middle of the word, like in the phrase “rowed the boat.” Due to this, assonant words do not rhyme, but they still create a pleasant rhythm.

Assonance is about the recurrence of the same or similar sounds, regardless of how the words are spelled. In the example above, the words “rain” and “stays” are an example of assonance because they produce the same “ay” sound. Moreover, with assonance, only the vowels are similar, whereas the adjacent consonants often sound different, as in the expression “the cat is out of the bag.”

What is the purpose of assonance?

Assonance is a versatile device that can be used for different purposes, including:

  • Rhythm. Just like other forms of sound repetition (such as consonance, alliteration, or end rhyme), assonance can help to create rhythm within a text. This, in turn, helps make it more memorable, which is why we often find assonance in lyrics and poetry.
  • Mood. Repeating certain vowel sounds in writing can set a specific mood. Some sounds are slow, while others are quicker; choosing to repeat any of these sounds impacts how we feel when we are reading a text. For example, the recurrence of an elongated “oo” sound can make a text melancholic (e.g., “moon,” “doom”). In contrast, the repetition of a short “i” sound can make things feel quick and upbeat (e.g., “light,” “bright”).
  • Artistic flair. Assonance can be used by a writer to display their skillful use of language. The recurrence of vowel sounds creates a sense of flow and unity throughout a poem or text in a more subtle way than end rhyme. Because of this, even lines of text that do not rhyme can be pleasing to the ear.

Assonance examples

Many common everyday phrases contain assonance, even though we may not realize it.

Examples of assonance in common phrases
A rolling stone gathers no moss.
You snooze, you lose.
Make hay while the sun shines.
There’s no place like home.
A stitch in time saves nine.

In William Wordsworth’s poem “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” (also called “Daffodils”), assonance contributes to the contemplative and serene atmosphere of the poem.

Example of assonance in poetry
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

In these lines, there is a repetition of the “oh/uh” sound in words such as “host,” “golden,” and “daffodils.” There is also a recurrence of a long “e” sound in “beneath,” “trees,” and “breeze.”

Assonance vs alliteration

Assonance and alliteration both involve the repetition of sounds in a series of words. However, there is a difference between them.

With assonance, only vowel sounds are repeated, like in the phrase “an old coat.” Assonance can occur at the beginning, middle, or end of words.

In contrast, with alliteration, only consonant sounds are repeated, and these are always at the beginning of a series of words, like in the phrase “slithering snake.”

Assonance vs consonance

Assonance and consonance are both literary devices that repeat sounds. However, they differ in the sounds they repeat. Assonance is when vowel sounds are repeated in words that are close together. Consonance is when the same consonants are repeated in nearby words.

For example, in the movie title Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, the “ee” sound is repeated, which is an example of assonance. In contrast, in the phrase “Sally sells seashells by the seashore,” the “s” sound is repeated, which is an example of consonance.

Do you want to know more about commas, parts of speech, email, or other language topics? Check out some of our other language articles full of examples and quizzes.


US vs UK

Commas

Commonly confused words

Modelling vs modeling

Comma before or after so

Into vs in to

Defence vs defense

Comma before or

Awhile vs a while

Favourite vs favorite

Comma before while

A vs an

Theatre vs theater

Comma before which

Its vs it’s

Organisation vs organization

Comma splice

Use to or used to


Frequently asked questions about assonance

What is the difference between assonance and rhyme?

Assonance and rhyme are both literary devices that involve the repetition of similar sounds. However, there are a few differences between them.

With assonance, only vowel sounds are repeated, whereas rhyme involves the repetition of both consonant and vowel sounds. For example, “lake” and “fate” demonstrate assonance, while “late” and “fate” demonstrate rhyme.

Furthermore, assonance usually occurs in the middle of a pair of words, while rhyme usually occurs at the end.

What is the difference between consonance and assonance?

Consonance and assonance are both literary devices relying on the repetition of certain sounds. However, there is a difference between the two.

Whereas consonance involves the repetition of consonant sounds (like “b,” “d,” or “g”), assonance occurs when vowel sounds (like “a,” “i,” or “o”) are repeated within a series of words.

What is the difference between assonance and alliteration?

Both alliteration and assonance are literary devices that involve repeating sounds. However, they differ in the type and placement of the sounds.

Alliteration involves the repetition of consonant sounds, usually at the beginning of words, as in “the sun sank below the serene sea.”

On the other hand, assonance involves the repetition of vowel sounds in neighboring words and can occur anywhere in the word. For example, the repetition of the “e” sound in the sentence “Hear the mellow wedding bells” showcases assonance.

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Kassiani

Kassiani has an academic background in Communication, Bioeconomy and Circular Economy. As a former journalist she enjoys turning complex information into easily accessible articles to help others.

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