Rhyme is a literary device that occurs when there is correspondence between sounds in words or lines of text. Although rhyme is common in poetry, we also encounter it in songs and some types of prose. It is worth noting that not all poems have to rhyme.
Rhyme connects words and their meanings, ideas, or feelings in an imaginative way. Moreover, writers use rhyme to establish structure and unity in a poem.
Rhymes can be sorted into types based on where the words rhyme in a line or stanza and how similar the sounds are in the words.
Perfect rhyme is the typical example of rhyme in which the stressed vowel sound and any subsequent sounds are identical in both words. Perfect rhyme is also known as exact rhyme, true rhyme, or full rhyme.
Perfect rhyme examples Note that in perfect rhyme, words have the same length as well as the same ending sound:
Slant rhyme (also known as near rhyme or half rhyme) describes words with similar but not identical sounds. In most cases, slant rhyme involves different vowels and similar consonants or vice versa—for example, “hand” and “lend” or “fate” and “save.”
Slant rhyme example Because I could not stop for Death –
He kindly stopped for me –
The Carriage held but just Ourselves –
Emily Dickinson, “Because I could not stop for Death”
Internal rhyme occurs when two words rhyme within the same line instead of at the ends of lines. It can also occur between internal phrases across different lines, either randomly or in some sort of pattern.
Internal rhyme example For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling—my darling—my life and my bride,
In her sepulchre there by the sea—
In her tomb by the sounding sea.
Edgar Allan Poe, “Annabel Lee”
End rhyme is the most common type of rhyme and occurs when the last word in a line rhymes with the last word in the next line. It is important to note that end rhyme describes the position of rhyming words within a stanza and can involve either perfect or slant rhyme.
End rhyme example I learned things don’t happen and then disappear.
Once they happen, they still are here.
And you can move on and forget them but they still exist somewhere.
So no matter how far behind you leave them, they still wait for you there.
Sarah Kay, “Scaffolding”
Eye rhyme occurs when two words have almost identical spelling but sound different if you read them out loud. In other words, they look like they should rhyme and yet they don’t— (e.g., “through” and “rough” or “love” and “move”).
Eye rhyme example
Scatter, as from an unextinguish’d hearth
Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!
Be through my lips to unawaken’d earth
The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?
Percy Bysshe Shelley, “Ode to the West Wind”
What is a rhyme scheme?
A rhyme scheme is the specific rhyme pattern a poem follows at the end of each line. Rhyme can happen within a line, but rhyme schemes describe end rhymes in a poem.
Rhyme schemes are encoded by using a letter of the alphabet. In a poem, each line is given a letter, usually starting with “A” for the first rhyme. Lines that rhyme with each other are assigned the same letter.
Rhyme schemes have different types, such as alternate (ABAB), enclosed (ABBA), and coupled (AABB).
Rhyme scheme example
An ABAB rhyme scheme indicates that the first line rhymes with the third, while the second line rhymes with the fourth.
A: Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? B: Thou art more lovely and more temperate: A: Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, B: And summer’s lease hath all too short a date;
William Shakespeare, “Sonnet 18: Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”
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