Alberto Ríos

Glossary of Rhymes

Forms of Verse, Fall 2000


The following terms occur frequently in discussions of poetry and critical writing, but not with absolute consistency. It may be tempting, simply because the terms are listed here, to get overly scrupulous about fine distinctions between, for example, "identical" and "rich" rhyme, or "broken" as opposed to "linked" rhyme--but these are distinctions that rarely find practical sanction in critical usage and are often much more useful for the writer.  Nonetheless, it may be useful to consider the various terms that do appear in the literature.  Even more, it may be useful to gather and describe a range of rhymes available in the English language. 

English is often said to be poor in rhyme, as opposed to, for example, the Romance languages, but this glossary and definition of terms will point to a rich variety of choices.  This list is adapted from
Poetic Designs, by Stephen Adams (Broadview Press, 1997), and Manual of English Meters, by Joseph Malof (Bloomington: Indiana U Press, 1970).

The rhymes are distinguished by usage in the following ways:

                  By Position in the Line
                  By Position in the Stanza or Verse Paragraph


  • perfect rhyme, full rhyme, true rhyme: These terms refer to the immediately recognizable norm: true/blue, mountain/fountain.

  • imperfect rhyme, slant rhyme, half rhyme, approximate rhyme, near rhyme, off rhyme, oblique rhyme: These are all general terms referring to rhymes that are close but not exact: lap/shape, glorious/nefarious.

  • eye rhyme: This refers to rhymes based on similarity of spelling rather than sound. Often these are highly conventional, and reflect historical changes in pronunciation: love/move/prove, why/envy.

  • identical rhyme: A word rhymes with itself, as in Emily Dickinson's "Because I Could not Stop for Death":
                  We paused before a house that seemed
                  A Swelling of the Ground--
                  The Roof was scarcely visible-- 
                  The Cornice--in the Ground.

  • rich rhyme (from French rime riche): A word rhymes with its homonym: blue/blew, guessed/guest.

  • assonant rhyme: Rhyming with similar vowels, different consonants: dip/limp, man/prank.

  • consonant rhyme: Rhyming with similar consonants, different vowels: limp/lump, bit/bet.

  • scarce rhyme: Rhyming on words with limited rhyming alternatives: whisp/lisp, motionless/oceanless. 

  • macaronic rhyme: Macaronic verse uses more than one language, as in medieval lyrics with Latin refrains.  Macaronic rhyme is also bilingual: glory/pro patria mori, sure/kreatur, queasy/civilisé.


  • one-syllable rhyme, masculine rhyme: The norm, in which rhyme occurs on the final stressed syllables:
                  One, two,
                  Buckle my shoe

  • extra-syllable rhyme, triple rhyme, multiple rhyme, extended rhyme, feminine rhyme: These all refer to rhyming double or triple or multiple extra-syllable endings: dying/flying, generate/venerate, salubrious/lugubrious. 

  • light rhyme: Rhyming of a stressed syllable with a secondary stress: frog/dialog, live/prohibitive. 

  • wrenched rhyme: Rhyming of a stressed syllable with an unstressed syllable.  This often occurs in ballads and folk poetry, often on conventional words like lady/a bee.


By Position in the Line

  • end rhyme, terminal rhyme: All rhymes occur at line ends--the standard procedure.

  • initial rhyme, head rhyme: Alliteration or other rhymes at the beginning of a line.

  • internal rhyme: Rhyme that occurs within a line or passage, whether randomly (as below, on "flow" and "grow") or in some kind of pattern:
                  A heavenly paradise is that place,
                  Wherein all pleasant fruits do flow.
                  These cherries grow, which none may buy
                  Till "Cherry Ripe!" themselves do cry.

  • leonine rhyme, medial rhyme: Rhyme that occurs at the caesura and line end within a single line--like a rhymed couplet printed as a single line:
                  I bring fresh showers for the thirsting flowers

  • caesural rhyme, interlaced rhyme: Rhymes that occur at the caesura and line end within a pair of lines--like an abab quatrain printed as two lines:
                  Sweet is the treading of wine, and sweet the feet of the dove;
                  But a goodlier gift is thine than foam of the grapes or love.
                  Yea, is not even Apollo, with hair and harp-string of gold,
                  A bitter God to follow, a beautiful God to behold?

Or the following unusual example, an
In Memoriam stanza (abba) printed as couplets:
                  Upon the mat she lies and leers and on the tawny throat of her
                  Flutters the soft and silky fur or ripples to her pointed ears.

                  Come forth, my lovely seneschal! so somnolent, so statuesque!
                  Come forth you exquisite grotesque! half woman and half animal!

By Position in the Stanza or Verse Paragraph

  • crossed rhyme, alternating rhyme, interlocking rhyme: Rhyming in an abab pattern.

  • intermittent rhyme: Rhyming every other line, as in the standard ballad quatrain: xaxa.

  • envelope rhyme, inserted rhyme:  Rhyming abba (as in the In Memoriam stanza).

  • irregular rhyme: Rhyming that follows no fixed pattern (as in the pseudopindaric or irregular ode).

  • sporadic rhyme, occasional rhyme: Rhyming that occurs unpredictably in a poem with mostly unrhymed lines.

  • thorn line: A line left without rhyme in a generally rhymed passage.  (There are ten thorn lines among the 193 lines in Milton's irregularly rhymed Lycidas.)


  • broken rhyme: Rhyme using more than one word:
                  But-oh! ye lords of ladies intellectual, 
                  Inform us truly, have they not hen-peck'd you all?

Or rhyme in which one word is broken over the line end:
                  I caught this morning morning's minion, king-
                  Dom of daylight's dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
                  Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
                  High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing…

  • linked rhyme: Rhyme that depends on completing the rhyme sound by enjambment over the line end:
                  But what black Boreas wrecked her?  He
                  Came equipped, deadly-electric,

  • apocopated rhyme: Rhyming a line end with a penultimate syllable:
                  A poem should be wordless
                  As the flight of birds.


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