Bio-data of Alliteration
ad- + Latin littera letter
What is Alliteration?
Alliteration is the repetition of a leading vowel or
consonant sound in a phrase.
Alliteration can take the form of assonance, the repetition
of a vowel, or consonance, the repetition of a consonant;
however, unlike a strict definition of alliteration, both
assonance and consonance can regularly occur within words
as opposed to being limited to the word's initial sound.
Some critics hold the opinion that the term "alliteration"
applies just as accurately to phonetic repetitions that
occur elsewhere than the initial position (first letter),
sometimes falling on later syllables, yet retaining
alliterative properties due to the form of the example's
meter, which, through affecting the syllable’s stress may
mimic the intensity of the initial.
Further, the use of differing consonants of similar
properties (labials, dentals, etc.) is sometimes
considered to be alliteration. Books aimed at young
readers often use alliteration, as it consistently
captures children's interest.
Alliteration in English survives today most obviously in
flashy magazine article titles, advertisements and
business names, comic strip or cartoon characters, and
generally cliché expressions.
ALLITERATION IN PROSE
Alliteration is fun to say and enjoyable to hear. Without
knowing it, you probably use alliteration to call attention to
certain words. Many familiar phrases and expressions use
alliteration. These include "down in the dumps," "hale and
hearty," and "turn the tables." Tongue twisters rely on
alliteration.: "rubber baby buggy bumpers”. Many sayings
such as these use alliteration:
‘He who laughs last laughs first’.
‘Time and tide wait for no man’.
When writers want to emphasize certain words, they may
use alliteration. Notice the ideas that are emphasized by
alliteration in these examples:
The deep churned. Something had happened down in the
dim, foggy-green depths.
--Paul Annixter,"Battle in the Depths"
Touch each object you want to touch as if tomorrow your
tactile sense would fail.
--Helen Keller, "The Seeing See Little"
There is always something left to love. And if you ain't learned
that, you ain't learned nothing.
--Lorraine Hans berry, A Raisin in the Sun
ALLITERATION IN POETRY
Alliteration is one of the poet's most important sound
techniques. It makes particular words stand out. It also
connects the words to be emphasized. Look for the repeated
consonant sounds in this poem:
Then up and spake an old sailor,
Had sailed to the Spanish Main,
"I pray thee, put into yonder port,
For I fear a hurricane."
--Henry W. Longfellow, "The Wreck of Hesperus"
Often the sounds and meanings of the words combine to
create a mood. Here, repetition of b and t stresses a feeling
Hear the loud alarum bells
What a tale of terror, now, their turbulency tells!
--Edgar Allen Poe, "The Bells"
What consonant sounds are repeated in the following lines?
Swing low, sweet chariot,
Comin' for to carry me home.
Rules for Alliteration
But it's very important to be clear what counts as
alliteration and what does not.
There are several common misconceptions. So let's clear
them up, and add a few other important facts:-
Proper alliteration is NOT a repetition of letters, it is a
repetition of sounds.
For example, fish and physics alliterate because they begin
with the same consonant sound (f) - even though the initial
letters are different.
Conversely, tin and thin do not alliterate, because they begin
with different consonant sounds, even though they start
with the same letter.
Alliteration is NOT just repeating consonant sounds at the
beginning of words. What matters is the strongest, stressed
syllable of a word. The only consonant which counts is the
one that starts the syllable with strongest stress.
For example, below the belt is NOT a good alliteration,
because stress naturally falls on the second syllable of
below, so you would have to alliterate on l not on b.
On the other hand, above the belt is a good alliteration,
because the stressed syllables both start with b.
Vowels alliterate with other vowels.
For example, a phrase like ultimate evil alliterates because
both stressed syllables start with a vowel.
Some special cases:
In the best usage, the consonant s (when followed
immediately by a vowel) does NOT alliterate with the
consonant clusters sp, st, or sk, or with similar but distinct
sounds like sh.
In some older forms of alliterative poetry, words starting
with h alliterate with words starting with a vowel. This
doesn't work in my dialect of English, which never drops an
h. You will need to judge this point for yourself.
In clichés: sweet smell of success, a dime a dozen,
bigger and better, jump for joy
Wordsworth: And sings a solitary song That whistles in
A famous example is to be found in the two lines
The moan of doves in immemorial elms,
And murmuring of innumerable bees.
The ancient poets often used alliteration instead
of rhyme; in Beowulf there are three alliterations in
every line. For example:
Now Beowulf bode in the burg of the Scyldings,
Leader beloved, and long he ruled In fame with all folk
since his father had gone . . .
Modern poets also avail themselves of alliteration, especially
as a substitute for rhyme. Edwin Markham's “Lincoln, the man
of the people" is in unrhymed blank verse, but there are many
lines as alliterative as:
‘She left the Heaven of Heroes and came down To make a man
to meet the mortal need A man to match the mountains and
the sea The friendly welcome of the wayside well’.
Robert Frost’s, “The death of the Hired man" begins:
‘Mary sat musing on the lamp-flame at the table
Waiting for Warren. When she heard his step. . . .’
The eye immediately sees the alliteration in the "m's" in "Mary
sat musing" and the "w's" in "Waiting for Warren. When. . . ."
But it is the car that picks up the half-buried in "sounds in"
lamp-flame sounds which act like faint and distant rhymes.
It is the alliteration which makes us remember such phrases
as: "sink or swim," "do or die," "fuss and feathers," "the more
the merrier," "watchful waiting," "poor but proud," "hale and
hearty," "green as grass," "live and learn," "money makes the
While alliteration is the recurrence of single letter-sounds,
there is another kind of recurrence which is the echo or
repetition of a word or phrase. This is found in many kinds of
poetry, from nonsense rhymes to ballads. The repeated words
or syllables add an extra beat and accentuate the rhythm.
They are often heard in "choruses" or "refrains," as in
Shakespeare's "With a hey and a ho and a hey nonino" or
‘For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' " Chuck him out, the
But it's "Savior of 'is country" when the guns begin to shoot.’
Excellent use of repetition occurs through the whole of
Rudyard Kipling’s, “Tommy" “Danny Deever" and Alfred
Noyes's “The Barrel-Organ" especially in such lines as:
‘Come down to Kew in lilac-time, in lilac-time, in lilac-time;
Come down to Kew in lilac-time (it isn't far from London!)
And you shall wander hand in hand with love in summer's
Come down to Kew in lilac-time (it isn't far from London!)’.
These are some of the famous examples.
Some little Examples are:-
John received a brilliant, blue bird for his birthday.
The four firefighters rushed to find the victims in the
She picked up the plump peach.
The solitary child sang a song.
Dancing delicately Don ushered in the dawn of a new day.
Alliteration Twisters – A to Z!
Angela Abigail Apple white ate anchovies and artichokes.
Bertha Bartholomew blew big, blue bubbles.
Clever Clifford Cutter clumsily closed the closet clasps.
Dwayne Dwiddle drew a drawing of dreaded Dracula.
Elmer Elwood eluded elven elderly elephants.
Floyd Flingle flipped flat flapjacks.
Greta Gruber grabbed a group of green grapes.
Hattie Henderson hated happy healthy hippos.
Ida Ivy identified the ivory iris.
Julie Jackson juggled the juicy, jiggly jello.
Karl Kessler kept the ketchup in the kitchen.
Lila Ledbetter lugged a lot of little lemons.
Milton Mallard mailed a mangled mango.
Norris Newton never needed new noodles.
Patsy planter plucked plump, purple, plastic plums.
Quinella Quist quite quickly quelled the quarreling
Randy Rathbone wrapped a rather rare red rabbit.
Shelly Sherman shivered in a sheer, short, shirt.
Trina Tweety tripped two twittering twins under a twiggy
Uri Udall usually used his unique, unusual unicycle.
Vicky Vinc viewd a very valuable vase.
Walter Whipple warily warned the weary warrior.
Xerxes Xenon expected to xerox extra x-rays.
Yolana Yvonne Yarger yodeled up yonder yesterday.
Zigmund Zane zigzagged through the zany zoo zone.
Isn’t it Funny?
"Dressy daffodils" is an example of alliteration
because both the words begin with "D." Alliteration
is like rhyming, but with alliteration the rhyming
comes at the front of the words instead of the
Rabbits Running Over Roses
"Rabbits running over roses" is another example of
Alliteration because rabbits, running, and roses all
begin with the same letter and sound the same.
Caring cats cascade off
Underneath yelling yaks,
Yelling at roaming
Ripping like wind.
Its restless rage
Rocks ripping through
Laughing lions laugh
like jumping jaguars
on top of talking trees.
talking trees start
through the air,
talking turtles shiver
like sea horses
while everyone is asleep.
Below you will find some classic examples of alliteration.
All of the poems below were written before 1918.
Each poem has a link to more poems by that author.
Tyger, tyger burning bright,
In the forest of the night;
What immortal hand or eye
Could name thy fearful symmetry?
In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?
And what shoulder & what the art
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat
What dread and? & what dread feet?at
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?
When the stars threw down their spears
And water'd heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?
Tyger, Tyger burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?
By William Blake
The Tiger Asks Blake For A Bedtime Story
William, William, writing late
by the chill and sooty grate,
what immortal story can
make your tiger roar again?
When I sent to fetch your meat
I confess that I did eat
half the roast and all the bread.
He will never know, I said.
When I was sent to fetch your drink,
I confess that I did think
you would never miss the three
lumps of sugar by your tea.
Soon I saw my health decline
and I knew the fault was mine.
Only William Blake can tell
tales to make a tiger well.
Now I lay me down to sleep
with bear and rabbit, bird and sheep.
If I should dream before I wake,
Daddy's Gone A Hunting
Bye, baby bunting,
Daddy's gone a - hunting,
Gone to get a rabbit skin
To wrap baby bunting in.
Some poems using Alliteration
Dewdrops Dancing Down Daisies
Don't delay dawns disarming display .
Dusk demands daylight .
Dewdrops dwell delicately
drawing dazzling delight .
Dewdrops dilute daisies domain.
Distinguished debutantes . Diamonds defray delivered
daylights distilled daisy dance .
By, Paul Mc Cann
Wise words wait,
while whiskey with water
will whet Wexford
whistles wonderfully .
Wisdoms weaver works
with wit ,
while writing words
with whispering winds whooshing wildly .
Whiskey without water .
why where words wasted .
Within walls .
While whiskey went well without water,
While wit was wringing wet .
Writing wisdoms wings
By, Paul Mc Cann
Those tidal thoroughbreds that tango through the turquoise
Their taut tails thrashing they twist in tribute
to the titans.
They twirl through the trek
tumbling towards the tide .
Throwing themselves towards those theatrical thespians.
By, Paul McCann
Now it’s your turn. Do the following exercises to know how far
you have grasped the above information and instructions.
I) Try writing 5 sentences using alliteration:- (Try some
serious ones and some funny ones like the tongue twisters.
Show them to your teacher for feedback. Good luck.)
II) Make up your own alliterative phrases like the example
Ex:-Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. (The first
letter, p, is a consonant. It is repeated many times).
Billy C_______ G__________
Bob C_______ G___________
Bought C_______ G ________
Baby C_______ G __________
Bottles C_______ G ________
III) Underline the alliteration in these sentences.
1. Puny puma pit their skills against zebras.
2. Pretty Polly picked pears for preserves.
3. Handsome Harry hired hundreds of hippos for Hanukkah.
IV) Finish the following sentences with alliterative words.
1. Doodling daughters
2. Prickly pears
3. Studious students
4. Sunny skies
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