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In literature, alliteration is the conspicuous repetition of identical initial consonant sounds in successive or closely associated syllables within a group of words, even those spelled differently. Alliteration_sentence_0

As a method of linking words for effect, alliteration is also called head rhyme or initial rhyme. Alliteration_sentence_1

For example, "humble house," or "potential power play." Alliteration_sentence_2

A familiar example is "Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers". Alliteration_sentence_3

"Alliteration" is from the Latin word littera, meaning "letter of the alphabet"; it was first coined in a Latin dialogue by the Italian humanist Giovanni Pontano in the 15th century. Alliteration_sentence_4

Alliteration is used poetically in various languages around the world, including Arabic, Irish, German, Mongolian, Hungarian, American Sign Language, Somali, Finnish, Icelandic. Alliteration_sentence_5

Some literary experts accept as alliteration the repetition of vowel sounds, or repetition at the end of words. Alliteration_sentence_6

Alliteration narrowly refers to the repetition of a letter in any syllables that, according to the poem's meter, are stressed, as in James Thomson's verse "Come…dragging the lazy languid line along". Alliteration_sentence_7

Consonance is a broader literary device identified by the repetition of consonant sounds at any point in a word (for example, coming home, hot foot). Alliteration_sentence_8

Alliteration is a special case of consonance where the repeated consonant sound is in the stressed syllable. Alliteration_sentence_9

Alliteration may also refer to the use of different but similar consonants, such as alliterating z with s, as does the author of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, or as Anglo-Saxon (Old English) poets would alliterate hard/fricative g with soft g (the latter exemplified in some courses as the letter yogh – ȝ – pronounced like the y in yarrow or the j in Jotunheim). Alliteration_sentence_10

There is one specialised form of alliteration called Symmetrical Alliteration. Alliteration_sentence_11

That is, alliteration containing parallelism, or chiasmus. Alliteration_sentence_12

In this case, the phrase must have a pair of outside end words both starting with the same sound, and pairs of outside words also starting with matching sounds as one moves progressively closer to the centre. Alliteration_sentence_13

For example, "rust brown blazers rule" or "fluoro colour co-ordination forever". Alliteration_sentence_14

Symmetrical alliteration is similar to palindromes in its use of symmetry. Alliteration_sentence_15

Literature Alliteration_section_0


  • The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe has many examples of alliteration, including the following line: "And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain".Alliteration_item_0_0
  • Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner has the following lines of alliteration: "The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew/ The furrow followed free".Alliteration_item_0_1
  • Robert Frost's poem Acquainted with the Night has the following line of alliteration: "I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet".Alliteration_item_0_2
  • The Lake Isle of Innisfree by W. B. Yeats has the following line of alliteration: "I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore".Alliteration_item_0_3
  • William Shakespeare's play As You Like It has the following lines of alliteration: "And churlish chiding of the winter’s wind/ Which, when it bites and blows upon my body".Alliteration_item_0_4
  • In Walter Abish's novel Alphabetical Africa (1974) the first chapter consists solely of words beginning with "A". Chapter two also permits words beginning with "B", and so on, until in chapter 26, Abish allows himself to use words beginning with any letter at all. In the next 25 chapters, he reverses the process.Alliteration_item_0_5
  • Kalevala: The Karelian-Finnish a national epoch book Kalevala written by Elias Lönnrot in the 1800s contains alliteration in the Eastern Finnish Karelian dialect, for example "Vaka vanha Väinämöinen", "Steady old Wainamoinen".Alliteration_item_0_6

Rhyme Alliteration_section_1


  • In "Thank-You for the Thistle" by Dorie Thurston, poetically written with alliteration in a story form: "Great Aunt Nellie and Brent Bernard who watch with wild wonder at the wide window as the beautiful birds begin to bite into the bountiful birdseed".Alliteration_item_1_7
  • In the nursery rhyme Three Grey Geese by Mother Goose, alliteration can be found in the following lines: "Three grey geese in a green field grazing. Grey were the geese and green was the grazing."Alliteration_item_1_8
  • The tongue-twister rhyme Betty Botter by Carolyn Wells is an example of alliterative composition: "Betty Botter bought a bit of butter, but she said, this butter's bitter; if I put it in my batter, it will make my batter bitter, but a bit of better butter will make my bitter batter better..."Alliteration_item_1_9
  • Another commonly recited tongue-twister rhyme illustrating alliteration is Peter Piper: "Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, where's the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?".Alliteration_item_1_10

Historical use Alliteration_section_2

Main articles: Alliterative verse and Alliterative Revival Alliteration_sentence_16

Alliteration is used in the alliterative verse of Old English, Old Norse, Old High German, Old Saxon, and Old Irish. Alliteration_sentence_17

It was an important ingredient of the Sanskrit shlokas. Alliteration_sentence_18

Alliteration was used in Old English given names. Alliteration_sentence_19

This is evidenced by the unbroken series of 9th century kings of Wessex named Æthelwulf, Æthelbald, Æthelberht, and Æthelred. Alliteration_sentence_20

These were followed in the 10th century by their direct descendants Æthelstan and Æthelred II, who ruled as kings of England. Alliteration_sentence_21

The Anglo-Saxon saints Tancred, Torhtred and Tova provide a similar example, among . Alliteration_sentence_22

Poetry Alliteration_section_3

Music Alliteration_section_4


  • "Helplessly Hoping" by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young has rich alliteration in every verse.Alliteration_item_2_11
  • "Mr. Tambourine Man" by Bob Dylan employs alliteration throughout the song, including the lines: "Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free/ Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands."Alliteration_item_2_12
  • "Mother Nature's Son" by The Beatles includes the line: "Swaying daisies sing a lazy song beneath the sun."Alliteration_item_2_13
  • Rapper Tech N9ne usually uses this technique in songs. Most notable is "B.Boy" from (K.O.D. album) where he raps whole verse with 91 words using letter B.Alliteration_item_2_14

Comedy Alliteration_section_5


See also Alliteration_section_6


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