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rhyme or rime, the most prominent of the literary artifices used in versification. Although it was used in ancient East Asian poetry, rhyme was practically unknown to the ancient Greeks and Romans. With the decline of the classical quantitative meters and the substitution of accentual meters, rhyme began to develop, especially in the sacred Latin poetry of the early Christian church. In the Middle Ages, end rhyme (rhyme at the end of a line), assonance (repetition of related vowel sounds), and alliteration (repetition of consonants, particularly at the beginning of words) were predominant in vernacular verse. After 1300 rhyme came to be the outstanding metrical mark of poetry until the introduction of blank verse in the 16th cent. Alliteration and assonance were both called rhyme by early writers, but today two words are said to rhyme only when the sound of the final accented syllable of one word (placed usually at the end of a line of verse) agrees with the final accented syllable of another word so placed. When the vowels in the final accented syllables of the two rhyming words and the consonants (if any) succeeding the vowel have exactly the same sound, it is called perfect rhyme, e.g., shroud and cloud, mark and bark. Many poets, however, particularly 20th-century poets, use imperfect or approximate rhymes, in which the rhymed vowels and even the consonants might be similar but not identical, e.g., groaned and ground. Two words cannot rhyme unless both are accented on the same syllable. When rhymes are of one syllable or end in a consonant with no mute e following, as sad and bad, they are said to be a single or masculine rhyme. This type predominates in English verse because of the great number of monosyllabic words in the language. When rhymes are of two syllables or, more properly, when they are not accented on the last syllable or end in a final mute e (able and cable), they are said to be weak endings, or double, or feminine, rhymes. Feminine rhyme predominates in Spanish and Italian poetry, while German and French use masculine and feminine rhyme equally. Triple rhymes, or three-syllable rhymes, as cheerily and wearily, are less common, especially in serious verse. Rhymes of more than three syllables are rare. Some rhymes, as wind (noun) and kind, are called eye-rhymes (words which are spelled alike but not pronounced alike) and have come into general use through “poetic license.” Occasionally the initial words in a line may rhyme; more often there may be a rhyme within the line. Rhymes when used in a set pattern combine with other metrical elements to form such verse structures as the sonnet, the Spenserian stanza, and the heroic couplet.


See rhyming dictionaries in English (which include discussions of versification) by J. Walker (1775; revised and reprinted frequently), B. Johnson (1931), and C. Wood (1943; 1947); studies by H. Lanz (1968) and E. Guggenheimer (1972).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



consonance in lines of verse, having phonic, metric, and compositional significance. Rhyme emphasizes line boundaries in verse and organizes lines into stanzas.

End rhyme is characteristic of the poetry of most nations, but such initial consonances as initial assonance in Mongolian poetry are also encountered. In different historical periods, varying demands have been made of rhyme among different peoples. Consequently, there can be no single universal definition of rhyme based on sound structure: rhyme is conditioned both by literary traditions and by a language’s phonetic structure. In Russian poetry, for example, the basis of rhyme is the consonance of stressed vowels. In the case of Czech, which has initial

Figure 1. Rhombic antenna: (a) single, (b) double (viewed from above); (l) side or rhombus, (F) feeder connecting the antenna to the transmitter or receiver, (R) resistor, (D) displacement of the rhombuses; the arrow indicates the direction of maximum radiation intensity

stress, the consonance of the final syllables in lines of verse does not depend on the stress location.

In masculine rhyme, stress is placed on the final syllable (beregám, luchám), and in feminine rhyme, on the penultimate syllable (Ruslána, romána). In dactylic rhyme, stress is placed on the third syllable from the end (zakóvannyi, ocharóvannyi), and the very rare hyperdactylic rhyme has more than two syllables after the stress (pokriákivaet, vskákivaet).

The configuration of rhyming lines varies. The main patterns are paired rhyme (aabb): Voron k voronu letit,/Voron voronu krichit (Pushkin); alternate rhyme (abab): Rumianoi zareiu/Pokrylsia vostok,/V sele za rekoiu/Potukh ogonek (Pushkin); and enclosed rhyme (abba): Uzh podsykhaet khmel’ na tyne./Za khutorami, na bakhchakh,/V nezharkikh solnechnykh luchakh/Krasneiut bronzovye dyni (Bunin). These patterns alternate and combine in different ways. Poems based on a single rhyme—monorhymes—are rare in European poetry but widespread in the poetry of the Middle East. A specific, consistent rhyme pattern is a typical characteristic of a stanza.

In Russian poetry, rhyme originated in the syntactic parallelism widespread in folklore. Typical of this parallelism are identical parts of speech in identical grammatical form, occurring at the ends of verse lines and resulting in consonances: Khvaliseno v stogu, a barina v grobu. In Old Russian poetry, grammatical rhymes based on suffixes and inflections predominated: biashe—znashe; otbivaet—otgoniaet.

Beginning in the 18th century, heterogeneous rhyme, composed of different parts of speech (noch’—proch’), gained acceptance. At the same time, as had already happened in the history of French and other poetry, a need gradually developed for exact rhyme, in which the final stressed vowel and all the sounds following it correspond (tobóiu—rukóiu). If the supporting consonants preceding the stressed vowel also correspond (povésa—Zevésa), the rhyme is called a rich rhyme. If consonance extends to the syllable preceding the stress, the rhyme is called a deep rhyme (zanemóg—ne móg).

Beginning in the mid—19th century, imperfect rhyme, in which the vowels following the stress do not correspond (vózdukh—rózdykh), became increasingly common in Russian verse. Since the early 20th century, poets have used various types of imperfect rhyme more frequently. These include assonance, or the correspondence of vowels and the dissimilarity, usually partial, of consonants (óblako—ókolo), and truncated rhyme, in which the final consonant of one of the words is eliminated (les—krest, plamia—pamiat’). Other types of imperfect rhyme are compound rhyme (do stá rastí—stárosti), consonance as such, in which the stressed vowels differ (nórov—kommunárov), and imparisyllabic rhyme, in which masculine or dactylic endings are rhymed with feminine or hyperdactylic ones (papákhi—popákhivaia).

Rhyme also has semantic significance. It “brings us back to the preceding line … and holds together all the lines forming a single thought” (V. V. Mayakovsky, Poln. sobr. soch., vol. 12, 1959, p. 235). An aesthetic evaluation of rhyme as perfect or imperfect, innovative or traditional, cannot be made outside the context of the entire poem and without taking into account the poem’s composition and style.


Zhirmunskii, V. M. Rifma: ee istoriia i teoriia. Petrograd, 1923.
Mayakovsky, V. V. “Kak delat’ stikhi.” Poln. sobr. soch., vol. 12. Moscow, 1959.
Tomashevskii, B. V. “K istorii russkoi rifmy.” In his book Stikh i iazyk: Filologicheskie ocherki. Moscow-Leningrad, 1959.
Shtokmar, M. Rifma Maiakovskogo. Moscow, 1958.
Kholshevnikov, V. E. Osnovy stikhovedeniia: Russkoe stikhoslozhenie, 2nd ed. Leningrad, 1972.
Samoilov, D. S. Kniga o russkoi rifme. Moscow, 1973.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


(archaic), rime
1. identity of the terminal sounds in lines of verse or in words
2. a word that is identical to another in its terminal sound
3. a verse or piece of poetry having corresponding sounds at the ends of the lines
4. any verse or piece of poetry
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005