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Alliteration: Definition and Examples with Pictures

Updated on May 1, 2015
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Muhammad Rafiq is a freelance writer, blogger, and translator with a Master's Degree in English literature from the University of Malakand.

Alliteration's Definition
Alliteration's Definition | Source

Definition of Alliteration

The word alliteration has been derived from the Latin word alliterare, meaning to start with the same letter. In literature, alliteration is the repetition of sound in poetry or prose. Encarta Encyclopedia defines alliteration as, “repetition of the initial letter, generally a consonant or first sound of several words, marking the stressed syllables in a line of poetry or prose. A simple example is the phrase “through thick and thin.” The device is used to emphasize meaning and thus can be effectively employed in oratory. Alliteration is a characteristic of Anglo-Saxon poetry, notably the epic Beowulf; it is still used, with modifications, by modern poets.”

Poets use alliteration to draw attention of the readers to a particular idea in a line of poetry or a sentence. It is also used to produce musical effects in poetry. Poems that contain alliteration can be sung easily and with pleasure. They appeal to the readers and are easily memorized in contrast to those poems which lack in alliteration.

There are two kinds of alliteration: Consonance & Assonance

Example of Alliteration: Consonance

Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in a line of poetry or prose. The following lines taken from Coleridge’s poem, The Rime ofThe Ancient Mariner, are an excellent example of alliteration:

The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew,

The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew,
The furrow followed free;
We were the first that ever burst
Into that silent sea.


The above-mentioned lines contain consonance as the consonant letters “b” & “f” are repeated in the words breeze, blew and foam, flew respectively, while the consonant letters “f”, “w” and “st” are repeated in the words furrow, followed, free, we, were, first and burst.

Consonance
Consonance

The following lines taken from Samuel Coleridge’s poem Kubla Khan are replete with examples of alliteration i.e. consonance:

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.

So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round;
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,

Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

Consonance is also used in prose to produce special effects. Consider Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher, which contains consonance:

“During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens….”



Example of Alliteration: Assonance

Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in a line of poetry or prose. Wallace Steven’s Sunday Morning offers examples of assonance:

Complacencies of the peignoir, and late
Coffee and oranges in a sunny chair,
And the green freedom of a cockatoo…


Examples of Assonance
Examples of Assonance

Look at this beautiful poem of Bree Chrisen, which is replete with assonance:

The morning was cold with a bold statement
The morning dew was wet and set in the ground
You could taste the spring paste fill the air
It made you feel real, refreshed and lively

Should you go out and play? I would
Young girls and boys grab their toys and play
Boys playin' in dirt while girls play with their pearls
The mom would tap her foot to say "nap time kids"

The kids always enjoy their snack pack
The spring melted away the snow and felt like mush
The grass was as brass as a trumpet but was slowing turning
The three trees in the front were a rusty brown

© 2015 Muhammad Rafiq

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    • mactavers profile image

      mactavers 2 years ago

      Your Hub takes me back to my college days.

    • Rafiq23 profile image
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      Muhammad Rafiq 2 years ago from Pakistan

      Really! I am glad my hubs reminded you something from your sweet past.

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