Perfect and imperfect rhymes

Perfect rhymealso called full rhyme, exact rhyme,[1] or true rhymeis a form of rhyme between two words or phrases, satisfying the following conditions:[2][3]

  • The stressed vowel sound in both words must be identical, as well as any subsequent sounds. For example, "sky" and "high"; "skylight" and "highlight".
  • The onset of the stressed syllable in the words must differ. For example, "bean" and "green" is a perfect rhyme, while "leave" and "believe" is not.

Word pairs that satisfy the first condition but not the second (such as the aforementioned "leave" and "believe") are technically identities (also known as identical rhymes or identicals). Homophones, being words of different meaning but identical pronunciation, are an example of identical rhyme.[3]

Imperfect rhyme

Half rhyme or imperfect rhyme, sometimes called near-rhyme, lazy rhyme, or slant rhyme, is a type of rhyme formed by words with similar but not identical sounds. In most instances, either the vowel segments are different while the consonants are identical, or vice versa. This type of rhyme is also called approximate rhyme, inexact rhyme, imperfect rhyme (in contrast to perfect rhyme), off rhyme, analyzed rhyme, suspended rhyme, or sprung rhyme.[4][5][6][7]

Use in hip hop/rap

Half rhyme is often used, along with assonance, in rap music. This can be used to avoid rhyming clichés (e.g. rhyming "knowledge" with "college") or obvious rhymes, and gives the writer greater freedom and flexibility in forming lines of verse. Additionally, some words have no perfect rhyme in English, necessitating the use of slant rhyme.[8] The use of half rhyme may also enable the construction of longer multisyllabic rhymes than otherwise possible.

In the following lines from the song "N.Y. State of Mind" by rapper Nas, the author uses half rhyme in a complex cross rhyme pattern:

And be prosperous, though we live dangerous
Cops could just arrest me, blamin' us, we're held like hostages

Unconventional exceptions

Children's nursery rhyme This Little Piggy displays an unconventional case of slant rhyme. "Home" is rhymed with "none".

This little piggy stayed (at) home...this little piggy had none (re: roast beef).

In The Hives's song "Dead Quote Olympics", singer Howlin' Pelle Almqvist rhymes "idea" with "library":[9][10]

This time you really got something, it's such a clever idea
 But it doesn't mean it's good because you found it at the libra-ri-a

The Chuck Berry song "Let It Rock" (1960) rhymes "Alabama" with "hammer":

In the heat of the day down in Mobile, Alabama
Workin' on the railroad with a steel drivin' hamma

See also


  1. Glossary of Poetic Terms from BOB'S BYWAY, Letter E
  2. Alexander Bain (1867). English Composition and Rhetoric. New York: D. Appleton and company. pp. 290.
  3. Sheila Davis (1984). The Craft of Lyric Writing. Writer's Digest Books. p. 185. ISBN 9780898791495.
  4. Ian Ousby (23 February 1996). The Cambridge Paperback Guide to Literature in English. Cambridge University Press. p. 8. ISBN 978-0-521-43627-4. Retrieved 20 May 2013.
  5. "Literary Terms and Definitions S". Retrieved 2013-05-20.
  6. Nutt, Joe (2011-10-03). A Guidebook to Paradise Lost. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 9781137267931.
  7. Ward, Jean Elizabeth (2010-10-11). "Gerald Manley Hopkins Sprung Rhyme Information". AXS TV. Retrieved 2016-08-03.
  8. "Exploring Modern Day Poetry (aka Hip-Hop)". Retrieved 31 Mar 2014.

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