Assonance

An Introduction to Assonance

Assonance is the repetition or resemblance of vowel sounds, preceded and followed by different consonants, in the stressed syllables of adjacent words; such as:

  • “late and make”,
  • “fish and chips”
  • “a deep green stream”.

Assonance also refers to the likeness of sound in a series of words, as in “fair and square. Since it is a partial or half-rhyme, assonance is often used in poetic language to create a musical rhythm for a particular effect of euphonyOpens in new window.

Assonance is a figure used mainly in poetry. Observe the example below.

  • The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
    The lowing herd wind slowly o’er the lea,
    The ploughman homeward plods his weary way
    And leaves the world to darkness and to me.
  • — Thomas Gray, Elegy Written In A Country Churchyard

The above lines are the first stanza of the poem, in which the vowel sound [əu] is repeated in toll, lowing, slowly, o’er, and homeward; [ə:] is repeated three times in curfew, herd, and world; [i:] is repeated in lea, leaves, and me; [ei] and [a:] are repeated respectively in day, way and parting, and darkness. The musical rhythm and sound euphony resulting from the repetition of the above vowel sounds help to create the atmosphere in which the poet meditated upon the people who were buried there.

Notable Examples of Assonance
  • I shall never see her more
    Where the reeds and rushes quiver,
    Shiver, quiver;
    Stand beside the sobbing river,
    Sobbing, throbbing, in the falling.
  • — Jean Ingelow, To The Sandy Lonesome Shore.
  • on a proud round cloud in whi te high night
  • — E. E. Cummings, if a cheerfulest Elephantangelchild should sit

Assonance are also used in prose, speeches, news publications, as well as in proverbs; here are few examples below:

  • The sentimental tears and cheers of the pre-Olympic torch run turned into unembarrassed howls and shrieks.
  • Time Magazine’s publication
  • Larger factories in China wish to be given a freer hand in the right to hire and fire
  • News report
  • Women Make Policy Not Coffee
  • Newspaper heading
  • Could anything ever replace the taste of good old grape or apple juice? How about raspberry?
  • ad for Westvale Raspberry juice
  • Haste makes wastes
  • proverb
  • Great boast, small roast.
  • Proverb
  • A stich in time saves nine.
  • Proverb
  • Creditors had better memories than debtors.
  • Proverb
Further Readings:
American Rhetoric: AssonanceOpens in new window
Xiuguo Zhang | English Rhetoric;
Gregory T. Howard | Dictionary of Rhetorical Terms.