Definition of Assonance

Assonance is the of a vowel sound or diphthong in non-rhyming words. To qualify as assonance, the words must be close enough for the repetition of the sound to be noticeable. Assonance is a common literary technique used in poetry and , and is widely found in English .

Difference Between Assonance, Consonance, and Alliteration, and Slant Rhyme

The techniques of assonance, , , , and slant are all closely related and include the repetition of certain sounds in quick succession.

Common Examples of Assonance

Several proverbs in English contain examples of assonance. The assonance in these phrases helps to make them more memorable in a subtler way than through rhyming words. A few of these proverbs are highlighted below:

Significance of Assonance in English

While many may think that rhyme is one of the fundamental aspects of poetry, it was not at all common in Old English verse. The lexicon of Old English did not include many rhyming words. Instead, the chief poetic techniques of Old English storytellers were and , and consonance and assonance. Rhyme only became popular in English poetry later, after the Germanic language took on many new words from Romance languages. This is because Romance languages like French, Italian, and Spanish have many more words with similar endings. Indeed, rhyme was quite popular in the troubadour tradition, which began in France in the late 11th century and spread to Spain and Italy. Rhyme remained common in English verse for several hundred years, but has once again fallen out of favor. Meanwhile, contemporary poets still use assonance, consonance, and alliteration to provide more subtle phonemic unity.

Examples of Assonance From Literature

Example #1

I never heard before of a ship so well furbished
with battle tackle…
…no wise man in hall or weathered veteran…
…asleep from their feasting…
…they wept to heaven…

(Beowulf translated by Seamus Heaney)

The epic poem Beowulf is one of the largest and oldest surviving texts from Old English. Seamus Heaney published a translation of the poem in 1999, and in his introduction made special note of the and sound of Old English. He writes that he tried to keep his translation loyal to the importance and frequent usage of alliteration in the original. In the examples above, Heaney employs assonance to mimic the original phonemic unity in Old English.

Example #2

Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rhyme;
But you shall shine more bright in these contents…

( 55 by Shakespeare)

This excerpt from Shakepeare’s Sonnet 55 contains two different assonance examples; the first is the short “i” sound in “princes” and “outlive” and the second is the long “i” sound in “shine” and “bright.”

Example #3

These things are with us every day
even on beachheads and biers. They
do have meaning. They’re strong as rocks.

(“Today” by Frank O’Hara)

Frank O’Hara’s poem “Today” has several instances of assonance and consonance. In this excerpt, the assonance between the words “strong” and “rocks” helps to connect the two concepts.

Example #4

Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear

(“After Apple-Picking” by Robert Frost)

Robert Frost’s poem contains assonance in the title with the repetition of the short “a” sound in “after” and “apple.” The excerpt here also contains several short “e” sounds in quick succession, giving these two lines an extra sense of unity.

Example #5

But some punks want to jump up
With a sharp tongue and their fronts up
Like we got here by dumb luck
But they just want to become us.

(“Bangarang” by Doomtree)

This is another example from the hip-hop group Doomtree. Their song “Bangarang” contains many usages of assonance, but these four lines are particularly full of the technique. Out of these thirty-two words, more than a third of them (twelve) contain the same short “u” sound, with the addition of some consonance of “m” and “n”. This technique propels the rhythm forward in this section of the song.