The Poet's Toolbox: Rhyme

Some people think that rhyme is what makes poetry distinct from prose. While this is not necessarily true (free verse may not rhyme at all), it is true that much poetry does have a set rhyme scheme.

Types of Rhyme

Here are several common types of rhyme:

  • End. A perfect rhyme that occurs at the end of a line. An extremely common type of rhyme.
  • Eye. A rhyme that looks like a rhyme to the eye but does not sound like one to the ear. This effect is produced by pairing words with endings that are spelled the same but pronounced differently. Example: rough/through.
  • Feminine. A rhyme produced with two syllables, the last of which is unstressed. Example: weather/feather.
  • Forced. A rhyme produced by abnormal sentence construction. Example: “Upon a log I did sit/To rest my legs a little bit.”
  • Half. A case where the ending consonants match, but not the ending vowels. A type of slant rhyme. Example: years/yours.
  • Identical. A rhyme produced by repeating a word.
  • Imperfect. Another term for slant rhyme.
  • Internal. A rhyme in which one of the rhyming words is located in the middle of the line. Example: “Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary…” (the first line of “The Raven” by Edgar Allen Poe).
  • Masculine. A rhyme in which the final syllables of the words are stressed. Example: food/intrude.
  • Mind. A rhyme suggested by the omission of a word, prompting the reader or listener to mentally fill in the blank.
  • Near. Another term for slant rhyme.
  • Oblique. Another term for slant rhyme.
  • Perfect. An exact match in stress and sound of the ending syllables of two or more words. Some also stipulate that the words must have the same number of syllables. Example: sky/high.
  • Rich. A rhyme formed by using homophones. Example: raise/raze.
  • Slant. A rhyme formed by using similar, but not perfectly matched, sounds. Example: room/storm.
  • Weak. A rhyme involving at least one unaccented syllable. Example: race/commonplace.

Rhyme Scheme

Rhyme can be further grouped into various rhyme schemes. Classifying rhyme schemes is quite simple, with letters of the alphabet assigned to each set of rhymes.

For example, this is an AABB rhyme scheme:

Twinkle, twinkle, little star,

How I wonder what you are.

Up above the world so high,

Like a diamond in the sky.

This is an ABCB rhyme scheme.

Mary had a little lamb,

Its fleece was white as snow.

And everywhere that Mary went,

The lamb was sure to go.

And there are as many other rhyme scheme possibilities as poets care to create.


Rhyme is one area where purists are most likely to critique your work. Forced, identical, and slant rhymes all have their detractors, despite the fact that these devices were commonly used by poets considered great.

Many online sources advocate avoiding the forced rhyme, for example, and with good reason. A rhyme forced strictly for the sake of rhyming is generally awkward. When used purposefully, however, it can enhance the “feel” of the finished work. The key is to use rhyme deliberately and with due consideration of the intended effect.

Complete Series

The Poet's Toolbox: Introduction

The Poet’s Toolbox

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