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Popular form of short, humorous verse, often nonsensical and frequently ribald. It consists of five lines, rhyming aabba, and the dominant metre is anapestic, with two feet in the third and fourth lines and three feet in the others. The origin of the term is obscure, but a group of poets in County Limerick, Ire., wrote limericks in Irish in the 18th century. The first collections in English date from c. 1820. Among the most famous are those in Edward Lear's Book of Nonsense (1846).
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on limerick, visit Britannica.com.