alliteration

noun
al·​lit·​er·​a·​tion | \ə-ˌli-tə-ˈrā-shən \

Definition of alliteration 

: the repetition of usually initial consonant sounds in two or more neighboring words or syllables (such as wild and woolly, threatening throngs)

called also head rhyme, initial rhyme

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What is alliteration?

In alliteration, consonant sounds in two or more neighboring words or syllables are repeated. The repeated sounds are usually the first, or initial, sounds—as in "seven sisters"—but repetition of sounds in non-initial stressed, or accented, syllables is also common: "appear and report." Alliteration is a common feature in poetry, but it is also found in songs and raps and speeches and other kinds of writing, as well as in frequently used phrases, such as "pretty as a picture" and "dead as a doornail."

Alliteration can in its simplest form reinforce one or two consonant sounds, as in this line from William Shakespeare's "Sonnet XII":

When I do count the clock that tells the time

A more complex pattern of alliteration can be created when consonants both at the beginning of words and at the beginning of stressed syllables within words are repeated, as in the following line from Percy Bysshe Shelley's "Stanzas Written in Dejection Near Naples":

The City's voice itself is soft like Solitude's

As a poetic device, alliteration is often discussed with assonance, the repetition of stressed vowel sounds within two or more words with different end consonants, as in "stony" and "holy"; and consonance, the repetition of end or medial consonants, as in "stroke" and "luck."

Examples of alliteration in a Sentence

As far as sound repetition goes, I don't have any principles. I try to stay away from heavy alliteration and other pyrotechnics because I think they detract from the sense of the poem and blur the imagery. — Maxine Kumin, "A Questionnaire," 1977, in To Make a Prairie1979 More specifically, how are actual events deformed by the application to them of metaphor, rhetorical comparison, prose rhythm, assonance, alliteration, allusion, and sentence structures and connectives implying clear causality? — Paul Fussel, The Great War and Modern Memory, 1975

Recent Examples on the Web

Mykal McEldowney/IndyStar There's a certain three-word alliteration that evokes a strong response in the soccer community: soccer-specific stadium. Kevin Johnston, Indianapolis Star, "Lucas Oil Stadium not perfect home for Indy Eleven, but a big upgrade," 30 Mar. 2018 The new sisters will have something in common with Prue, Piper, Phoebe, and Paige however—alliteration. Kayleigh Roberts, Marie Claire, "Everything You Need to Know About the 'Charmed' Reboot," 20 Apr. 2018 This feels like a missed opportunity for alliteration for me. Chris Cillizza, CNN, "The definitive -- and updated! -- rankings of Donald Trump's nicknames for his political enemies," 3 Apr. 2018 There's a certain three-word alliteration that evokes a strong response in the soccer community: soccer-specific stadium. Kevin Johnston, Indianapolis Star, "Lucas Oil Stadium not perfect home for Indy Eleven, but a big upgrade," 30 Mar. 2018 Of course, not many people could waltz into a publishing house with a batty manuscript littered with alliteration about a 50-something-year-old man who struggles to cope with Donald Trump's rise to political power. refinery29.com, "Sean Penn Has Very Chill Ambien- & Cigarette-Fueled Interview About New Book," 27 Mar. 2018 The roundup also includes savings on speedy Samsung SSDs (alliteration!), iPads, TCL Roku TVs, lots of Dell PCs, Motorola's Moto G5 Plus phone, DJI drones, and much more. Ars Staff, Ars Technica, "Dealmaster: Save $100 on the PlayStation VR Skyrim bundle," 21 Feb. 2018 The relationship between growth and Grafton goes much further than simple alliteration. Geoff Bruce, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Candidates debate growth of future Grafton," 14 Feb. 2018 The words, in their alliteration and biblical-sounding import, were meant to instill shock and demand respect. John Mcmurtrie, San Francisco Chronicle, "‘Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,’ by Michael Wolff," 7 Jan. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'alliteration.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of alliteration

circa 1624, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for alliteration

ad- + Latin littera letter

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The first known use of alliteration was circa 1624

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More Definitions for alliteration

alliteration

noun

English Language Learners Definition of alliteration

: the use of words that begin with the same sound near one another (as in wild and woolly or a babbling brook )

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More from Merriam-Webster on alliteration

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with alliteration

Spanish Central: Translation of alliteration

Nglish: Translation of alliteration for Spanish Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about alliteration

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