cler·​i·​hew | \ ˈkler-i-ˌhyü How to pronounce clerihew (audio) , ˈkle-ri- \

Definition of clerihew

: a light verse quatrain rhyming aabb and usually dealing with a person named in the initial rhyme

Keep scrolling for more

Did You Know?

Edmund Clerihew Bentley (1875-1956) was an English writer whose book Biography for Beginners was published in 1906 under the name E. Clerihew. It was a collection of simple, humorous four-line verses about famous people. Bentley had begun writing them as a bored high school student. He didn't call them clerihews himself, but his readers began to do so after the book appeared. How soon after, we can't be sure, because so far we've unearthed nothing earlier than a 1914 description of clerihews as "epigram[s] in hartogs, which are, of course, one’s oldest and most comfortable clothes." In any case, people have been having fun writing their own clerihews ever since Bentley shared his.

Examples of clerihew in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Easy to write and fun to read, entrants were asked to write a clerihew that describes a famous scientist or other person, or event closely associated with fire. William Gurstelle, WIRED, "Hello Again, Pyromaniacal Poetry Lovers," 16 Aug. 2011

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

First Known Use of clerihew

1928, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for clerihew

Edmund Clerihew Bentley †1956 English writer

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about clerihew

Time Traveler for clerihew

Time Traveler

The first known use of clerihew was in 1928

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast about clerihew

Statistics for clerihew

Cite this Entry

“Clerihew.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 19 January 2020.

More from Merriam-Webster on clerihew

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with clerihew Encyclopedia article about clerihew

Comments on clerihew

What made you want to look up clerihew? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to insert between existing elements

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

The Eponym Quiz

  • rubens painting
  • Which is the best synonym of bowdlerize?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Syn City

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!