From The Complete Rhyming Dictionary by Clement Wood:"Rhyme is the identity in sound of an accented vowel in a word...and of all consonantal and vowel sounds following it; with a difference in the sound of the consonant immediately preceding the accented vowel. If a poet commences, 'October is the wildest month' he has estopped himself from any rhyme; since "month" has no rhyme in English."

The following is a list of English words that are difficult to rhyme (the rhyming word is foreign, dialectical or obsolete) or have no true rhyme at all:

Word     Rhyme
aitch     brache , taich
angry     unangry
angst    
breadth    
bulb    
carpet     charpit
chimney     timne, polymny
cusp     wusp
depth    
eighth    
else    
exit     direxit
fiends     teinds, piends
filched     hilched, milched
filth     spilth, tilth
fifth    
film     pilm
fluxed     luxed, muxed
glimpsed    
gospel 
golf   
gulf    
jinxed     outminxed (?)
leashed     niched, tweesht
liquid    
mollusk    
mouthed     southed
month    
mulcts    
mulched     gulched
ninth 
nostril   
oblige    
oomph     sumph
orange    borange
pint     jint
poem     phloem, proem
pregnant     regnant
purple     curple, hirple
puss     schuss
rhythm     smitham
scarce     clairce, hairse
sculpts    
silver     chilver
sixth    
spirit     squiret
tenth     nth
tsetse     baronetcy, intermezzi
tuft     yuft
twelfth    
width    
window     indo, lindo
wolf    

I've been thinking a lot about rhyme lately, as I mentioned in my writeup in the Things that rhyme with orange node. While the E2 poetry crowd seems to lean very heavily toward free verse, rhyme is not a topic that is given much consideration, except in such silly nodes as the orange one.

First, let's start by considering the definition of "rhyme." My dictionary (as a secondary definition) says "A word agreeing with another in terminal sound." This is the kind of rhyme we all learned in grammar school, but in fact the primary definition of rhyme is much broader: "Identity in sound of some part." Interestingly, the etymology of the word "rhyme" sees an evolution from an Old High German word meaning "to put in a row," which seems to apply more to a poem's rhythm than what we consider its rhyme.

The broader definition encompasses both the concept of assonance (meaning two words having similar vowel sounds) and consonance (which means two words with similar consonants). Consider the pair claim/plain--they do not completely agree in terminal sound (ending as they do in different consonants), but they do share the central vowel construct which allows them, to our ears, to rhyme. I would argue (as would many poets, I believe) that the pair dawn/down rhymes--in fact, in this case only the vowel changes, something which draws attention to the pair and which I feel adds remarkable emphasis.

The question of whether rhyme--in the strict sense of the first definition above--should be part of English poetry has been hotly debated through the years, especially during the Renaissance, when a resurgence of interest in unrhymed Greek and Latin poetry raised the question anew. To see how this has been illustrated through the years, consider the poems If by Dull Rhymes our English must be Chain'd by John Keats or the tongue-in-cheek A Fit of Rhyme Against Rhyme by Ben Jonson. But an argument against rhyme can be made on a different, and I feel more compelling basis: first, that the English language, as syncretic as it is, is poor in rhyme, and finding appropriate rhymes can be a challenge; second, rhyme is simply an alien concept I think was foisted on the language after the Norman Conquest--before then, ALL English verse was based on the kind of alliterative forms found in, for example, Beowulf.

So what are we left with? Do we abandon rhyme altogether as being simply too difficult for practical use? I don't think so. I think talented writers can continue to use the strict definition as a challenge to produce great rhyming works that do not unnecessarily bend the language. I do feel that greater use should be made of consonance and alliteration as tools to expand the poet's repertoire of rhyme, as long as they are used in a balanced and sensible way. For my part, I would also like to see more poets move away from the unconstrained format of free verse to pursue either loosely rhymed forms or "The Mighty Line offered by blank verse. I tend to believe that we produce our most creative material when working under some level of constraint, but that's a completely different writeup altogether.

[Rhyme is] no necessary adjunct or true ornament of poem or good verse, in longer works especially, but the invention of a barbarous age, to set off wretched matter and lame metre; graced indeed since by the use of some famous modern poets, carried away by custom, but much to their own vexation, hindrance, and constraint to express many things otherwise, and for the most part worse, than else they would have expressed them.

- John Milton (1608-1674)

Not necessarily true, and certainly questionable, but it I find it beautifully formulated and highly interesting.

Prompted by a bout of bad poetry on Facebook recently, I propose a new definition of rhyme:

Rhyme, n. Correspondence of similar sounds at the end of two words or verses which have the same number of syllables.

My friends seem to get the idea that poems are supposed to rhyme but forget everything else they know about the subject. Perhaps if we change the definition of rhyme they will also get an idea about meter, or better yet, drop the matter entirely.
Standing at the site
I held my sister’s hand
And To the right
The cross was being put in the land
Complete disregard of meter, rhyme scheme, and anything else - but hey, it rhymes! And this is one of the better examples. Now, I love free verse, but this terrible mash-up of the two must be stopped.

Rhyme (?), n. [OE. ryme, rime, AS. rim number; akin to OHG. rim number, succession, series, G. reim rhyme. The modern sense is due to the influence of F. rime, which is of German origin, and originally the same word.] [The Old English spelling rime is becoming again common. See Note under Prime.]

1.

An expression of thought in numbers, measure, or verse; a composition in verse; a rhymed tale; poetry; harmony of language.

"Railing rhymes."

Daniel.

A ryme I learned long ago. Chaucer.

He knew Himself to sing, and build the lofty rime. Milton.

2. Pros.

Correspondence of sound in the terminating words or syllables of two or more verses, one succeeding another immediately or at no great distance. The words or syllables so used must not begin with the same consonant, or if one begins with a vowel the other must begin with a consonant. The vowel sounds and accents must be the same, as also the sounds of the final consonants if there be any.

For rhyme with reason may dispense, And sound has right to govern sense. Prior.

3.

Verses, usually two, having this correspondence with each other; a couplet; a poem containing rhymes.

4.

A word answering in sound to another word.

Female rhyme. See under Female. -- Male rhyme. See under Male. -- Rhyme or reason, sound or sense. -- Rhyme royal Pros., a stanza of seven decasyllabic verses, of which the first and third, the second, fourth, and fifth, and the sixth and seventh rhyme.

 

© Webster 1913.


Rhyme (?), v. i. [imp. & p. p. Rhymed (?);p. pr. & vb. n. Rhyming.] [OE. rimen, rymen, AS. riman to count: cf. F. rimer to rhyme. See Rhyme, n.]

1.

To make rhymes, or verses.

"Thou shalt no longer ryme."

Chaucer.

There marched the bard and blockhead, side by side, Who rhymed for hire, and patronized for pride. Pope.

2.

To accord in rhyme or sound.

And, if they rhymed and rattled, all was well. Dryden.

 

© Webster 1913.


Rhyme, v. t.

1.

To put into rhyme.

Sir T. Wilson.

2.

To influence by rhyme.

Hearken to a verser, who may chance Rhyme thee to good. Herbert.

 

© Webster 1913.

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