Rhyming Dictionary

What are Rhyming Dictionaries? Let's explore!

Rhyming Dictionary Rhyming Dictionary

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Table of contents

    Cat. Fat. Hat. Mat. See, rhyming is easy!

    Or is it...

    What about concierge? Angst? Laughter? Music? Not so easy anymore, huh?

    A rhyming dictionary might make it a little easier, and that's what we're here to explore. We'll look at what a rhyming dictionary is and a little bit about its history. Then we'll delve into how to use them and finish off by looking at different types of rhymes with some examples.

    Are you ready...steady?

    Rhyming Dictionaries, cat, StudySmarterRhyming dictionaries exist to help rhyme difficult words. "Cat" is not one of these words!

    Rhyming Dictionaries in English

    What is the use of rhyming dictionaries in English? What are they all about?

    Before we get into answering these questions, let's first look at a brief overview of what a rhyming dictionary is:

    A rhyming dictionary is a dictionary comprised of groups of words that rhyme. Rhyming dictionaries categorize words into different sections depending on how they rhyme. (Don't worry, we'll look at the different kinds of rhymes soon!)

    Rhyming dictionaries are often used by poets and lyricists when trying to find rhymes for difficult words. They can also be used to find rhyming words that fit the number of syllables required in a particular line. They do not give definitions of words like a traditional dictionary, but rather provide users with groups of words that rhyme with other words.

    A rhyming dictionary should be compiled and published by a reliable, well-respected, and credible source. Rhyming dictionaries published by universities or other academic or historical institutions will be better than ones published by less reliable sources. The Merriam-Webster's Rhyming Dictionary, for example, was compiled by experts and published by Merriam-Webster, making it a good option.

    A History of Rhyming Dictionaries

    The history of rhyming dictionaries is pretty tricky to nail down to any one source. People have been using songs and poems to communicate for a very long time.

    The rise of rhyming dictionaries came about due to an increased desire to write more poetry and classical texts that were lyrical and complex. Rhyming dictionaries were a means of expediting this writing process. Instead of writers sitting for hours on end thinking of rhymes for difficult words, or trying to find words that fit a particular rhythm, a rhyming dictionary allowed them to quickly find an appropriate rhyming word.

    While quickly finding rhyming words may not always have been a top priority for people hundreds or thousands of years ago, as time has gone on, the history of rhyming dictionaries has led to the increased use of them for this purpose.

    To paint a bit more of a picture of where the rhyming dictionary came from, we'll now look at some key examples of early rhyming dictionaries.

    Examples of Rhyming Dictionaries

    The examples below are a couple of the first rhyming dictionaries on record. They should give you a bit of a timeline of the history of the rhyming dictionary.

    The Qieyun

    • The Qieyun is the earliest known version of a rhyming dictionary.

    • It was written by Lu Fa-yen in China in 601AD, during the Sui Dynasty.

    • The Qieyun was written to aid the composition of classical texts, as well as help people to interpret them.

    • The Qieyun divided over 12,000 Middle Chinese characters into five groups according to their tone and pronunciation. These groups were then subdivided into 193 different rhyme groups.

    Manipulus Vocabulorum

    • Manipulus Vocabulorum was the first Western rhyming dictionary.

    • It was written in England in 1570 by Peter Levins.

    • Manipulus Vocabulorum organized Middle English by the last syllables of words.

    • It was written as an aid to writers and poets as a reference text to help find rhyming words that fit perfectly into poetry.

    Modern Rhyming Dictionaries

    Rhyming dictionaries today can be organized in different ways, grouping words into equivalence classes (types of rhyme) so that all words that rhyme with each other are grouped together.

    Rhyming dictionaries sometimes organize words into groups according to other sound qualities, such as alliteration, although this is less common.

    Rhyming dictionaries are notoriously difficult to compile, as they need to be based on pronunciation rather than spelling. Because English is so fluid and pronunciation changes over time and place, a rhyming dictionary you might find today would not necessarily match a Victorian rhyming dictionary, or one written 100 years in the future.

    Rhyming Dictionaries & Writing

    If you're writing a poem or song, or you just need a rhyme for a word that's a bit tricky to rhyme with, you might enlist the help of a rhyming dictionary. We've noted several times already that rhyming dictionaries are typically organized according to different types of rhyme, so let's delve into that a bit more. After all, knowing the different types of rhymes is an excellent way to improve the fluency and rhythm of poetry and songs.

    Types of Rhymes

    There are many different rhyme types, and each type has its place in poetry. To give you an idea of the scope of rhymes, here is a brief overview of a few key types:

    End Rhymes

    These are words that have the same final vowel sound (or ending consonant, if they end in a consonant). A consonant refers to a word ending in a letter that is not one of the vowels "a", "e", "i", "o", or "u".

    • cat / fat / hat / mat – same final vowel sound and the same ending consonant "t"
    • shoe / blue / who / too – same final vowel sound

    Slant Rhymes

    These are also called near rhymes or imperfect rhymes because they do not rhyme exactly, but are words that have similar ending sounds. Slant rhymes share either the same vowel sound or the same consonant sound.

    • time / mine – same vowel sound
    • think / prank – same consonant cluster (a consonant cluster is when two or more consonants come together to make a new sound, e.g., -nk, -st, -tr, etc).

    Feminine Rhymes or Double Rhymes

    These are words where the end two syllables of each word rhyme.

    • follow / swallow – The last two syllables of "follow" rhyme with the last two syllables of "swallow".
    • soaring / boring – The last two syllables of "soaring" rhyme with the last two syllables of "boring".
    • professor / lesser – The last two syllables of "professor" rhyme with the last two syllables of "lesser".
    • sanity / unity – The last two syllables of "sanity" rhyme with the last two syllables of "unity".

    Triple Rhymes

    These are similar to feminine or double rhymes, but the last three syllables of one word rhyme with the last three syllables of another word.

    • icicle / bicycle – The last three syllables of "icicle" rhyme with the last three syllables of "bicycle".
    • scenery / greenery – The last three syllables of "scenery" rhyme with the last three syllables of "greenery".

    Beginning Rhymes

    These are words where the first sounds of words match. Words with beginning rhymes will begin with the same consonant sound, followed by the same vowel sound. Another term for when words have the same beginning sound is alliteration.

    • physical / fishing – same beginning consonant sound, followed by the same vowel sound (regardless of spelling)
    • kangaroo / candle – same beginning consonant sound, followed by the same vowel sound

    Eye Rhymes

    These are words that don't rhyme when you say them, but appear to the eye as though they rhyme. These kinds of rhymes are less likely to be found in a rhyming dictionary.

    • move / love – visually seem as though they rhyme but don't sound the same
    • laughter / daughter - visually seem as though they rhyme but don't sound the same

    Rhyming Dictionaries, eye, StudySmarterEye rhymes look as though they rhyme, but when said aloud, you can tell this is not the case.

    How to Use a Rhyming Dictionary

    The words in a rhyming dictionary will be organized according to groups that are similar to the types we just explored. These are called equivalence classes.

    To find a rhyme in a rhyming dictionary, you have several options:

    1. You can go to the index of the rhyming dictionary, locate the word you want to rhyme with, and then follow the suggested page numbers to find potential rhyme options.

    2. You can search for rhymes by equivalence class. For example, if you know you want to end a line of poetry with a three-syllable word, you might look for the triple rhyme equivalence class.

    3. You can use sound groups to locate rhyming words. Rhyming dictionaries are organized by sound groups (the sound that words end with), even within their equivalence classes.

    If you wanted to rhyme with the word "about", you could look for the -out (/aʊt/) sound group. This group would contain words that were spelled similarly to "about", such as "stout", but also words with different end spellings, such as "route".

    Kids' Rhyming Dictionaries

    Many rhyming dictionaries are geared toward children, and there are plenty of online resources as well as printed rhyming dictionaries for them. Many children's books and stories also rhyme, so reading a large variety of books with your children can help to provide rhymes. Songs and nursery rhymes are also good sources of rhymes for kids.

    Poets' Rhyming Dictionaries

    Already we've covered a little bit about the significance of rhyming dictionaries for poets—they help poets find rhymes that fit into the rhythm and structure of their poems. Poets can also use rhyming dictionaries to help find rhyming words that fit a particular subject. To illustrate this in action, let's look at some examples:

    Example 1

    Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore— While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door— Only this and nothing more.”

    "The Raven" (1845) by Edgar Allen Poe (1-6)

    In this first stanza of Poe's "The Raven", we see several examples of feminine or double rhymes (e.g., dreary / weary, napping / tapping) as well as an example of an end rhyme (e.g., door / more).

    Poe could have ended the first line, for example, with any word that ended with a long -e sound (/i/) to rhyme with the end of "dreary". But to fit the rhythm and cadence of the line, a two-syllable word fits much better. If Poe had struggled to find a two-syllable word ending in a long -e sound, he could have used a rhyming dictionary to weigh his options. The feminine rhyme fits not only the long -e rhyme in the last syllable, but the first syllable also rhymes with that of "dreary".

    Example 2

    “Hope” is the thing with feathers -That perches in the soul -And sings the tune without the words -And never stops - at all -"

    "Hope is the Thing with Feathers" (1891) by Emily Dickinson (1-4)

    In the opening stanza of "Hope is the Thing with Feathers", Dickinson uses slant rhymes in the words "soul" and "all". These are not perfect rhymes but do have a similar vowel sound and end in the same consonant.

    There are plenty of words that rhyme perfectly with soul, but Dickinson had a vision of where she wanted the poem to go. In order to find a word that not only rhymed but fit the content of the poem, she could have used a rhyming dictionary to find an appropriate match.

    It's impossible to know whether Poe and Dickinson actually used rhyming dictionaries in their work. These examples are simply for illustrative purposes.

    Rhyming Dictionaries, poetry book, StudySmarterPoets are the main target demographic for rhyming dictionaries.

    Words in Rhyming Dictionaries

    To sum up this article about rhyming dictionaries, let's look at some words that are challenging to rhyme. We'll include some rhymes for them that you'd find in a rhyming dictionary:

    Tricky WordRhymes
    AngstPhalanxes (ordered in rows)
    CircleHeterocercal (having an asymmetrical fishtail)
    ConciergeVerge (the edge of something)
    FilthTilth (cultivated land)
    MusicAgeusic (lacking a sense of taste)
    WaspKnosp (a botanical bud)

    How many of these rhyming words have you heard of? Would you have known any rhymes for so-called "un-rhymable" words before reading them here?

    Rhyming Dictionary - Key Takeaways

    • A rhyming dictionary organizes words in order of pronunciation rather than spelling and groups words according to their rhyming type.
    • There are many rhyming types or equivalence classes, including end rhymes, slant rhymes, feminine rhymes, triple rhymes, and eye rhymes.
    • The first recorded rhyming dictionary was the Qieyun, written in China in 601AD.
    • Rhyming dictionaries are designed to help poets and lyricists find rhyming words that fit the content and rhythm of their poems or songs.
    • You can search for rhymes in a rhyming dictionary by using the index, equivalence class, or sound group of the word you want to rhyme with.
    Frequently Asked Questions about Rhyming Dictionary

    What's the best rhyming dictionary?

    A good rhyming dictionary is any rhyming dictionary that has been compiled and published by a reliable, well-respected, and credible source. Rhyming dictionaries published by universities or other academic or historical institutions will be better than ones published by less reliable sources. The Merriam-Webster's Rhyming Dictionary, for example, was compiled by experts and published by Merriam-Webster, making it a good option.

    What is a rhyming dictionary called? Why?

    Rhyming dictionaries are called rhyming dictionaries because they do not give definitions of words like a traditional dictionary, but rather provide users with groups of words that rhyme with other words. The focus of a rhyming dictionary is on the rhymes, hence the name.

    How do you find rhyming words for kids?

    There are plenty of online resources as well as rhyming dictionaries that are specifically geared toward children. Many children's books (fictional stories) also rhyme, so reading a large variety of books with your children can help to provide rhymes. Songs and nursery rhymes are also good sources of rhymes for kids. 

    Who is likely to use a rhyming dictionary?

    Anyone can use a rhyming dictionary, but poets, writers, and lyricists are more likely to use rhyming dictionaries than other people. 

    What is the purpose of a rhyming dictionary?

    Rhyming dictionaries help people to find words that rhyme with other words, as well as find rhyming words that fit particular rhythms. 

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    Which two types of people are most likely to use rhyming dictionaries?

    What was the first rhyming dictionary called?

    What factor determined how Chinese characters were divided in the Qieyun?

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