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Alliteration

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English

Alliteration normally means the repetition of the same sound at the beginning of closely connected words in sentences or phrases. In most cases, the repeated sound is a consonant but is sometimes a vowel sound.

What is Alliteration?

Alliteration is when a series of words start with the same sound. It is most commonly found in poetry but you can also find examples in prose, songs, rap, and even in people's names!

Examples of alliteration

Alliteration is the repetition of the first sound of words which are in close proximity to each other. This means that even if two consecutive words don't start with the same letter, as long as they start with the same sound, you are looking at alliteration.

"cute kids"

Similarly, if two consecutive words start with the same consonant letter but that letter doesn't produce the same sound in each case, this is not an example of alliteration.

"Phony people"

Effects of alliteration

Alliteration is used as a literary device in writing, poetry, songwriting, and other types of writing for literary effect. Here are some of the effects of adding alliteration to writing:

  • It can help to focus the reader's attention on a particular section or phrase.

  • It can create a rhythm when reading something aloud.

  • It can make particular words or phrases memorable and catchy (this is why alliteration is often used in brand names like Coca-Cola or Fish Fingers).

  • Alliteration can create certain connotative meanings (such as the use of 's' in alliteration giving the connotations of snakes or smooth movements).

Alliteration Peter Piper Pizza logo StudySmarterThe common alliterative phrase 'Peter piper' has been combined with 'pizza' to create a memorable alliterative brand name. - Wikimedia Commons

Types of alliteration

Let's look at some examples of the places where alliteration appears and the variety of ways in which this literary device can be used.

Alliteration in poetry

The use of alliteration in poetry is almost always done purposefully in order to create specific rhythms and musical qualities that add to the overall flow of a poem. This is especially desirable when the poem has been written to be read aloud.

Perhaps that is why William Shakespeare was very fond of using alliteration in his sonnets and plays. Let's take a look at two examples of alliteration from Shakespeare's tragedy Macbeth (1606)¹, which aim to build a mysterious and ominous mood:

"Fair is foul, and foul is fair."

"Double, double, toil and trouble."

See how these phrases sound like incantations because of the repeated sounds. The lines belong to the three witches in the play, and Shakespeare uses this kind of language, and has them speak in riddles, to make them seem authentic.

Another very well-known example of alliteration in poetry is "The Raven" (1845 )² by American writer and poet Edgar Allan Poe. Like Shakespeare, Poe uses alliteration to establish a specific atmosphere:

"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"

By repeating the "w", "q" and "n" sounds in this excerpt from the first stanza of his poem, Poe strengthens the poetic effect, in this way emphasizing the state of sleepwalking that the poet is in. Consequently, the "tapping" that follows is sudden, not only for the poet but for us as readers as well.

Alliteration in prose

Although not as common in prose as it is in poetry, alliteration works just as well for writers of prose as it does for poets. Alliteration allows authors to add a poetic quality to their work.

Let's look at this example of the repetition of "b" in The Great Gatsby (1925)³ by American author F. Scott Fitzgerald:

"So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."

When reading this, does anything stand out to you? Maybe you can see how the repetition of sounds at the beginning of the words makes them more noticeable. The appearance of repeated letters and sounds shows that this section conveys an important message, putting a stronger emphasis on the meaning of the words. Through the use of alliteration, the repeated "b" sound makes the words sound like the beating of oars on the water, which increases the feeling and the rhythm of what is described in the sentence - boats beating against the current.

Let's also have a look at his example sentence from Irish writer James Joyce's short story The Dead (1914)4:

"His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of

Their load end, upon all the living and the dead. "

Pay attention to the poetic quality of the prose. The repetition of the "s" and "f" reinforces the ideas described in the passage. By using alliteration, Joyce evokes the sense of being between life and death.

Alliteration in common phrases or words

You might be surprised to discover how often we use alliteration in everyday speech. Think of phrases such as:

"Picture perfect"

"money matters"

"quick question"

What is more, the use of alliteration is common in tongue twisters:

A good cook could cook as many cookies as a good cook who could cook cookies.

If coloured caterpillars could change their colours constantly could they keep their coloured coat coloured properly?

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.

These examples are called alliterative tongue twisters and you are probably already familiar with them. Alliteration in tongue twisters and common phrases is a helpful tool for learning to speak at a young age. In fact, many professional actors use tongue twisters as part of their voice training!

Alliteration in songs

Alliteration is not uncommon in rap songs. Let's take a look at this example of the repetitive use of "m" in "Alphabetical Slaughter" by Papoose - a rap song that uses alliteration and other similar literary devices:

"Music messiah mastered money makin' mathematically"

Since alliteration is a poetic technique, some songs that are not in the rap genre also make good use of it in their lyrics. Take a look at this example from the Beatles - the alliteration in their famous song "Let it Be":

"Whisper words of wisdom"

Alliteration in names

Yes, alliteration really is hiding behind every corner! It is present in the names of brands and bands as well!

Some examples of alliterative brand names that you may have come across are:

"Coca-Cola"

"Dunkin' Donuts"

"Pay Pal"

Some famous bands have cleverly decided to use alliterative stage names!

Backstreet Boys

Counting Crows

Foo Fighters

There are even examples of alliteration in the names of individuals. Think about famous people:

Film director Steven Spielberg

Actress Brigitte Bardot

Alliteration Caricature of Charlie Chaplin StudySmarterSome famous figures had alliterative names such as 'Charlie Chaplin' which will have no doubt led to them being more memorable. - Wikimedia Commons

And what about fictional characters?

Donald Duck

Mickey Mouse

These are only scratching the surface!

Alliteration vs. Consonance vs. Assonance - what is the difference?

Consonance and assonance are other literary devices that use the repetition of sounds. Alliteration, consonance and assonance are similar to each other, which can be confusing. But fear not - there are distinctive differences that can help you tell them apart!

Alliteration vs. Consonance

Alliteration is actually a type of consonance which, as we've discussed, appears most often at the beginning of words.

Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in closely connected words. These sounds may occur anywhere in the words, not only at the beginning.

Let's look at some examples of alliteration and consonance that illustrate the differences between them.

In some cases, consonance can contain alliteration. First, let's have a look at two example sentences - a simple example of alliteration and an example of consonance that is also alliteration:

Alliteration: Ron runs in the rain.

Consonance that is also alliteration: Barbara realized she was wrong to rummage through Ron's papers.

Notice how in the case of alliteration the "r" sound only occurs at the beginning of the words, whereas in the case of consonance that is also alliteration it appears in the beginning, the middle and even at the end of the words.

Now let's have a look at an example of consonance that is NOT also alliteration:

All's well that ends well.

As you can see, the repetition of the "l" sound is only in the middle and the end of the words. There is no repetition of sounds at the beginning of the words, therefore this is not alliteration.

Alliteration vs. Assonance

Assonance is when similar or identical vowel sounds are repeated in closely connected words in a sentence or a phrase. Like consonance, the repeated sounds in assonance can be found anywhere in the words.

As we've mentioned, alliteration is a form of consonance and it usually involves the repetition of consonant sounds. However, there are occasions when alliteration can be the repetition of vowel sounds, thus making it similar to assonance.

Let's look at some examples of brand names to illustrate the difference between alliteration and assonance:

Alliteration: American Airlines

Assonance: Drop Box

In the case of the alliteration, the vowel sound "a" is repeated at the beginning of the words. In the case of assonance the vowel sound "o" is repeated in the middle of the words and there is no repetition of either vowel or consonant sounds at the beginning of the words, which means that 'DropBox' is not an example of alliteration.

Alliteration - The most important things at a glance

  • Alliteration is a literary device that normally occurs when the same (usually consonant sound) is repeated at the beginning of closely connected words in sentences or phrases.

  • Examples of alliteration can be found in poetry, prose, songs, common phrases and names.

  • You can spot alliteration by identifying the repetition of the same sound (that may not necessarily be the same letter).

  • Alliteration is a form of consonance that usually only appears at the beginning of words.

  • What makes alliteration different from consonance and assonance is that in alliteration the sounds are usually only repeated at the beginning of the words, whereas in consonance and assonance the same sound can occur anywhere in the words.


SOURCE:

¹William Shakespeare, Macbeth, 1606

²Edgar Allan Poe, The Raven, 1845

³F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, 1925

4James Joyce, Dubliners, 1914

Alliteration

Alliteration is when the same sound (which may not necessarily be the same letter) is repeated at the beginning of closely connected words.

Alliteration is a literary device that is used as a poetic technique. In literature, alliteration is used in both poetry and prose to enhance its rhythm and musicality, and to make the words more memorable to the reader. Moreover, some of the other uses of alliteration help with pronunciation and the ability to make words stand out for particular reasons.

‘'Double, double, toil and trouble’' is an example of alliteration, from the tragedy Macbeth (1606) by William Shakespeare. The sounds ‘’d’’ and ‘’t’’ are repeated at the beginning of consecutive words in the sentence.

Alliteration appears in literature (both poetry and prose), in common phrases that we use on a daily basis, as well as in familiar tongue twisters, in songs and raps, and in the names of brands, fictional characters, and people.

Alliteration means that a sound is repeated within a string of words, such as "p" in: Peter Piper picked a pickled pepper.

Alliteration is often used in poetry to help create rhythm which contributes to the flowing feeling of a poem.

Final Alliteration Quiz

Question

What type of writing is this example of alliteration from?

'while I pondered weak and weary'.

Show answer

Answer

Poetry.

This example of alliteration is from The Raven (1845) by Edgar Allan Poe.

Show question

Question

Is this an example of consonance that is also alliteration or consonance that is NOT also alliteration?

'Sheep should sleep in a shed'.

Show answer

Answer

Consonance that is also alliteration.


Show question

Question

How can you tell that this excerpt from Taylor Swift’s song Bad Blood is an example of alliteration?

‘‘And baby, now we’ve got bad blood.’’

Show answer

Answer

You can identify the alliteration by spotting the repeated sound ‘’b’’ at the beginning of the words.

''And baby, now we’ve got bad blood.''

Show question

Question

How can you identify that this is an example of consonance that is not also alliteration and NOT an example of alliteration?

A blessing in disguise.

Show answer

Answer

You can identify the consonance by spotting that the repeated consonant sound 's' is within the words. There is no repetition of sounds at the beginning of the words, therefore this is not an example of alliteration.

A blessing in disguise.

Show question

Question

Does this phrase contain alliteration?

Phineas and Ferb

Show answer

Answer

Yes


Show question

Question

What is the alliterative sound in this phrase?

The Wicked Witch of the West

Show answer

Answer

 The ‘’w’’ sound.

The Wicked Witch of the West

Show question

Question

Does this phrase contain alliteration?

Slender shoulders

Show answer

Answer

No


Show question

Question

Is this an example of alliteration or assonance?

'The yellow Eastern sun and the blue Eastern moon'.

Show answer

Answer

 Alliteration


Show question

Question

What type of writing is this example of alliteration from?

'Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers'.

Show answer

Answer

This alliteration is a popular tongue twister.


Show question

Question

Does this phrase contain alliteration?

'Curiosity killed the cat'.

Show answer

Answer

Yes


Show question

Question

How can you tell that this is an example of assonance and NOT an example of alliteration?

'I say goodbye as I fly'.

Show answer

Answer

You can identify the assonance by spotting that the repeated sound “y’’ is at the end of the words “goodbye’’ and “fly’’. There is no repetition of sounds at the beginning of the words, therefore this is not an example of alliteration.

'I say goodbye as I fly'.

Show question

Question

Does this name contain alliteration?

Luna Lovegood

Show answer

Answer

Yes


Show question

Question

What is the alliterative sound in this excerpt from the song Big Yellow Taxi by Joni Mitchell?

'They paved paradise and put up a parking lot'.

Show answer

Answer

 The “p’’ sound.

'They paved paradise and put up a parking lot'.

Show question

Question

What is alliteration?

Show answer

Answer

Alliteration is when a series of words start with the same sound.

Show question

Question

True or false: Alliteration only occurs when consonant sounds are repeated.

Show answer

Answer

False

Show question

Question

Which of these is an example of alliteration?

Show answer

Answer

Fish fingers

Show question

Question

Do words have to start with the same letter to be alliterative?

Show answer

Answer

No, they have to start with the same speech sound but not necessarily the same letter.

Show question

Question

Which of these is an example of alliteration?

Show answer

Answer

Cooking queen

Show question

Question

Which of these is an examples of alliteration?

Show answer

Answer

All of them

Show question

Question

Which two speech sounds create alliteration in this sentence?

She sells seashells on the seashore

Show answer

Answer

Both the 'sh' and the 's' sounds create two different examples of alliteration in the same sentence.

Show question

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