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Feminine Rhyme

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Feminine Rhyme

There are many different types of rhyme used in poetry, theatre and everyday sayings and phrases. One of these rhyming techniques is feminine rhyme; let's have a closer look at it.

Feminine rhyme definition

A feminine rhyme is a rhyme that contains a stressed syllable followed by one or more unstressed syllables. Most feminine rhymes are two syllables long – this is known as double rhyme. Some examples include climbing/timing, and dangle/mangle. A feminine rhyme that is three syllables long is known as a triple rhyme. Examples include history/mystery, and beautiful/dutiful.

Masculine rhyme vs. feminine rhyme

The main difference between feminine and masculine rhymes is where the stress is placed. By stress, we mean which syllables are emphasised. For example, in the word, ‘ago’, the second syllable (-‘go’) is stressed. In the word ‘temperature’, the first syllable (‘temp’-) is stressed. Say these words out loud and you'll hear what we mean. Some syllables are naturally more stressed (or accented) than others.

In a feminine rhyme, the stress is on the first syllable. This is followed by one or more unstressed syllables. Climbing/timing is an example of a feminine rhyme. Notice how the first syllable of each word (climb/time) is stressed, and the second syllable (‘ing’ in both words) is unstressed.

In contrast, a masculine rhyme places stress on the last syllable. Many masculine rhymes are only one syllable long, such as see/be. Some masculine rhymes are longer than one syllable, such as below/ago. Notice how in this example, the first syllable of each word (‘be’-/‘a’-) is unstressed, and the final syllable (‘low’/‘go’) is stressed. As you can see, the rhyme comes from this final, stressed syllable.

Feminine rhyme Gender signs StudySmarterMasculine and feminine rhyme are rhyming techniques that differ in where the stress is placed in rhyming words. - Wikimedia Commons

Let's look at how this works in practice. In the examples below, notice where you naturally place the stress in the rhyming words:

Masculine rhymes

I wandered through the sleet and snow, never

knowing where to go

She wandered in the quiet night,

And saw a fire, burning bright

In jungle lands, where beasts collide,

The lion's place won't be denied

His face was bruised, his glasses cracked,

But still he kept his pride in tact

Feminine rhymes

I stood there in the kitchen, crying,

while the sausages were frying

When at work, my dress is formal,

But I never feel normal

Overcome with vanity,

He'd misplaced his humanity

While I was trapped in, wriggling,

The children sat there giggling

Task:

In the examples of feminine rhyme above, can you spot which are the double rhymes and which are the triple rhymes?

The answer is:

The first two examples are two syllables long, and so they are double rhymes (cry-ing/fry-ing, and for-mal/nor-mal.)

The last two examples are three syllables long, and so they are triple rhymes (van-i-ty/[hu]-man-i-ty, and wri-gg-ling/gi-gg-ling.)

Feminine vs. masculine rhyme: recap

See the table below for the main differences between feminine and masculine rhyme. In the examples, note where the stress is placed (indicated with bold.)

Feminine rhymesMasculine Rhyme
Places stress on the first syllable of the rhyme.Places stress on the final syllable of the rhyme.
Must contain more than one syllable.Can contain more than one syllable (or can be single-syllable).
Examples include:

Climbing/timing

Beautiful/dutiful

Silly/Chilly

Particle/Article

Examples include:

Climb/time

Below/Ago

Trans form/warm

Part/art

Feminine rhyme examples

Many different writers use feminine rhyme. Here we'll look at some famous examples.

Feminine rhyme in poetry

Note: In the following extracts, we have emphasised the feminine rhymes in bold to help you understand the concept. This is not how the poems were originally printed.

I come from haunts of coot and hern,

I make a sudden sally

And sparkle out among the fern,

To bicker down a valley.

By thirty hills I hurry down,

Or slip between the ridges,

By twenty thorpes, a little town,

And half a hundred bridges.

(Alfred Lord Tennyson, ‘The Brook,’ 1886)

Throughout this poem, Tennyson alternates masculine and feminine rhymes. Notice the ABAB rhyme scheme of each stanza. The first and third lines (the ‘A’s) end in masculine rhymes, such as ‘hern’/‘fern’ and ‘down’/‘town.’ The second and fourth lines (the ‘B’s) end in feminine rhymes, such as ‘sally’/‘valley’ and ‘ridges’/‘bridges.’

The poem speaks from the perspective of the brook, and we get the sense that it will always keep moving no matter how much the world around it changes. The frequently alternating masculine and feminine rhymes help to reinforce this message by keeping the rhythm flowing steadily.

I want to be your vacuum cleaner

Breathing in your dust

I wanna be your Ford Cortina

I will never rust

(John Cooper Clarke, ‘I Wanna Be Yours,’ 1982)

This playful poem demonstrates how feminine rhyme can be used for comic effect. The humour of the piece comes from the combination of unusual metaphors, rhythm, and highly original rhymes (it's unlikely that anybody would have rhymed ‘vacuum cleaner’ with ‘Ford Cortina’ before!).

The new dawn blooms as we free it

For there is always light,

if only we're brave enough to see it

If only we're brave enough to be it

(Amanda Gorman, ‘The Hill We Climb,’ 2021)

This is a great example of how a feminine rhyme can contain more than one word. On their own, the words ‘free’/‘see’/‘be’ would be single-syllable masculine rhymes, but the repetition of the word ‘it’ that follows transforms them into feminine rhymes. Notice how in each rhyme, the first syllable (‘free’/‘see’/‘be’) is stressed, and then the repeated syllable (‘it’) is unstressed.

‘The Hill We Climb’ is an example of free verse. It does not follow a consistent rhyme scheme or meter, although Gorman does employ different types of rhyme at certain points. The extract above closes the poem. The satisfying, feminine rhyme neatly finishes the poem on a harmonious note, true to the uplifting message that she chooses to leave us with.

Feminine rhyme in song lyrics

Ain't doing local things but we be them local geezers

Just look at my list of friends as he holds' em up with tweezers

(Giggs, featuring on JME's ‘Man Don't Care,’ 2015)

This is another example of feminine rhyme being used for comic effect. Here UK rapper Giggs mixes British slang (‘geezers’) with some unexpected imagery (a list of friends so tiny that they have to be held with tweezers), creating an original and entertaining couplet.

Tears down my face fallin'

I'm in the place bawlin'

(Steflon Don, ‘Hurtin' Me,’ 2017)

Even in (what sounds like) a simple pop song, a feminine rhyme such as this can help to add variety to the usual single-syllable masculine rhymes.

These lines are smarter than they may appear at first. The word ‘bawlin’ is a play on the slang term ‘ballin’ (meaning a display of wealth and or status) that rappers often use in commercial rap songs. Steflon Don uses the homonymbawlin’ (meaning crying) to add a downbeat twist. The use of feminine rhyme makes these lines stand out, encouraging us to question their meaning.

And your love light shines like cardboard

But your work shoes are glistening

She's a PhD in ‘I told you so’

You've a knighthood in ‘I'm not listening

(The Beautiful South, ‘Don't Marry Her,’ 1996)

This song paints a picture of an unhappy couple through the creative portrayal of the songwriters. The man's work shoes ‘glistening’ contrasts with the dullness of the relationship. The suggestion that the couple has been granted a PhD and a knighthood for bickering and ignoring each other is both sombre and humorous (this is also an example of hyperbole).

The rhyme itself (‘glistening’/‘listening’) is a triple rhyme. Notice how there are two unstressed syllables (-‘en-ing’) after the initial stressed syllable (‘glist’-/‘list’-). This makes the rhyme slightly more complex than those you would normally find in a pop song, adding to the humour and creating a pleasing effect on the ear.

Effect of feminine rhyme

Feminine rhyme is used by poets, authors and song writers for specific effects. It can be used to:

  • Create a comic effect
  • Create rhythm (especially when there is no regular rhyme scheme used)
  • Add variety to the usually used masculine rhyme
  • Create emphasis on particular lines
  • Create a sonically-pleasing effect

Feminine rhyme - key takeaways

  • A feminine rhyme is a rhyme that contains a stressed syllable followed by one or more unstressed syllables.
  • Feminine rhymes are always more than one syllable long.
  • Most feminine rhymes are two syllables long. This is also known as double rhyme. Examples include climbing/timing, and dangle/mangle.
  • A feminine rhyme that is three syllables long is also known as a triple rhyme. Examples include history/mystery, and beautiful/dutiful.
  • Writers of all types use feminine rhyme to make their work sonically pleasing. Feminine rhymes tend to be satisfying to listen to as they sound ‘complete.’ They are also often used for comic effect.

Frequently Asked Questions about Feminine Rhyme

A feminine rhyme is a rhyme that contains a stressed syllable followed by one or more unstressed syllables. Most feminine rhymes are two syllables long. This is also known as double rhyme. Examples include climbing/timing, and dangle/mangle. A feminine rhyme that is three syllables long is also known as a triple rhyme. Examples include history/mystery, and beautiful/dutiful.

Poets use feminine rhyme to make their work sonically pleasing. Feminine rhymes tend to sound satisfying and are sometimes used for comic effect.

Masculine and feminine rhymes are common techniques used by writers of all types. The main difference between masculine and feminine rhyme is where you place the stress (meaning the emphasis or accent). A masculine rhyme places stress on the final syllable of the rhyme. A feminine rhyme contains a stressed syllable followed by one or more unstressed syllables.

Here are some examples of lines that end with feminine rhyme:


By thirty hills I hurry down,

Or slip between the ridges,

By twenty thorpes, a little town,

And half a hundred bridges.

(Alfred Lord Tennyson, ‘The Brook’, 1886)


The new dawn blooms as we free it 

For there is always light, 

if only we’re brave enough to see it

If only we’re brave enough to be it

(Amanda Gorman, ‘The Hill We Climb’, 2021)


Tears down my face fallin

I’m in the place bawlin

(Steflon Don, ‘Hurtin’ Me,’ 2017)



A feminine rhyme in poetry is when stress is placed on the first syllable of a rhyming word. This is different to masculine rhyme where stress is placed on the final syllable of rhyming words.

Final Feminine Rhyme Quiz

Question

Which of the following best describes feminine rhyme?

Show answer

Answer

A rhyme that contains a stressed syllable followed by one or more unstressed syllables.

Show question

Question

In a feminine rhyme, the stress is on the first syllable.

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

Feminine rhyme is sometimes used in song lyrics.


Show answer

Answer

True 

Show question

Question

A feminine rhyme can be one syllable long.


Show answer

Answer

False

Show question

Question

How is feminine rhyme different to masculine rhyme?


Show answer

Answer

The stress is placed on the first syllable, whereas in masculine rhyme it is placed on the last syllable.

Show question

Question

I think that you are beautiful

I’m not just not sure if you’re suitable


This is an example of feminine rhyme.

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

She broke her hand

In Switzerland


This is an example of feminine rhyme.

Show answer

Answer

False

Show question

Question

I don’t mean to be picky

But this floor is rather sticky


This is an example of feminine rhyme.

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

There came a mighty roar

From behind the wooden door


This is an example of feminine rhyme.

Show answer

Answer

False

Show question

Question

Which of the following is a double rhyme?


Show answer

Answer

Mangle/bangle

Show question

Question

Which of the following is a triple rhyme?


Show answer

Answer

Thinking it/drinking it

Show question

Question

Which of the following is a triple rhyme?


Show answer

Answer

Merriment/experiment

Show question

Question

Feminine rhymes should never be used for comic effect.


Show answer

Answer

False

Show question

Question

How would you best describe the following?


Weeping willow/fluffy pillow.

Show answer

Answer

Double rhyme.

Show question

Question

How would you best describe the following?

Constant motion/Atlantic Ocean.

Show answer

Answer

Double rhyme. 

Show question

Question

How would you best describe the following?

Mystical / logistical.

Show answer

Answer

Triple rhyme.

Show question

Question

How would you best describe the following?

Long before/jaw.

Show answer

Answer

Masculine rhyme.

Show question

Question

Double rhyme and triple rhyme are both types of feminine rhyme.


Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

Which of the following is NOT a feminine rhyme?


Show answer

Answer

Tree stump/bump

Show question

Question

What is feminine rhyme?

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Answer

Feminine rhyme occurs when stress is placed on the first syllable of rhyming words.

Show question

Question

What does this describe: Stress is placed on the final syllable of rhyming words.

Show answer

Answer

Masculine rhyme

Show question

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