Assonance and alliteration are two literary devices that make some of our favorite poems and stories so fun to read.
When used properly, assonance can enhance a piece’s rhythm and even help to emphasize underlying themes.
What is Assonance?
Assonance is created when two or more words that repeat the same vowel sound are placed closely together. The words must begin with different consonants.
Try to light the fire.
In the sentence above, the y in try and the i’s in light and fire all form a long ‘i‘ (ī) sound. Note that each word also begins with a different consonant (non-vowel sound).
Purpose of Assonance
Like most other literary devices, assonance can serve both prose and poetry by creating internal rhymes and adding a musical effect to a text.
This enhanced rhythm can make reading a text more pleasurable, while also creating a better flow.
You’ve probably used assonance many times without even realizing it or intending to do so.
The following are some simple examples of assonance used in sentences.
Go slow over the road. (long o sound)
The light of the fire is bright. (long i sound)
Don’t let the cat out of the bag. (short a sound)
The private eye lied to his client. (long i sound)
Never mix business with pleasure. (short i sound)
The daylight faded over the lake. (long a sound)
Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. (short e sound)
She hurriedly ate her birthday cake. (long a sound)
Examples of Assonance in Literature
Assonance is commonly used in both poetry and prose to develop rhythm or emphasize certain themes. Below are a few notable examples.
From Early Moon by Carl Sandburg:
“Poetry is old, ancient, goes back far. It is among the oldest of living things. So old it is that no man knows how and why the first poems came.”
Here, the repetition of the long ‘o‘ adds emphasis the idea of poetry being a very old art form.
From “The Bells” by Edgar Allen Poe:
How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle
In the icy air of night!
While the stars that oversprinkle
All the heavens seem to twinkle
With a crystalline delight;
Keeping time, time, time
In a sort of Runic rhyme
In this poem, the long ‘i‘ is repeated to create assonance. Note that while this poem also utilizes rhyme, words do not need to rhyme to use assonance. Rhyme and assonance are two separate and independent literary devices.
From A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce:
“Soft language issued from their spitless lips as they swished in low circles round and round the field, winding hither and thither through the weeds…”
From “Theme for English B” by Langston Hughes:
Well, I like to eat, drink, sleep, and be in love
As you can see from this example, different vowels can be used to create the same sound (and therefore assonance). In this case, ‘e’ and ‘i’ are both used to emphasize the long ‘e‘ sound.
Assonance and Alliteration
Assonance is just one literary device that you can use to add emphasis to your poetry or prose.
Learn how you can also use alliteration—the repetition of consonant sounds—to enhance your writing.
What are your favorite fun examples of alliteration? Feel free to share them in the comments below!