I’m wondering whether it’s possible for words to not only alliterate with each other but also rhyme with each other at the same time. Is it?

It seems like it should be possible, especially if you allow for a different number of syllables, but I can’t find any good examples.

Is this actually possible in English?

  • Pavement, parchment, institution, initiation . . . the list goes on. It will be more difficult to find alliterative rhymes once you move away from the suffix-based rhymes. – Michael Owen Sartin Jan 16 '14 at 16:40
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    Alliteration is itself a form a rhyme, one called head-rhyme — as opposed to tail-rhyme. See the Tolkien translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight for copious examples of both sorts. – tchrist Jan 16 '14 at 16:48
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    It's easy with a good rhyming dictionary: democrat and diplomat; caribou, kangaroo, and kinkajou. – Peter Shor Jan 16 '14 at 16:49
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    Most short English words with initial consonant clusters like /kl-/ or /st-/ cluster into phonosemantic groups; these are called "assonances". The rhyme (technically called "rime") parts of such short words are also coherent, though not as much as assonances. – John Lawler Jan 16 '14 at 17:29

There are copious examples of this, and you need not reach further than the single-syllable homophones you learned to distinguish in school:

pain/pane, rain/reign, heart/hart, raise/raze/rays, braise/brays/braze, rhos/roes/rows/rose, etc.

Rhyme/rime, even (with due credit to John Lawler above).

These single-syllable examples can be a fruitful starting point to find more. Just let your ear explore from braise, for example, and you may find berets or bourrées, which maintain the alliteration and the perfect rhyme. Rhos to rodeos, heart to handcart, and so on.

It's easy with a good rhyming dictionary, 'tis true, but 'tis more fun to let the mind wander in wonder and adapt in search of the apt.


I'm fairly certain that words that both alliterate and rhyme exist, but a list of specific examples would depend on how you define "rhyme" and "alliterate". I think the most widely accepted examples would be things like blue, brew and cash, clash, where the words start and end the same way, but don't sound exactly the same.

Definitions of rhyme

Stress-based rhyme (match from stressed nucleus to end of the word)

Some people in the comments and answers are using a loose definition of "rhyme" that apparently only requires the ends of the last syllables has to match. A more strict definition of rhyme requires identity from the end of a word back to the nucleus of the last stressed syllable. By this definition, pairs like "pavement" & "parchment", "institution" & "initiation", "democrat" & "diplomat", "comfy" & "cozy", and "dusty" & "dirty" do not rhyme, because they don't have matching stressed syllables. See the definitions of "perfect rhyme" from yourdictionary.com.

The American Heritage Dictionary gives two definitions of "perfect rhyme":

  1. Rhyme in which the final accented vowel and all succeeding consonants or syllables are identical, while the preceding consonants are different, for example, great, late; rider, beside her; dutiful, unbeautiful. Also called full rhyme, true rhyme.
  2. Rime riche.

Going with the first, we see that it mentions stress, and also the consonants in the onset of the stressed syllable.

Avoiding identical onsets in stressed syllables

The requirement for "perfect rhymes" to have different consonants before the stressed nucleus would rule out saying that a word rhymes with itself (a question that was raised earlier on this site), or the homophonic rhymes that Jonathan Van Matre mentions.

These are "rich rhymes" or "rime riche", which have usually not been preferred in the English poetic tradition, although they are common in poetry in some other languages such as French.

Definitions of alliteration

Old English alliteration: stressed syllables starting with the same sounds

In Old English alliterative verse, apparently, the device of alliteration primarily consisted of matching the first elements of the onsets of certain stressed syllables. Words in the native vocabulary of Germanic languages tend to have stress on the first syllable, except for certain categories of prefixed words. Apparently, there has been some dispute about the importance of stress in Middle English alliterative poetry, but there is a case for it being closely related to stress.

As far as I know, the definition of "alliteration" as a device in contemporary English poetry is not so strict, but it does seem to be the case that matched onsets in stressed syllables are more prominent than matched onsets in unstressed syllables. This is pointed out in "Alliteration, assonance and perception" from "Ling 131: Language & Style" at Lancaster University; and I found a modern resouce "Linking Letters: A Poet's Guide to Alliterative Verse" that emphasizes a stress-based definition of alliteration.

My understanding is that in Old English, consonant clusters usually did not have to match entirely in order for the words to alliterate: only the first consonant had to match. So it is possible for a word starting with bl to alliterate with a word starting with b followed immediately by a vowel. The only class of exceptions that I have heard about is mentioned by tchrist in the comments below: consonant clusters of s + a plosive, like sp and st, did not alliterate with words starting with s followed by some other consonant, or by a vowel, in Old English.

This seems to be a somewhat subtle issue, but I think my initial impressions are mostly backed up by the following passage from Alliteration and Sound Change in Early English, by Donka Minkova:

Any further identity of the stressed syllables in Old English was a structurally redundant element, explicitly frowned upon in the case of alliteration on identical vowels. There is no record of a parallel negative esthetic judgement regarding cluster onset identity, but it was clearly not a feature that was actively sought. In contrast, alliteration on identical vowels and alliteration on entire clusters became specially favored by the Middle English poets.

(p. 243)

Alliterative rhyme candidates

Words starting with the same consonant, but different consonant clusters

Based on the above, it seems alliteration between different consonant clusters starting with the same consonant, but ending with different ones would meet the requirements of both Germanic-style alliteration and perfect rhyme.

Examples: brew/blue, break/bake, beauty/booty, quick/click/kick, cute/coot, die/dry, fee/free/flee, fight/flight/fright, gain/grain, pay/play/pray, spy/spry; sprint/splint, stain/strain, sweet/seat, shed/shred, tie/try, tweezers/teasers

Rhyming words with alliterative 2ndary-stressed first syllables

If we tighten the definition of alliteration to require entirely matching onsets, I think the strongest kind of alliteration that could occur between "perfect rhymes" in English would consist of pairs where one or both of the words have secondary stress on their first syllables.

Some examples:

One with primary stress, one with secondary stress on the first, alliterative syllable:

  • dental, detrimental (alliterate in /d/, rhyme in /ˈ-ɛntəl/)

Both with secondary stress on the first, alliterative syllable:

  • calibration, calculation, combination, capitalization (alliterate in /k/, rhyme in /ˈ-eɪʃən/)
  • pigmentation, pollination (alliterate in /p/, rhyme in /ˈ-eɪʃən/)
  • comprehend, condescend (alliterate in /k/, rhyme in /ˈ-ɛnd/)

Most of these are pretty long words ... honestly, I don't think these examples are very poetic-sounding. But perhaps there are better examples that I haven't thought of yet.

Rhyming words with unstressed 1st syllables that "alliterate"

If we consider unstressed initial syllables as valid candidates for alliteration, we can find pairs that are a bit shorter than this.

Disyllables stressed on the second syllable that rhyme with each other:

  • correct, collect (alliterate in /k/, perfect rhyme in /ˈ-ɛkt/)
  • decayed, dismayed, degrade (alliterate in /d/, perfect rhyme in /ˈ-eɪd/)
  • repent, relent, resent (alliterate in /r/, perfect rhyme in /ˈ-ɛnt/)

Monosyllables rhyming with disyllables stressed on the second syllable:

  • bride, beside (alliterate in /b/, perfect rhyme in /ˈ-aɪd/)
  • peace, police (alliterate in /p/, perfect rhyme in /ˈ-iːs/)
  • died, divide, deride (alliterate in /d/, perfect rhyme in /ˈ-aɪd/)
  • bold, behold (alliterate in /b/, perfect rhyme in /ˈ-oʊld/)
  • On page 50 of The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún, by JRR Tolkien (2009, posthumous), his son and editor Christopher summarizes his father’s many lecture notes on the subject of Germanic alliteration this way: “It is important to recognize that in Germanic verse ‘alliteration’ refers, not to letters, but to sounds; it is the agreement of the stressed elements beginning with the same consonant, or with no consonant: all vowels ‘alliterate’ witth one another, [...] The consonant-combinations sk, sp, and st will usually only alliterate with themselves; [...]” – tchrist Jan 28 '18 at 23:33
  • To risk diluting a perfectly serviceable answer with academic diversions, I wonder if it isn’t worth mentioning the types of rhyme we call assonant rhyme (only stressed vowels count), and the doubled alliterative assonance from Germanic verse that figures so prominently in Shakespeare’s Macbeth alone of all his works? “My way of life / Is fallen in the sere, the yellow leaf” and also “why do you start, and seem to fear / Things that do sound so fair?” The Middle English epic poem we’ve come to call Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is filled with such devices. – tchrist Jan 28 '18 at 23:51


Not only is it alliterative, but it's a two-syllable rhyme. Or maybe more. This site:


...claims that it's a three-syllable rhyme, but not the way I speak English.

  • I know what you mean. I can just about accept al-li-ance but app-li-ance??? Reminds me of the old Zanussi white goods slogan "the appliance of science"". – BoldBen Jan 29 '18 at 7:36

Famously, there's "comfy cozy" from "Sleighride", by Michael Parish, 1950. "Dusty dirty" has always been my other example.

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    Your answer needs justification in the form of citations of your sources.. I think you could write a good answer with some more work. – J. Taylor Jan 28 '18 at 22:55

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