• Buzz/Does/Was
  • Too/Blue/Grew/Flu/Through/Threw

I overheard a claim that this phenomenon is only present in English and Japanese. I'm not well versed in enough other languages to know whether this true, and I find it unlikely to be so. When I attempted to search for examples, I discovered that I don't know what this is called, or if it even has a name.

So, is there a name for groups of words with these relationships?

Bonus points: do you know of other languages in which this phenomenon exists?

  • 3
    Counterexamples: Polish Bóg/tuk; German Blatt/Kat/Stadt Jan 18, 2018 at 20:41
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    This will occur in every language whose writing system is not largely phonetic, so English is a prime candidate. French is another: eau, aux, haut, os, aulx, and oh are all pronounced exactly the same (and therefore rhyme), but are spelt quite differently. And Irish is fab for this: an bhfaighidh and an ghaoth are exact homophones in some dialects—despite their spellings, both are pronounced /ə wiː/ ‘a wee’! Arguably, Japanese is one of the languages where this doesn’t occur, since the two sound-based writing systems used for Japanese are completely phonetic. Jan 18, 2018 at 20:43
  • 2
    @JanusBahsJacquet: The Japanese kana aren't completely phonetic, just mostly. There are correspondences between multiple spellings to single sounds even in the present standard, which is the result of relatively recent spelling reform. The "rhymes" framing of this Q isn't really applicable because of the syllabic nature of the writing system, so it's normal for rhyming Japanese words to not end in the same sequence of characters, but e.g. there's the di/zi and du/zu spelling distinctions, as well as some ambiguities related to the spelling of long /eː/ and /oː/.
    – herisson
    Jan 18, 2018 at 20:54
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    Rhyming is purely phonetic. Spelling has nothing to do with it at all. Jan 18, 2018 at 21:01
  • 4
    @Cascabel When the experts on this site converse among themselves it is truly a privilege to be a spectator.
    – Nigel J
    Jan 18, 2018 at 21:13

2 Answers 2


I don't think there's an established word for it.

It's kind of the opposite of an eye rhyme, where the words are spelled the same but don't actually end with the same sounds (e.g., show and now). So you could call it an ear rhyme.

But usually, we just use the word rhyme for this, and don't distinguish between the cases where the words end with the same letters or not.

There's a word for it in French: rime pour l'oreille (literally, rhyme for the ear), which is a rhyme which doesn't necessarily satisfy the French poetic criteria to be a rime pour l'œil1 (literally rhyme for the eye).

1 In classical French poetry, words had to rhyme both for the eye and the ear. The rules for rimes pour l'œil probably seem a little esoteric for English speakers; for example, doux and nous were allowable rhymes, but you weren't allowed to rhyme these words with tout, despite the fact that their pronunciations are do, noo, and too.

  • Homograph, homophone, homonym, heteronym. It looks established that 'homophone is the answer.
    – Mitch
    Jan 19, 2020 at 16:07
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    @Mitch: rough and ruff are homophones. tough and cuff not homophones, but are an instance of what the OP is asking about. There is possibly a word for it in French. Jan 19, 2020 at 17:45
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    The word for it in French is indeed ear rhyme, that is, rime pour l'oreille. Jan 21, 2020 at 2:35
  • Oh, I see, similar but not identical. I think the only distinction in English is sounding the same (whatever the spelling, same ending or not) called simply 'rhyme', vs spelling the same at the last syllable or so (what ever the pronunciation) called 'spelling rhyme'. And no special terms for rhyming sound and spelling same vs rhyming but not spelled same.
    – Mitch
    Jan 21, 2020 at 13:25

It's called 'assonance' meaning 'sounds the same'. As you note, words do not need to be spelled the same in order to sound the same.

‘Sounds the same’ is what assonance means. https://www.google.co.id/search?q=etymology+assonance&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&hl=en-id&client=safari

  • There I thought assonance was - broadly - as Julie Walter's Rita puts it, "when you get the rhyme wrong…" ie, the words appear as they ought to but in fact don't quite sound the same. Jan 28, 2018 at 15:14
  • I'm going from my sense of the origin of the word, @RobbieGoodwin - son - is sound. It's origin is from sounds like, or I think it means 'resonates with' Think of it like, 2 bells sounding together, resonating. I think that's what it means. Here's a link: google.com.sg/…
    – Jelila
    Jan 29, 2018 at 7:41
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    Use citations to defend your answers. I did some research, and didn't find anything to support your claim.
    – AndyT
    Mar 20, 2018 at 10:39
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    Assonance is rhyming mud and love. Same vowel, but not necessarily the same consonant. Eye rhyme is rhyming mind and wind. Mar 20, 2018 at 11:43

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