Do the words map and cat rhyme?

I'm of the opinion that they do because—even though they end with different sounds—the vowel sound is the same.

Please help settle a debate between my children and me.

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    The kids are almost certainly being taught in school that the words don't rhyme, regardless of any nuanced answer given below.
    – jimm101
    Feb 27, 2023 at 13:44
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    /p/ and /t/ are similar sounds, but in your opinion does map rhyme with cash, stamp, pacts and/or cab? It's not clear why you think map and cat rhyme, maybe you are unable to differentiate /p/ and /t/ (both can be pronounced as a glottal stop in some dialects).
    – Stuart F
    Feb 27, 2023 at 14:30
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    The classic study is Zwicky, 1976, "Well, this rock-and-roll has got to stop: Junior's head is hard as a rock". Feb 27, 2023 at 15:26
  • @jimm101 you mean "based on the reasoning used by the nuanced answer given below"?
    – justhalf
    Feb 28, 2023 at 9:05
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2 Answers 2


It depends what meaning of rhyme you choose.

The OED has a note attached to its definition of "rhyme":

Rhyme, strictly speaking, is regarded as extending to the last stressed vowel and any sounds following it, whether within one word or more than one, in patterns such as female, feminine, male, masculine, rich, tailed rhyme, etc.; however, use of the word frequently includes various kinds of partial correspondence, as eye-, near-, off-, slant-rhyme, etc.: for these terms see the first element.The term is sometimes extended to include assonance and even alliteration (initial or head rhyme).

So no, they do not rhyme "strictly speaking", but the word is sometimes used more loosely.

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    I think this answer reads a little too much leeway into the OED definition. The OED does not merely exclude assonance from the strict definition (as the rest of the answer suggests), but explicitly labels use of the word for assonance an extension. That suggests the OED consider such use less valid than merely a "loose" usage (which would be the eye-, near-, off-, and slant-rhymes they mention earlier). The OED exclude it from rhyme not only sensu stricto, but also sensu lato, allowing it only sensu latissimo - in the broadest sense
    – Tristan
    Feb 28, 2023 at 14:32
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    it is also worth stating explicitly that in school the children are likely being taught, and expected to use the word, in one of it's stricter senses (possibly allowing rhymes just of the last syllable, rather than from the last stressed syllable)
    – Tristan
    Feb 28, 2023 at 14:34
  • In one of his books, Stephen Sondheim decried "near rhymes" as lazy lyric writing.
    – Barmar
    Feb 28, 2023 at 14:42
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    @Barmar Any "rhymes" other than true rhymes are almost universally frowned on in musical theatre writing (Sondheim’s genre, for any who don’t know), but in pop, rock, etc., clever half rhymes are often appreciated, or at least accepted. Feb 28, 2023 at 19:57
  • @ToddWilcox Yeah, but there's a tremendous pop influence on modern musical theatre (not even including rock operas and productions based on the library of pop superstars).
    – Barmar
    Feb 28, 2023 at 20:14

Map and cat do not rhyme but they have assonance.

assonance n.

2.a. Prosody. The correspondence or rhyming of one word with another in the accented vowel and those which follow, but not in the consonants, as used in the versification of Old French, Spanish, Celtic, and other languages.

1861 F. A. March Eng. Lang. (1862) 403 The rule of assonance..requires the repetition of the same vowels in the assonant words, from the last accented vowel inclusive. Thus man and hat, nation and traitor, penitent and reticence, are assonant couples of words.

  • 1
    These days we may think of poetry mostly in terms of rhyme (which can be seen as a specific type of assonance), but assonance generally has been important in poetry too; the Wikipedia page gives many examples.
    – gidds
    Feb 28, 2023 at 11:06
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    @user888379 I was going to mention alliteration too, but you then have to mention consonance too — of which alliteration is a subtype, just as rhyme is a subtype of assonance, but that needs further links, and by then the comment was getting unmanageable so I edited it out :-)
    – gidds
    Feb 28, 2023 at 19:46
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    In Romance languages, both assonant rhyme and consonant rhyme are considered rhymes: see here. Of those two, assonant rhyme is by far the more common because it is easier to make with their words. Alliteration is sometimes called head rhyme in Germanic poetry, but it is not the same thing as what consonant rhyme means in Romance, which is a kind of tail rhyme. There’s also a distinction between single-syllabled masculine rhyme and many-syllabled feminine rhyme, where the feminine rhyme is the rarer of the two because it is so much harder.
    – tchrist
    Mar 1, 2023 at 13:49
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    I wish I could remember where I saw a web page about sonnets, which suggested that beyond the ABAB rhyme scheme within each quatrain, there was an AABB pattern of stresses: "Shall I comPARE the to a SUMmer's day. Thou art more LOVEly and more TEMperate. Harsh WINDS do SHAKE the darling buds of MAY, and SUMmer's BREEZE hath all too short a DATE". Yet another way in which lines of poetry can be sonically related to each other.
    – supercat
    Mar 2, 2023 at 20:58

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