When thinking of short slogans or sayings there is great value in having something that is fun to say and has good shape, but not necessarily directly rhyming. If the rhyme is too literal, it tends to have a sing-songy tone.

The phrase “Keep calm and carry on” felt as though it had the property I’m looking for.

Is there a term to describe this kind of “almost-rhyme”?

  • Generation of random example lists is not germane to the purpose of the site; see english.stackexchange.com/faq.
    – chaos
    Commented Jun 27, 2012 at 12:35
  • 1
    @chaos However the question may well be salvageable (edited accordingly)
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Jun 27, 2012 at 13:09

3 Answers 3


There is no rhyme in the sentence, but its rhythm is iambic, that is, one unstressed syllable followed by a stressed one. It is typical of English speech and frequently found in English verse. The sentence is also alliterative, in that three of the five words begin with the sound /k/. Alliteration was a feature of Old English verse, and it still appeals to the ears of English speakers. It may be these features combined that you, and perhaps others, find pleasing. It has to be said, though, that the sentence, which has its origins in Britain in the Second World War, has been done to death.

  • "calm" and "on" are very good near-rhymes (differing only in having a different nasal last consonant) in many dialects of American English. Commented Jun 27, 2012 at 17:40
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    @PeterShor: Not in BrEng, in which I imagine it is mostly said. Commented Jun 27, 2012 at 17:42
  • On the other hand, the OP is in the U.S. Commented Jun 27, 2012 at 20:12

Near rhymes (which also go by several other terms, such as inexact rhymes or slant rhymes) are words that do not completely rhyme, but parts of them do, or the words sound similar. I think "Keep calm and carry on" is more of an example of consonance:

Consonance is a poetic device characterized by the repetition of the same consonant two or more times in short succession, as in "pitter patter" or in "all mammals named Sam are clammy".

Consonance is not just for poems, however. It also gives prose a pleasing, memorable cadence.


Perhaps you are looking for the word "alliteration"?

  • 4
    That's something else, it has to do with the starting letters of words.
    – Glorfindel
    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 18:09
  • 1
    Alliteration: the occurrence of the same letter or sound at the beginning of adjacent or closely connected words. Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 19:59

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