Some English words only differ in their vowels: crisscross, dillydally, riffraff, etc. Is there a name for them?
Frozen reduplicative phrases like these, especially ones made of nonsense or phonosemantic roots like riffraff or hocus-pocus, are simply called Freezes in the literature, following Cooper and Ross 1975*, the first study to investigate them thoroughly.
Of course, freezes like hocus-pocus don't vary the vowels but the consonants. There is to my knowledge no fancy name for freezes that vary only their vowels.
Cooper and Ross* note that there are a number of reasons, some phonological and some semantic, that explain why one does not find reverse freezes like
*raffriff, *pocus-hocus, *crosscriss, *dallydilly
*William E. Cooper and John Robert Ross, 1975. "World Order" in Grossman, San, & Vance, eds. Papers from the Parasession on Functionalism, Chicago Linguistic Society.
It’s called reduplication. You find it in such words as zigzag and mishmash. It’s especially common in hyphenated words like chit-chat and teeter-totter. Here is a selection of such from the OED:
bibble-babble drip-drop moon-man shiffle-shuffle tisty-tosty bing-bang fible-fable muster-master shilly-shally tit-tat bingle-bangle fiddle-faddle niddle-noddle shim-sham titter-totter chiff-chaff filly-folly niddy-noddy sing-song tittle-tattle chip-chop fingle-fangle nid-nod skimble-skamble titty-totty chit-chat fix-fax niff-naff slipper-slopper tric-trac chitter-chatter flim-flam niggers-noggers slip-slap trim-tram chuffe-chaffe flip-flap nig-nog slip-slop tringum-trangum click-clack flip-flop ning-nong smick-smack trinkum-trankum clink-clank flipperty-flopperty peat-pot snick-snack trittle-trattle clinkum-clankum fribble-frabble pid-pad snipper-snapper trit-trot clip-clop gibble-gabble ping-pong snip-snap twiddle-twaddle clipper-clapper giff-gaff pip-pop spitter-spatter twingle-twangle clish-clash head-hid pish-pash splish-splash whimsy-whamsy clitter-clatter higgle-haggle pit-pat splishy-splashy whim-wham clush-clash hip-hop pitter-patter squish-squash whitter-whatter coon-can hirrie-harrie plip-plop swing-swang whittie-whattie crick-crack jibber-jabber pot-peat swish-swash wibble-wobble crickle-crackle jiggy-joggy prittle-prattle switter-swatter wibbly-wobbly crinkle-crankle jim-jam ribble-rabble teenty-taunty widdle-waddle crinkly-crankly jingle-jangle rickety-rackety teeny-tiny wiggle-waggle crinkum-crankum kim-kam ric-rac tick-tack wiggly-waggly criss-cross knick-knack riff-raff tick-tock wig-wag dibble-dabble knit-knot rip-rap ticky-tacky wimble-wamble diddle-daddle Lib-Lab rittle-rattle tig-tag wimbly-wambly dilly-dally ling-long rope-ripe tingle-tangle wish-wash dimber-damber loch-leech scribble-scrabble ting-tang wishy-washy dindle-dandle micro-macro scrip-scrap tinkle-tankle wringle-wrangle ding-dong mingle-mangle scritch-scratch tipsy-topsy dingle-dangle mish-mash sheet-shot tip-tap dingle-dongle mixty-maxty shick-shack tip-top
Those all match the (ir)regular expression
^ (\w+) ([aeiouy]+) (\w+) - \1 (?! \2 ) [aeiouy]+ \3 $
. . . which is how I found them.
Here’s the same list after running John’s pipeline. I’ve right-justified them so it lines up more interestingly.
Lib-Lab jingle-jangle clish-clash slip-slap pit-pat ric-rac mingle-mangle clush-clash snip-snap tit-tat tric-trac wringle-wrangle splish-splash rip-rap sheet-shot pid-pad tingle-tangle mish-mash scrip-scrap knit-knot head-hid twingle-twangle pish-pash tip-tap peat-pot nid-nod dingle-dongle squish-squash hip-hop trit-trot chuffe-chaffe crickle-crackle wish-wash chip-chop fix-fax hirrie-harrie crinkle-crankle swish-swash clip-clop niddy-noddy whittie-whattie tinkle-tankle shick-shack flip-flop jiggy-joggy fible-fable rittle-rattle click-clack plip-plop splishy-splashy bibble-babble prittle-prattle smick-smack slip-slop wishy-washy dibble-dabble trittle-trattle knick-knack pip-pop ticky-tacky gibble-gabble tittle-tattle snick-snack drip-drop wibbly-wobbly ribble-rabble rope-ripe crick-crack tip-top wimbly-wambly scribble-scrabble giff-gaff tick-tack jibber-jabber wiggly-waggly fribble-frabble chiff-chaff tick-tock dimber-damber crinkly-crankly wibble-wobble niff-naff clink-clank clipper-clapper dilly-dally skimble-skamble riff-raff shim-sham snipper-snapper shilly-shally wimble-wamble tig-tag whim-wham slipper-slopper filly-folly diddle-daddle wig-wag jim-jam muster-master teeny-tiny fiddle-faddle bing-bang kim-kam chitter-chatter whimsy-whamsy widdle-waddle ting-tang flim-flam whitter-whatter tipsy-topsy twiddle-twaddle swing-swang trim-tram clitter-clatter rickety-rackety niddle-noddle ding-dong tringum-trangum pitter-patter teenty-taunty dindle-dandle ling-long clinkum-clankum spitter-spatter flipperty-flopperty shiffle-shuffle ning-nong crinkum-crankum switter-swatter tisty-tosty higgle-haggle ping-pong trinkum-trankum titter-totter titty-totty wiggle-waggle sing-song coon-can niggers-noggers mixty-maxty bingle-bangle nig-nog moon-man criss-cross dingle-dangle loch-leech micro-macro pot-peat fingle-fangle scritch-scratch flip-flap chit-chat
And here are some that differ in the initial consonant cluster:
sea-flea splash-dash pop-shop hurdy-gurdy sea-pea rush-bush top-crop rowdy-dowdy fa-la sci-fi pop-top crowdy-mowdy tirra-lirra hi-fi fender-bender hokey-cokey hob-job Wi-Fi gender-bender hokey-pokey hob-nob demi-semi hugger-mugger lovey-dovey club-drub tutti-frutti killer-diller ruffy-tuffy dead-head jack-back pooper-scooper piggy-wiggy seed-bed back-pack super-duper hootchy-kootchy wed-bed pack-track water-skater ricky-ticky zed-bed pack-sack helter-skelter mifky-pifky seed-weed back-tack whister-clister hanky-panky shagged-ragged nick-stick pitter-litter minky-winky skid-lid rick-stick butter-cutter hooky-crooky mind-blind rock-cock fair-hair sally-fly hoard-ward cock-block hurr-burr dry-fly soogee-moogee stock-lock dos-à-dos Piggly-Wiggly tee-hee smock-frock hocus-pocus higly-pigly hokee-pokee cook-book holus-bolus jelly-belly hodge-podge fal-lal rat-bat willy-nilly boogie-woogie pall-mall float-boat lilly-pilly walkie-talkie pell-mell rat-tat nilly-willy nookie-bookie will-gill night-light trolly-lolly curlie-wurlie trill-rill night-sight roly-poly peepie-creepie noll-kholl light-tight hurly-burly tulyie-mulyie tol-lol tit-bit curly-wurly hubble-bubble wham-bam hot-shot miminy-piminy scamble-shamble william-nilliam pot-shot niminy-piminy ramble-scramble ram-jam root-knot toy-boy nimble-pimble cram-jam hot-pot shoy-hoy humble-jumble ram-stam nut-cut nimpy-pimpy mumble-jumble hirdum-dirdum tohu-bohu rumpy-pumpy rumble-jumble heckum-peckum yaw-haw happy-clappy rumble-tumble harum-scarum tow-row hickery-pickery double-trouble rum-strum kow-tow shimmery-whimmery toodle-loodle rum-tum bow-wow quavery-mavery raggle-taggle pan-man Tex-Mex dry-fry ringle-jingle fan-tan lay-day rory-tory keckle-meckle ran-tan play-day cherry-merry hustle-bustle fen-phen May-day hurry-burry razzle-dazzle sin-bin pay-day hurry-scurry prime-time lin-pin nay-say teensy-weensy ruff-scuff non-con play-way hotsy-totsy huff-duff Hobson-Jobson rubby-dubby slawsy-gawsy shag-bag bon-ton namby-pamby highty-tighty rag-bag loco-foco hiddy-giddy hoity-toity shag-rag Neo-Geo hoddy-doddy ranty-tanty tag-rag yoo-hoo coddy-moddy humpty-dumpty rag-tag to-fro hoddy-noddy flibberty-gibberty gang-bang snap-cap fuddy-duddy twisty-wisty mincing-pincing rap-tap higgledy-piggledy nitty-gritty wing-ding drip-tip handy-dandy tuzzy-muzzy fog-dog stump-jump randy-dandy fuzzy-wuzzy catch-match cop-shop lardy-dardy hotch-potch slop-shop hirdy-girdy
Some words of this kind are formed by reduplication:-
- Linguistics a. To double (the initial syllable or all of a root word) to produce an inflectional or derivational form. b. To form (a new word) by doubling all or part of a word.
although crisscross isn't formed this way:-
[Alteration of Middle English Cristcrosse, mark of a cross, short for Cristcross (me speed), may Christ's cross (give me success).]
it would appear that riff-raff:-
[Middle English riffe raffe, from rif and raf, one and all, from Anglo-Norman rif et raf, rifle et rafle : Old French rifler, to rifle; see rifle2 + Old French raffler, to carry off (from raffle, act of seizing; see raffle).]
1930–35; probably < Yiddish hu-ha to-do, uproar, exclamation of surprise; compare Polish hu-ha exclamation of joy
are, if you track them back to the original languages.
Words in which only one sound is different are called minimal pairs.