What is Assonance? Definition, Examples of Assonance in Literature

Definition of assonance: Assonance is the repetition of a vowel sound that occurs in words that do not rhyme.

What Does Assonance Mean?

What is assonance? Assonance is created when non-rhyming words with similar vowel sounds are placed in close proximity to one another to create a rhythmic sound.

 

 

Assonance Examples:

  • The bird stirs at the break of dawn.
    • The short vowel sound of “i” repeats in the words bird and stirs to create assonance
  • Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.
    • In this famous saying, the short vowel sound of “e” is repeated in friends and enemies to create assonance.

Modern Examples of Assonance

assonance examplesMany of the famous sayings and proverbs we have learned over the years include the literary device assonance.

The repetition of the sounds in these catchy phrases allows for them to be easily remembered.

  • There’s no place like home.
    • No, home = repetition of long “o”
  • Don’t mix business with pleasure.
    • Mix, business = repetition of short “i”
  • Don’t let the cat out of the bag.
    • Cat, bag = repetition of short “a”

What is the Function of Assonance?

Assonance is used to create a rhythm with your words. One may choose to use this device when trying to create a pleasing sound with words in a way other than end rhyme. Because assonance is often associated with rhythm, poets tend to use this device more than other writers.

As with any literary device, assonance can be overused to the point where it loses its effect. Skilled writers and poets use such devices sparingly to maximize the effect in their prose.

Examples of Assonance in Literature

assonance definitionAs mentioned above, assonance is most commonly found in poetry because poets pay particular attention to the rhythm of their words.

Example of Assonance in Poetry:

Edgar Allan Poe uses assonance to create rhythm in his poem “The Bells.”

  • “How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,/ In the icy air of night!/While the stars that oversprinkle/ All the heavens seem to twinkle/ With a crystalline delight;/ Keeping time, time, time,/ In a sort of Runic rhyme”

Here we have the repetition of the long “i” sound with several words: icy, night, while, crystalline, delight, time, rhyme

Langston Hughes develops a rhythm using assonance in his poem “Theme For English B.”

  • “Well, I like to eat, sleep, drink, and be in love”

Here we see the repetition of the long “e” sound with the words eat, sleep, drink, and be.

Anne Sexton writes with assonance is her lyrical poem “Courage.”

  • Later,/ when you face old age and its natural conclusion/ your courage will still be shown in the little ways”

First, we have the long “a” repetition: later, face, age, and ways. Second, we have the short “i” repetition: when, its, will, still, and little.

Finally, let’s look at a poem by Dr. Suess called “West Beast East Beast.”

Upon an island hard to reach,
The East Beast sits upon his beach.
Upon the west beach sits the West Beast.
Each beach beast thinks he’s the best beast.
Which beast is best?…Well, I thought at first,
That the East was best and the West was worst.
Then I looked again from the west to the east
And I liked the beast on the east beach least.

In this poem, we see the repeated use of the ea sound in the words reach, east, beast, beach, each, least.

Test Your Knowledge: Exercise in Assonance

assonance poetry definitionPractice your knowledge of identifying assonance by choosing the sentence below that is an example of assonance.

Which Sentence is the Best Example of Assonance?

  • Sally sold seashells by the seashore.
  • Nancy danced as though ants were in her pants.
  • Jack and Jill went up the hill.

See answer below.

Summary

Define assonance in literature: Assonance is the repetition of similar or identical vowel sounds in neighboring words. By repeating these sounds, the writer is able to create a rhythm in his/her words.

Here’s a final example from William Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 18”:

  • “Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines”

Sometime, eye, and shine = repetition of the long “i”

Answer From Above:

The correct answer is: Nancy danced as though ants were in her pants.

Repeating the short “a” sound in the following words creates assonance: Nancy, danced, as, ants, and pants.