Alliteration Definition: Alliteration is the repetition of initial constant sounds of nearby words. It is a literary sound device used for emphasis and effect.
What Does Alliteration Mean?
What is the definition of alliteration? Alliteration only occurs when consonant (not vowel) sounds are repeated in words close to each other. These words may be within the same phrase, clause, or sentence, or they may occur on successive lines (as in poetry or lyrics).
Tongue twisters are a well-known use of alliteration.
- Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.
In this classic example of alliteration, the initial “p” sound creates the alliteration.
The sounds that create alliteration need to be the same consonant sound, but not necessarily the same letter.
- Gnarly gnats need new necklaces.
Here, the “gn” creates an “n” sound which makes this sentence alliterative.
Modern Examples of Alliteration
Alliteration Examples in Music
- “I said a hip, hop, a hippie to the hippie” from “Rapper’s Delight” by The Sugarhill Gang (The “h” sound creates the alliteration.)
- “whisper words of wisdom” from “Let it Be” by The Beatles (The “w” sound creates the alliteration.)
- “I’m dancing on my own/ I make the moves up as I go” from “Shake it Off” by Taylor Swift (The “m” sound creates alliteration.)
Examples in Popular Culture
- “I became 10-time, Tony Award-winning, tapping Texan Tommy Tune,” he said and laughed. “I’m into alliteration!” –USA Today
The Importance and Function of Alliteration
Writers use alliteration for emphasis and effect. They are trying to accomplish something by emphasizing a certain sound. This could be a particular point he is trying to make or he could be trying to create a catchy tune (as in song lyrics).
Like all literary devices, a writer should know how and why he is using alliteration. Typically, alliteration is used sparingly because it is meant for effect.
When a writer uses alliteration, he catches his audience’s attention and more focus is placed on those particular words. This is how he is able to make a certain point by incorporating alliteration.
Examples of Alliteration in Literature
We have covered alliteration in tongue twisters and music, but what about alliteration in a sentence? Here are some famous examples of alliteration in popular literature.
Alliteration Examples in Poetry
- “They click upon themselves/As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored/As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel” from “Birches” by Robert Frost (The hard “c” sound creates alliteration.)
In this example, poet Robert Frost utilizes alliteration combined with onomatopoeia to create sound emphasis.
- And the alliteration and cadences of the lines evoke the actual feeling of tumbling — “How heel over head was I hurled down.”-The New York Times
Alliteration Examples in Fiction
- “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” From The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (The “b” sound creates alliteration.)
In this example, Fitzgerald utilizes alliteration to create rhythm and to reflect the purpose of the sentence. The “b” sound actually creates a “beat” as in rowing.
Alliteration Examples in Shakespeare
- “From forth the fatal loins of these two foes” from Romeo and Juliet Act I Prologue (The “f” sound creates the alliteration.)
Shakespearean actors needed to memorize lines easily since they did not have written scripts. As a result, many of his lines not only rhyme, but also include alliterative phrases to make them digestible for both actor and audience.
Alliteration Examples for Kids
All of our examples thus far would work for kids to understand alliteration, but tongue twisters are an especially fun way to learn. Here are a few to show them.
- Betty Botter bought some butter
- She sells seashells by the seashore
- I saw Susie sitting in a shoeshine shop
- How much wood could a woodchuck chuck; If a woodchuck could chuck wood?
What is alliteration? Alliteration is an effective literary device where consonant sounds are repeated in nearby words for emphasis or effect.
Not every word in the phrase needs to start with the same consonant sound to create alliteration, but there must be at least two words near each other for alliteration to be effective.