Alliteration | Definition, Characteristics, Examples in Literature

Alliteration | Definition, Characteristics, Examples in Literature


Alliteration Definition

Alliteration is a figure in which the same letter, syllable, or sound is repeated at the beginning in a sequence of successive or nearly successive words.

‘The term,’ explains Abrams, ‘is usually applied only to consonants, and only when the recurrent sound occurs in a conspicuous position at the beginning of a word or of a stressed syllable with in a word.’

This consists, Nesfield remarks, ‘in the repetition of the same letter or syllable at the beginning of two or more words.’

A. F. Scott is of the view that this device is the close repetition, not of the same letter, but of the same sound, usually at the beginning of words’.

All these show that there is divergence of opinion as regards the definition of this figure.

What is alliteration?

This figure is a metrical ornament, used chiefly in poetry. This is actually the repetition of speech sounds in a sequence of nearby words. The term is usually applied to consonants.

Functions of Alliteration

Alliteration brings a sensuous pleasure to the car. Through repetition of the same sound or letter it also makes a line emphatic.

Alliteration Examples

Here are examples of alliteration with clear elaboration:

In this figure sometimes a sound may be repeated, e.g., “With blade, with bloody blameful blade”.

Sometimes, again, a letter may be repeated, e.g., ‘After life’s fitful fever’.

Finally, we may notice also the repetition of a syllable, e. g.. ‘Unwept, uthonoured, unsung’ (Scott).

Thus in Gray’s line- “Ruin sieze thee, ruthless king”– the letter is repeated at the beginning of nearly successive words, ‘ruin’ and ‘ruthless’. ‘R’ is, of course, a consonant.

Characteristics of Alliteration

The chief characteristics of Alliteration are given below:

(i) There is a repetition.

(ii) It is either about a sound, or a letter, or a syllable used in words.

(iii) The words are successive or nearly successive.

Alliteration Vs Consonance

It is to be noted that some authorities have tried to distinguish Alliteration from its close allies–Consonance and Assonance. ” Consonance is the repetition of a sequence of consonants, but with a change in the intervening stressed vowel : live-love, lean-alone, pitter—patter.’

Assonance Vs Alliteration

Assonance, on the other hand, consists in the repetition of identical or similar vowel sounds especially in stressed syllables –in a sequence of nearby words’, e.g., the long sound in the following:

Thou foster child of silence and slow time. (Keats)


  • An Austrian army awfully arrayed.

This is alliteration.

In this figure the same sound or letter is repeated in a sequence of nearby words.

Here the initial position in each word of the above example is occupied by the same letter having also the same or almost same sound.

  • Ruin seize thee, ruthless king. (Gray)

This is alliteration.

In this figure the same sound or letter is repeated in a sequence of nearby words.

Here the sounds ‘ru’ and ‘th’ are repeated in different words of the same line.

Alliteration Examples in Literature

  1. A fair field full of folk. (Langland)
  2. In a summer season when soft was the sun

I shaped me in shrouds as I a sheep were. (Langland)

  1. Apt Alliteration’s artful aid. (C. Churchill)
  2. Nor cast one longing lingering look behind. (Gray)
  3. Glittering through gloomy glades. (Pope)
  4. His heavy-shotted hammock-shroud. (Tennyson)
  5. The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew, The furrow followed free. (Coleridge)
  6. Lying silent and sad in the afternoon of shadow and sunshine. (Longfellow)
  7. For I have neither wit, nor words, nor worth.
  8. The bare black cliff clanged round him. (Tennyson)
  9. Alone, alone, all, all alone, Alone on a wide, wide sea! (Coleridge)
  10. The faint fresh flame of the young year flushes

From leaf to flower, from flower to fruit.

  1. Puffs, powders, patches, bibles, biliet-doux. (Pope)
  2. The portly presence of potentates goodly in girth. (Masefield)
  3. Landscape plotted and pieced–fold, fallow and plough. (Hopkins)
  4. Round and round the rugged rocks the ragged rascal ran. (Shakespeare)
  5. Full fathom five thy father lies. (Shakespeare)
  6. Cossack commanders cannonading come,

Deal devastation’s dire destructive doom.

  1. A strong man struggling with the storms of fate. (Addison)
  2. The field of freedom, faction, fame and blood. (Byron)
  3. After life’s fitful fever, he sleeps well. (Shakespeare)
  4. Forest, ferny floor. (Walter de la Mare)
  5. And the gay grandsire, skilled in gestic lore. -Goldsmith

Also Read:

Metonymy | Definition, Characteristics, Variety, Examples in Literature

5 Best Alliteration Poems

  1. The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe

“Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore, —
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping.”

  1. Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

“And the balls like pulses beat;
For the sky and the sea, and the sea and the sky
Lay like a load on my weary eye”

  1. The Caged Bird by Maya Angelou

The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn bright lawn.”

  1. I heard a Fly buzz – when I died by Emily Dickinson

“I heard a Fly buzz – when I died –
The Stillness in the Room
Was like the Stillness in the Air –
Between the Heaves of Storm”

  1. Paradise Lost by John Milton

“Scarce from his mold
Behemoth, biggest born of earth, upheaved
His vastness.”

Alliteration in Beowulf

Beowulf (as translated by Seamus Heaney)

“He was four times a father, this fighter prince:
one by one they entered the world,
Heorogar, Hrothgar, the good Halga
and a daughter, I have heard, who was Onela´s queen,
balm in bed to the battle-scarred Swede.”

Alliteration Sentences

  • The girl happily helped the homeless.
  • He dunked the delicious donut in dairy creamer.
  • The lion licked his lips.
  • A paper plane passed over my head.
  • She sells sea-shells on the seashore.

Familiar Alliterative Expressions

  • hale and hearty
  • hearth and home
  • kith and kin
  • rhyme or reason
  • safe and sound
  • watch and ward
  • weal and woe
  • wit and wisdom

Alliteration Generator

If you wish to create  superb piece of poetry by using alliteration then click the links bellow to generate alliteration of your choice:

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