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Approximate Rhyme: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:01 Definition of Rhyme &…
  • 0:52 Approximate Rhyme in Poetry
  • 1:45 Changing Vowel Sounds
  • 4:16 Changing Consonant Sounds
  • 4:46 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Angela Janovsky

Angela has taught middle and high school English, Social Studies, and Science for seven years. She has a bachelor's degree in psychology and has earned her teaching license.

This lesson focuses on words or phrases that sound the same, or rhyme. Approximate rhyme is defined, and examples show how it differs from exact rhyme.

Definition of Rhyme and Approximate Rhyme

Rhyme is the repetition of the same sound in two or more words or phrases. An example of two words that rhyme is 'happy' and 'snappy'. Rhyme is a very useful tool in poetry. It allows for poets to create sound patterns in order to emphasize ideas, themes and messages.

Exact rhyme is when the rhyme repeats the exact same vowel sound and consonant sounds. In the previous example, 'happy' and 'snappy' have exact rhyme. The short 'a' sound is followed by a 'p' sound and a long 'e'. The sounds are exactly the same. However, some poets also use approximate rhyme, which is rhyme where the sounds are similar but not exactly the same. Let's look at the use and examples of approximate rhyme.

Approximate Rhyme in Poetry

Because approximate rhyme uses similar sounds, it is also called near rhyme, slant rhyme, off rhyme, partial rhyme, imperfect rhyme, and even half rhyme. It can be extremely useful to poets. Think about it. If a poet must stick to exact rhyme at all times, the choices of rhyming words will be very limited. Lots of words rhyme with happy, but there are only so many words, for instance, that rhyme exactly with a word such as house.

On the other hand, if a poet uses approximate rhyme, many other words can be made to fit into the poem. In addition, a poet may be able to create sound patterns, but avoid the sing-song sound that exact rhymes often produce. This can be helpful if a poet wants a more serious or solemn mood for his poem.

Changing Vowel Sounds to Use Approximate Rhyme

The most common way a poet can use approximate rhyme is to use different vowel sounds with the same consonant sound. For example, look at the pair 'sound' and 'sand'. Yes, there is no way those two words have exact rhyme, but a poet can use the two for approximate rhyme. The only difference between those two words is the vowel sound. 'Sand' has a short 'a' and 'sound' has the longer 'ou' sound.

Some other pairs with this type of approximate rhyme include 'kind/conned' and 'fellow/fallow'.

Let's look at the following lines taken from the poem 'Arms and the Boy' by Wilfred Owen.

Let the boy try along this bayonet-blade
How cold steel is, and keen with hunger of blood.

The final words of the two lines ('blade' and 'blood') have approximate rhyme. Both have the same consonant sounds: 'b', 'l' and 'd'. The difference is in the vowel sound ('a' versus 'oo'). Using approximate rhyme in this case allows Owen a wider variety of words to fit the grim mood of his poem without sounding like a lighthearted jingle.

Let's look at the first stanza of another poem by Owen titled 'Strange Meeting.' See if you can spot all the approximate rhyme he uses.

It seemed that out of battle I escaped
Down some profound dull tunnel, long since scooped
Through granites which titanic wars had groined.
Yet also there encumbered sleepers groaned,
Too fast in thought or death to be bestirred.
Then, as I probed them, one sprang up, and stared
With piteous recognition in fixed eyes,
Lifting distressful hands, as if to bless.
And by his smile, I knew that sullen hall, -
By his dead smile I knew we stood in Hell.

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