Rhyme Structure: Definition & Types

Instructor: Patricia Vineski
In this lesson, you'll learn what a rhyme structure is and how the different types of rhyme structure function in poetry. Take a look at the types of rhyme structure and examples, and then test your knowledge with a quiz.


We all have those snatches of commercial jingles or old nursery rhymes that stick to our brains and pop up only to drive us crazy. We might be driving to work or to the mall. We might be sitting quietly and contemplating life or trying to get the kids off to school. Wherever we are, and whatever we are doing, suddenly there it is; that song we learned in first grade, or that commercial jingle for soap or hot dogs. Perhaps it's someone's birthday and we suddenly recall that old smart-aleck version of the traditional tune - 'happy birthday to you, you live in a zoo, you look like a monkey, and you smell like one too' - that we sang to our siblings, oh so quietly, so as to torment them without letting on to our parents what we were doing. The reason we remember those old nursery rhymes and commercial jingles is because they have a rhyme structure, or pattern of rhymes, that create a repetition that attracts, and engages, our sense of sound.

In poetry, the rhyme structure is the pattern of rhymes in a poem. These patterns can occur within a line, or at the end of a line. They can occur as identical or perfect rhymes or near or slant rhymes. They can also occur as feminine or masculine rhymes.

Rhyme Structure Types

The End Rhyme Structure

The end rhyme structure is the most common type, and uses a pattern of rhyming the final syllables of a line.

For example: in Virginia Hamilton Adair's, 'Midstairs'

'And here on this turning of the stair
Between passion and doubt,
I pause and say a double prayer,
One for you, and one for you;
And so they cancel out.'

Notice how the final syllables of 'stair,' and 'prayer' end in one sound, while 'doubt' and 'out' end in another sound, with the 'you' being another sound altogether. This creates a rhyme structure in which line one is rhymed with line three, line two with line five, and with line four not being rhymed with any other line.

The Half Rhyme Structure

The half, or slant, rhyme structure is a pattern of rhyming the consonant or vowel sounds in a word.

For example: in Geoffrey Hill's, 'On Seeing the Wind at Hope Mansell'

'Whether or not shadows are of the substance
such is the expectation I can
wait to surprise my vision as a wind
enters the valley: sudden and silent'

Notice how the 'w' and 's' sounds in 'whether, shadows', and 'substance' are repeated, as is the short 'u' sound in 'of' and the 'sub' of 'substance' in the first line, creating a repetition of sounds that link the words together within the line. There is also the end slant rhyming of the 'a' and 'n' sounds in the second syllable of 'substance' and 'can, wind' and 'silent,' and the short 'I' sound' in 'wind' with the second syllable of 'silent.'

The Identical Rhyme Structure

The identical, or perfect, rhyme structure employs two words that are identical in sound from the point in which each word's vowel occurs to the end of the word.

For example: in William Blake's 'Silent, Silent Night,' the words 'night, light,' and 'bright' rhyme in all respects but the first letter of each word, rhyming each line of the stanza with the other.

'Silent Silent Night
Quench the holy light
Of thy torches bright '

The Internal Rhyme Structure

The Internal rhyme structure rhymes a word from the middle of a line with a word at the end of the line.

For example: in the first three lines of Edgar Allan Poe's, 'The Raven'

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