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Imperfect Rhyme

An imperfect rhyme is the opposite of a perfect rhyme. It refers to two words that rhyme in part, but not perfectly.

Two words that are considered imperfect rhyme may also be known as half-rhymes, near rhymes, slant rhymes, and more. These are two words that meet some of the criteria of perfect rhymes, the same emphasized vowel or consonant sound, but not all. 

Imperfect rhymes are interesting in that they allow the reader to feel some unity and song-like qualities from the words in multiple lines of poetry while also not creating a perfect pattern, one that might make the poem seem too contrived. Perfect rhymes are capable of connecting to phrases or ideas in the reader’s mind in the same way that perfect vibes are.

Imperfect Rhyme Definition and Examples

Imperfect Rhyme Definition

The term “imperfect rhyme” refers to the way that words with some connection, but not a perfect one, correspond.

The poet may choose to end their lines with a pattern of imperfect rhymes. Or, they might end two lines out of an entire poem this way. It’s also common to see imperfect rhymes within the middle of the same or successive lines of verse

Imperfect rhymes can be created in multiple ways. They can be constructed with examples of assonance or continents. That is the use of corresponding vowel sounds or consonant sounds. An example that utilizes assonance in the final syllable is “bad” and “cat.” An example with consonance includes “picked” and “abducted.” 

Some more examples of imperfect rhymes include:

  • “Love” and “move” 
  • “Mom” and “plum” 
  • “Bridge” and “fudge” 

What is a Perfect Rhyme? 

A perfect time, also known as an exact time, for rhyme or true rhyme, is the traditional type of rhyme that most readers are going to expect before reading a piece of poetry. Distressed vowel sounds in both words are identical, as are the sounds that follow. Some examples of perfect rhymes include:

  • “Dead” and “read” 
  • “Me” and “sea” 
  • “Cat” and “hat”
  • “Deck” and “neck” 

Examples of Imperfect Rhymes 

Song of the Witches: “Double, double toil and trouble” by William Shakespeare 

This excerpt can be found in the well-loved tragedy, Macbeth. A chorus sings the lines of three witches who bring Macbeth prophecies (ones that eventually lead to his death). The lines read: 

Double, double toil and trouble;

Fire burn and caldron bubble.

Fillet of a fenny snake,

In the caldron boil and bake;

Eye of newt and toe of frog,

Wool of bat and tongue of dog,

Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting,

Lizard’s leg and howlet’s wing,

For a charm of powerful trouble,

Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

Readers can find great examples of perfect and imperfect rhymes in these lines. The short excerpt is a wonderful example of Shakespeare’s skill with language. Examples of imperfect rhymes in this passage include “boil” and “bubble,” “sting” and “dog,” as well as “Fillet” and “fenny.”

 There are also numerous examples of perfect rhymes. For instance, “dog” and “frog,” “sting” and “wing” and “trouble” and “bubble.” 

Explore William Shakespeare’s poetry and his best plays.

Felo de see byThomas Blackburn

‘Felo de se’ by Thomas Blackburn is a great example of a poem that makes use of both perfect and imperfect rhymes in its pattern. The poem speaks on themes of relationships, the treatment of women, and death. Consider these lines from the beginning of the poem: 

‘Thirty,’ the doctor said, ‘three grains, each one,

‘That’s quite a lot of sodium-amytol!

Five, ten more minutes, and the job was done,

Just why do you think she wished to end it all?

Ah, well, that’s not my business. You’ve her things?

Damn lucky that I had the stomach pump –

Take them up to her if the Sister rings.’

I thanked him and agreed the night was damp,

The words “damp” and “pump” are strong half-rhymes or imperfect rhymes in these lines. “Sodium-amytol” and “all” are also imperfect rhymes. Among these examples are perfect rhymes like “one” and “done” and “rings” and “things.” 

Discover more Thomas Blackburn poems


Why do poets use imperfect rhymes? 

Poets may choose to use perfect rhymes or slant rhymes in order to make a pattern some more cohesive without giving it a perfect rhyme. They are not as distinct as perfect rhymes and can also be more unexpected. Using imperfect rhymes also allows the poet to choose from more possibilities. They are not going to be confined to picking words that only rhyme perfectly, something that significantly limits their vocabulary.

What is an imperfect or close rhyme?

Imperfect rhyme is also sometimes known as a slant rhyme or close rhyme. These terms suggest that two words are similar to one another but are not perfect rhymes. The sounds are not identical. For example, “trouble” and “bubble.” 

What are the three types of rhyme?

There are several different types of rhymes. The main two types of rhymes are perfect and imperfect rhymes. These are also sometimes known as full or half frames. Readers may also come across eye rhymes, masculine and feminine rhymes, internal, and rhymes.

Why are rhymes important? 

Depending on the piece of poetry, rhyming may be more or less important. For those poems that use rhyme, it is an important way of creating a specific feeling. Some poets like the way that rhyme schemes make their poems sound more musical. Others veer away from rhyme schemes in order to avoid this very feature.

  • Cadence: the natural rhythm of a piece of text, created through a writer’s selective arrangement of words, rhymes, and the creation of meter.
  • End Rhyme: a common type of rhyme found in poetry. They occur when the last word of two or more lines rhyme.
  • Exact Rhyme: a literary device that’s used in poetry. It occurs when the writer uses the same stressed vowel or consonant sounds.
  • Eye Rhyme:  a literary device used in poetry. It occurs when two words are spelled the same or similarly but are pronounced differently.
  • Broken Rhyme: an interesting type of rhyme that occurs when a poet cuts a word in half to create rhyme. 

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