How to alliterate

Alliterate, literate and illiterate are words that are very close in spelling and pronunciation, but have very different meanings. They are often confused. We will examine the definitions of the words alliterate, literate and illiterate, where these words came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

Alliterate means to use alliteration or to demonstrate alliteration. Alliteration is the use of the same consonant sound at the beginning of successive words or the beginning of successive syllables. Alliteration involves the repetition of sound, not letters. For instance, the phrase “catch a kettle of carp” shows alliteration, even though the “k” sound is spelled with both a k and a c. Alliteration in a literary work may be missed if the work is read silently. Alliteration is not rhyme, which involves successive words with the same ending sound, such as “the cat in the hat”. Alliteration is a literary device that is most often seen in poetry. The nursery rhyme Peter Piper is a good example of alliteration: “ Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked. If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, how many pickled peppers did Peter Piper pick?” Many examples abound in the lyrics of Gilbert and Sullivan. For instance this line in the Major-General Song from the Pirates of Penzance: “ I am the very model of a modern Major-General…” Note that alliteration is used in tongue-twisters, which are poems or phrases that are difficult to pronounce, especially quickly. The word alliterate was coined in the 1770s as a back-formation of the word alliteration, which in turn was derived from the Latin word alliterare which means to start with the same letter. Alliterate is an intransitive verb, which is a verb that does not take an object. Related words are alliterates, alliterated, alliterating. The adjective form is alliterative.

Literate describes someone who has the capability to read and write. The word literate may be used to mean being well-educated in a certain area. The amount of the world population who is literate has steadily risen over time, with better access to education and educational materials. The word literate is derived from the Latin word literatus , which means knowing letters, or educated. Literate is an adjective, related words are the noun literacy and the adverb literately.

Illiterate describes someone who is unable to read and write. Illiterate may also be used to mean someone who is generally uneducated or ignorant about a particular subject. The word illiterate is a result of adding the prefix in- to the word literate. In- means not or the opposite of something. Illiterate is an adjective, related words are the noun illiteracy and the adverb illiterately.

It would also be nice if that third adjective could alliterate with “free” and “fair”. (The Nation)

There’s much online debate about why all the characters – Suzy Sheep, Pedro Pony, Rebecca Rabbit – are alliterated apart from Peppa’s brother. (The Mirror)

If a child makes it past the third grade without mastering the ability to read, it is likely they will not be a highly literate adult. (The Park Record)

The United Nations Children Education Fund says Nigeria is losing out on a literate and skilled workforce it needs to grow economically due to huge number of out of school children. (The Eagle)

A dyslexic mother who has children in care has been branded an ‘illiterate’ complainant who makes ‘spurious allegations’ in an email sent to her in error by the head of Jersey’s Children’s Services. (The Jersey Evening Post)

S trictly speaking, to alliterate is to provide a list of words that begin with the same letter or sound, as in “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.” In a broader sense, to alliterate is to form an outline using similarly-sounding words or phrases. It is a device that, in theory, helps readers to follow along with a book or that helps listeners to follow along with a sermon.

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So, for example, Steven Lawson’s little work on Jonathan Edwards has chapters titled “The Prerequisite of Faith,” “The Priority of God’s Glory,” “The Putting Away of Sin,” “The Precipice of Eternity,” and so on. Sometimes a whole sermon series will be alliterated, as in Colin Smith’s “Faith that Lasts” which was made up of three sermons titled “Firm Foundations,” “False Assumptions,” and “Full Assurance.” But we see it most commonly in individual sermons where, as often as not, it is used to form a three-point outline. Lawson once again provides an example with his sermon on Ephesians 1:21-26 which follows this outline: Paul’s Dedication, Paul’s Dilemma, and Paul’s Decision.

(Here, for your reading pleasure, is an alliterated defense of alliteration in preaching. Or you can read Jared Wilson’s alliterated “5 C’s of Preaching.”)

Over the years I’ve seen and heard some truly wonderful examples of alliteration. I’ve also seen and heard some truly awful ones. Most recently, a book I attempted to read had maddening alliteration for its chapter headings—the kind that stretched the meaning of words far beyond the breaking point, all for the sake of maintaining a common first letter. Based on that book and a handful of recent sermons, I thought I’d share some pointers for doing alliteration well (or, at least, not doing it poorly). And, as I do so, I admit that on various occasions I’ve doubtlessly violated each of these rules.

Rule #1: Know what it’s for. Alliteration is meant to add clarity to a sermon or book by providing a simple, memorable outline. It is not meant to show off the communicator’s expansive vocabulary or clever rhyming ability. It is, at best, a minor component of a sermon and one of the least important steps in preparation. This kind of outline is only helpful if it adds clarity; it can be harmful or wasteful if it reduces clarity. Unless each alliterated heading is clear enough that it could stand on its own even if it wasn’t alliterated with the others, it is likely to hinder communication more than help it.

Rule #2: Don’t despair. Don’t despair if you aren’t good at alliterating or even particularly good at creating an outline. There are some wonderful preachers who rarely create a highly-developed, three-point outline and some who rarely alliterate (John Piper comes to mind). Many of these are still clear, powerful preachers, even though they don’t follow what some may hold up as rules for sermon preparation. They have done lots of study, they have organized the sermon in their own minds, and they are more than able to make it all make sense to their listeners.

Rule #3: Don’t give it too much time. A great outline can be a great help to a listener. You’ve heard the rule of effective communication, I’m sure: Tell them what you’re going to say, say it, then tell them what you’ve said. An outline can help listeners understand where you are going, then remind them where you’ve been. However, the great power in preaching is not in the outline, but in the faithfulness to Scripture. Don’t put a ton of time into alliterating an outline if it is going to detract from the time you’d take to search the Scriptures and prepare to faithfully exposit them.

Rule #4: Don’t use a thesaurus. If you’ve prepared a three-point sermon with two words beginning with T, there can be a great desire to find a third T-word to complete the alliterated outline. But almost invariably, turning to a thesaurus will lead you to words that are too obscure to be helpful. In general, if you can’t come up with the word on your own, it’s not a word you ought to use to frame a whole section of a sermon. A thesaurus may occasionally remind you of a word you simply forgot, but more often it will lead you to words that are too uncommon to fit the purpose. It’s better to break the alliteration than to use a word no one has spoken in 400 years.

Rule #5: It’s better not to stretch. As in rule #4, a nearly-complete outline can drive you to a kind of desperation to get that final word or two in place. If that doesn’t drive you to use a thesaurus and dig up an obscure word, it may drive you to words you know, but that aren’t quite right. You may use a word that kind of means what you want it to mean, but you would never actually use if it didn’t begin with that particular letter or have that number of syllables. It is far better to be clear than cute. If the purpose of alliteration is to help with comprehension, you’ll be working against that goal by stretching words beyond their natural meaning or usage.

The big point is that alliteration is meant to serve a purpose, and the purpose is to add clarity to the mind of a reader or listener. But done poorly, it can actually detract from clarity and hinder the understanding of a reader or listener. So my counsel is to use alliteration only when it can serve that bigger purpose (which is to say, only when it obeys at least a few of those five rules).

Definition of Alliteration

Alliteration is a literary device that reflects repetition in two or more nearby words of initial consonant sounds. Alliteration does not refer to the repetition of consonant letters that begin words, but rather the repetition of the consonant sound at the beginning of words. For example, the phrase “kids’ coats” is alliterative; though the words begin with different consonant letters, they produce the same consonant sounds. Similarly, the phrase “phony people” is not alliterative; though both words begin with the same consonant, the initial consonant sounds are different. In addition, for alliteration to be effective, alliterative words should flow in quick succession. If there are too many non-alliterative words in between, then the literary device is not purposeful.

For example, alliterative “tongue twisters” are useful for encouraging language learners, generally children, to hear the similar sound repeated at the beginning of several words. A well known alliterative tongue twister is: Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked. However, though alliterative tongue twisters are associated with children, they are useful for practicing and improving pronunciation, fluency, and articulation. They are often utilized by actors, politicians, and public speakers for verbal exercises in clarity of speaking.

Common Examples of Alliteration in Everyday Speech

People use alliterative phrases frequently in everyday conversation. These phrases can sometimes sound cliché; however, they are effective in expressing both broad and familiar meaning. Here are some examples of alliteration in everyday speech:

  • rocky road
  • big business
  • kissing cousins
  • jumping jacks
  • no nonsense
  • tough talk
  • quick question
  • money matters
  • picture perfect
  • high heaven

Examples of Alliteration in Popular Culture

Alliteration is a common approach for advertising, marketing, and other elements of popular culture in that the repetition of initial letter sounds can be attention-grabbing and memorable for consumers, viewers, etc. Here are some familiar examples of alliteration in popular culture:

  • Coca Cola
  • Dunkin’ Donuts
  • Polly Pocket
  • Tonka Trucks
  • Weight Watchers
  • Rainbow Room
  • Dippin’ Dots
  • Fantastic Four
  • Hip Hop
  • Paw Patrol
  • Door Dash
  • House Hunters

Famous Examples of Alliteration in Fictional Character Names

Many artists and writers also utilize alliteration for fictional character names. This literary device allows for the creation of memorable as well as fun-sounding names, particularly in terms of children’s entertainment or literature. Here are some examples of alliteration in fictional character names:

  • Lois Lane
  • Peter Parker
  • Wonder Woman
  • Miss Muffet
  • Bob the Builder
  • Wicked Witch of the West
  • Mickey Mouse
  • Minnie Mouse
  • Bugs Bunny
  • Daffy Duck
  • Donald Duck
  • Daisy Duck
  • Pig Pen
  • Beetle Bailey
  • Peppa Pig
  • Holly Hobbie
  • Kris Kringle
  • Shaun the Sheep
  • Phineas and Ferb
  • Buster Baxter

Difference Between Alliteration, Consonance, and Assonance

Alliteration, consonance, and assonance are all literary devices that are utilized as a means of creating emphasis, attention, significance, and importance to words in poetry, prose, or speech. These literary devices can be used for both artistic and rhetorical effect. Alliteration almost exclusively refers to the repetition of initial consonant sounds across the start of several words in a line of text.

The repetition of vowel sounds is generally excluded from alliteration, and categorized instead as assonance. Assonance refers to the repetition of vowel sounds, whether at the beginning, middle, or end, of words in close proximity to each other in a line of text. Consonance, of which alliteration is considered a subcategory, is the repetition of consonant sounds in successive words. Like assonance, consonance refers to the repetition of these sounds at the beginning, middle, or end of words. However, alliteration is limited to consonant sounds repeated at the beginning of words.

Examples of Alliteration in Literature

Alliteration is a useful device in literary works. The repetition of initial consonant sounds can have a pleasing effect for readers and listeners. In addition, it calls attention to the rhetorical and artistic impact of the words in that alliteration signifies that the alliterative words are linked purposefully and thematically. This allows writers to turn the focus of their audience on the subject presented.

Here are some examples of alliteration in literature:

But it’s very important to be clear what counts as alliteration and what does not.

There are several common misconceptions. So let’s clear them up, and add a few other important facts.

    Proper alliteration is NOT a repetition of letters, it is a repetition of sounds.

For example, fish and physics alliterate because they begin with the same consonant sound (f) – even though the initial letters are different.

Conversely, tin and thin do not alliterate, because they begin with different consonant sounds, even though they start with the same letter.

For example, below the belt is NOT a good alliteration, because stress naturally falls on the second syllable of below, so you would have to alliterate on l not on b.

On the other hand, above the belt is a good alliteration, because the stressed syllables both start with b.

For example, a phrase like ultimate evil alliterates because both stressed syllables start with a vowel.

Some special cases:

  • In the best usage, the consant s (when followed immediately by a vowel) does NOT alliterate with the consonant clusters sp, st, or sk, or with similar but distinct sounds like sh.
  • In some older forms of alliterative poetry, words starting with h alliterate with words starting with a vowel. This doesn’t work in my dialect of English, which never drops an h. You will need to judge this point for yourself.

alliterate

Pronunciation /əˈlɪtəreɪt/

Translate alliterate into Spanish

1 (of a phrase or line of verse) contain words which begin with the same sound or letter.

  • ‘You’ll hear how the stanza rounds off the sequence of long, unrhymed lines with a bob-and-wheel, a series of shorter, rhyming lines that also alliterate.’
  • ‘I think I might email the programme and ask them to choose something that alliterates otherwise that’s going to irritate me for goodness knows how many years.’
  • ‘The title should change every time a new poet is appointed and should alliterate or rhyme with the name of the new holder of the title.’
  • ‘‘What I expected’ is an adroit compromise between the impulses to form and to freedom: ‘twist’ fails to rhyme convincingly with ‘pass,’ but in that failure assonates and alliterates with ‘questions.’’
  • ‘The oddly alliterated Fervent Fray of Fraternal Fervor, written and directed by Thomas Thompson, is the second festival offering.’
  1. 1.1 Use words beginning with the same sound or letter.
  • ‘The Anglo-Saxon tradition of alliterating half lines in verse might be argued an equal influence.’
  • ‘Make it catchy of course, but rhyme, pun, and alliterate at your own risk.’
  • ‘Canadian commentator Colby Cosh (hey it’s Sunday, I’ll alliterate if I want) has posted a quick thought on the comparative welfare recipient counts between Alberta and Saskatchewan.’
  • ‘I look up and see fat feathery fledglings flapping furiously, flying fairly fast (look at me, I’m alliterating)!’

Origin

Late 18th century back-formation from alliteration.

Alliteration happens when words that start with the same sound (not just the same letter) are used repeatedly in a phrase or sentence. The sound is usually a consonant and the words don’t have to be right next to one another.

One of the fun features of alliteration is when it becomes a tongue twister. Get ready to bring on some giggles as you explore these alliteration examples for kids.

Examples of Alliteration

Alliterative sentences

Note that alliteration does not depend on letters but on sounds, so “Kim came” is alliteration, even though the the words start with different letters.

  • Come and clean the chaos in your closet.
  • The big, bad bear scared all the baby bunnies by the bushes.
  • Shut the shutters before the banging sound makes you shudder.
  • Go and gather the green leaves on the grass.
  • Please put away your paints and practice the piano.
  • Round and round she ran until she realized she was running round and round.
  • I had to hurry home where grandma was waiting for her waffles.
  • The boy buzzed around as busy as a bee.
  • Garry grumpily gathered the garbage.
  • Those lazy lizards are lying like lumps in the leaves.
  • Paula planted the pretty pink poppies in the pot.
  • Kim came to help us cut out a colorful kite for Chris.
  • Bake a big cake with lots of butter and bring it to the birthday bash.
  • Paula’s prancing pony out-performed all the others.

Little Larry likes licking the sticky lollipop.

How to alliterate

Alliteration in Rhymes and Stories

Reading or listening to alliteration in nursery rhymes and stories are fun and entertaining for children. They can also help kids develop memory skills and phonics awareness.

“Three grey geese in a green field grazing. Grey were the geese and green was the grazing.”
– “Three Grey Geese,” Mother Goose

“Great Aunt Nellie and Brent Bernard who watch with wild wonder at the wide window as the beautiful birds begin to bite into the bountiful birdseed.”
Thank-You for the Thistle, Dorie Thurston

“Betty Botter bought some butter, but she said, this butter’s bitter; if I put it in my batter, it will make my batter bitter, but a bit of better butter will make my batter better.”
– “Betty Botter,” Carolyn Wells

“My counters and cupboards were completely cleared of carrot cake, cornbread and crackers.”
– Betty’s Burgled Bakery, Travis Nichols

“Slowly the slug started up the steep surface, stringing behind it scribble sparkling like silk.”
– Some Smug Slug, Pamela Duncan Edwards

Alliteration Tongue Twisters

Here are some fun tongue-twister examples. Try saying them quickly!

  • Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, where’s the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?
  • A good cook could cook as much cookies as a good cook who could cook cookies.
  • Black bug bit a big black bear. But where is the big black bear that the big black bug bit?
  • Sheep should sleep in a shed.
  • I saw a saw that could out saw any other saw I ever saw.
  • A big bug bit the little beetle but the little beetle bit the big bug back.
  • Show Shawn Sharon’s shabby shoes.
  • How much wood would a woodchuck chuck; If a woodchuck would chuck wood? A woodchuck would chuck all the wood he could chuck; If a woodchuck would chuck wood.
  • Silly Sally swiftly shooed seven silly sheep. The seven silly sheep Silly Sally shooed shilly-shallied south. These sheep shouldn’t sleep in a shack.

Alliteration in Names

Here are examples of alliteration in brand names and cartoon characters:

  • Chuck E Cheese’s
  • Coca-Cola
  • Donald Duck
  • Dunkin’ Donuts
  • Krispy Kreme
  • Mickey Mouse
  • Peppa Pig
  • Peter Parker
  • Seattle Seahawks
  • Spongebob Squarepants
  • Teen Titans
  • Wonder Woman

Have Fun with Language

So, alliteration is an exciting way to illustrate major points and make names memorable. Teaching kids to incorporate this into their creative writing is a fabulous way to spark a lifelong love for the written word.

When you’re ready, we hope you’ll continue the journey with more Alliteration Examples. And, when it’s time for completely new heights, maybe you’ll even sprinkle in a few Examples of Alliteration Poems.

Sharing is caring!

How to alliterate

A common stylistic literary device is Alliteration, which is a writing technique in which two or more words begin with the same sound.

Understanding how to use Alliteration and how to use alliteration while writing can help you when you write poems, short stories, and essays.

How to alliterate

What is Alliteration?

Alliteration is when two or more words in a sentence all begin with the same sound. Using alliteration in your poem can help make it more memorable or help you stress certain points you want to make.

Alliteration is defined as this: the repetition of beginning consonant sounds in two or more neighboring words or syllables.

Here are Some Examples of Alliteration in Use:

  • Holding Hands
  • Whispering Wind
  • Sweet and Simple
  • Forever Free
  • Misty Mountains
  • Happy as a Horse
  • Perfectly Possible
  • Leaping Lizards
  • Burning Bright

Famous poems that use alliteration include The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe, amongst others. Sometimes alliteration can also be combined with onomatopoeia to further illustrate sound.

Why Use Alliteration?

Alliteration is a great way to make your writing more memorable. It is a simple concept, but when things start with the same sound or same letter we are more likely to remember them.

Alliteration is often used as a mnemonic device to help people remember information, such as an address or information for an exam they are studying for in their college education.

The other reason you may wish to use it is because it can give your writing description and interest. It is a good way to show not tell when you are writing in your stories.

Children’s authors will also enjoy using alliteration when writing children’s literature, as it can add playfulness to the story.

Alliteration Can Also Be Used for Freelance Writing and Copywriting

Another popular reason to use alliteration is because it is extremely marketable. There are many, many examples of how alliteration can be used for branding and for marketing web copy. If you are a freelance writer, using an alliteration technique in writing can be indispensible!

Consider some of these famous brand names – all of which are very memorable!

  • Dunkin Donuts
  • Coca-Cola
  • Krispy Kreme
  • Best Buy
  • Weight Watchers
  • Spic-N-Span
  • Captain Crunch

If you are a freelance writer, this can give you a lot of opportunities for creative writing that can also help the content you create to be memorable and marketable for a number of brands and companies.

Here are Some Tips for Using Alliteration in Your Writing

How to alliterate

Write First, Use Alliteration Later:

I’ve found that if you purposely try to write alliteration it can distract you from finishing your poem or writing what you really mean to say. Instead of purposely trying to use alliteration, use it while adding the finishing touches and revising the poem. Decide what you want to say first – then decide how you will say it using alliteration.

For example, if you are writing a poem about a puppy, you might first write about different things which happen in the poem. You can then go through the poem during the revising and editing process to identify where you may substitute words with ones that would use alliteration.

Avoid overusing alliteration:

You want to stress just a few words – more than 3 or 4 words per line and you may unintentionally turn your poem into a tongue twister!

For example, think of the common tongue twister “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.” Yes, this has plenty of alliteration, but this can be difficult for people to say.

Of course, this is fine if your goal is to write a tongue twister. However, for most writing this is overkill and you do not need that many words all starting with the same sound!

Also, while some poems have used alliteration in every line, generally you will only want to use alliteration once per stanza.

Choose sounds that have many words available:

If you choose a sound that is not common, you may have more difficulty in finding words with alliteration to match.

For example, sounds that begin with the letters c and k can be more difficult, as they are not quite as common. Sounds such as the letter “S” for example have many, many words available.

While I suppose you could write about a kissing kangaroo from Kalamazoo, you would have a lot more flexibility if you choose words that start with the letter S sound such as the phrase “sweet and simple”.

How to alliterate

What do you think? Does this kangaroo inspire you to write?

Use a Dictionary and Thesaurus:

If you’re struggling to come up with words that start with the same sound, try using a dictionary or thesaurus to find words that start with the same letter as the other word in the line of your poem.

Rhyming dictionaries can also be very helpful, as these often will find similar sounding words based on the root word you provide.

Think about the mood each sound conveys:

Believe it or not, each sound can convey a different type of tone and mood to your writing.

The B sound makes us think, bold, blunt. Another sound, like the one that the letter W makes may inspire us to think of weather, water, whisper and other nature sounds.

When choosing words, think about the mood the words convey and how they affect the meaning of the poem.

In our example above about the kissing kangaroo from Kalamazoo, you can see how this is a much different tone that something that uses the softer S sound words such as “sweet and simple”.

How Will You Write With Alliteration?

Hopefully learning all about alliteration will help inspire you to use alliteration as a literary device in your writing. How do you think you might use it?

Do you have any tips about using alliteration when writing poetry you would like to share? We welcome your thoughts and comments below!

But it’s very important to be clear what counts as alliteration and what does not.

There are several common misconceptions. So let’s clear them up, and add a few other important facts.

    Proper alliteration is NOT a repetition of letters, it is a repetition of sounds.

For example, fish and physics alliterate because they begin with the same consonant sound (f) – even though the initial letters are different.

Conversely, tin and thin do not alliterate, because they begin with different consonant sounds, even though they start with the same letter.

For example, below the belt is NOT a good alliteration, because stress naturally falls on the second syllable of below, so you would have to alliterate on l not on b.

On the other hand, above the belt is a good alliteration, because the stressed syllables both start with b.

For example, a phrase like ultimate evil alliterates because both stressed syllables start with a vowel.

Some special cases:

  • In the best usage, the consant s (when followed immediately by a vowel) does NOT alliterate with the consonant clusters sp, st, or sk, or with similar but distinct sounds like sh.
  • In some older forms of alliterative poetry, words starting with h alliterate with words starting with a vowel. This doesn’t work in my dialect of English, which never drops an h. You will need to judge this point for yourself.