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What is Slant Rhyme?

    what is a slant rhyme

    Have you ever read a poem and noticed that some of the rhymes aren’t an exact match but manage to somehow sound like they could be? That’s the magic of slant rhyme. It’s a subtle technique that poets use to add rhythm and flow to their work, even when they can’t find the perfect rhyme. Consider this your ultimate guide to understanding and appreciating slant rhymes in poetry.

    Slant Rhyme Definition

    Slant rhyme, also known as near rhyme, half rhyme, or imperfect rhyme, is a type of rhyme where the sounds are similar but not identical. It’s not a perfect match, but it’s close enough to sound good. In poetry, these slant rhymes are often found at the end of a line, creating a sense of connection between lines without needing an identical sound. While these “almost” rhymes are sometimes harder to pick up on than perfect rhymes, they still add a sense of rhythm and flow to a poem.

    In most cases, slant rhymes involve similar consonant sounds while the vowels differ, or vice versa. For example, “Dark” and “Heart” share a similar “r” sound in the middle that gives them a rhyming feel. Similarly, “Bridge” and “Grudge” share the final sound greeted by the consonant “-dge” sound, but their vowels differ (“i” and “u”).

    Slant Rhyme Pronunciation

    The phrase slant rhyme is pronounced as follows: SLANT RIME.

    Deep Dive: Different Types of Slant Rhymes

    Let’s take a closer look at some of the different ways writers can create slant rhymes in their work.

    Narrow vs. Broad Rhymes

    More traditional slant rhymes follow a more narrow definition, focusin on the final sound of words. In this case, the words must end with the same consonants, such as “heart” and “hurt” or “silk” and “walk.” Over time, however, the definition of slant rhyme has expanded, allowing more combinations of “similar but different” sounding words.

    These broad slant rhymes can be based on a similar consonance (consonant sound) or assonance (vowel sound) in the words’ last syllable, such as with “pattern” and “return.” or “down” and “profound.”

    Assonance vs. Consonance Sounds

    Some slant rhymes rely on assonance or similar vowel sounds. For example, “time” and “shine” share a similar vowel sound while the consonants “m” and “n” differ.  However, the similar “eye” sound from the vowel “i” creates a slant rhyme through assonance.

    Stant rhymes can also be created through matching consonance or similar consonant sounds. For example, “blade” and “blood” share similar ending consonant sounds of “d,” despite having different vowels “a” and “o,” respectively.

    What it’s NOT: Slant Rhyme vs. Perfect Rhyme

    When people hear the word “rhyme,” they often think of perfect rhymes, or words with exact matching stressed vowel or consonant sounds. While these pairings create a classic sing-songy flow, they can be rather limiting for writers. After all, it’s a lot harder to find two words that rhyme perfectly than two words that sound similar.

    • Perfect Rhyme: “moon” and “soon”

    That’s where slant rhymes come in handy. Remember, these pairings offer a less exact match while still establishing a sense of connection and rhythm throughout the poem. While perfect rhymes are neat and predictable, slant rhymes add an element of unexpected depth and complexity.

    • Slant Rhyme: “moon” and “gone”

    How to Identify Slant Rhymes a Poem

    Like identifying any rhyme scheme, it helps to read the poem aloud so you can pay closer attention to similar sounds at the end of each line. With slant rhymes, you want to listen for similar consonant sounds or similar vowel sounds at the end of the words. While these words may have differing initial sounds, pay particular attention to any similarities in the last syllable.

    Remember, you only have to find a partial match for it to count. For example, words like “heart” and “hurt” share the “rt” ending sound but have different vowels. Therefore, they classify it as a slant rhyme.

    Why Do Writers Use Slant Rhymes?

    Slant rhymes give writers more creative freedom and flexibility in poetry. Poets can create a sense of rhythm and rhyme(ish) without being limited to the confines of a rigid structure. In cases where perfect rhymes might feel forced or too simplistic, imperfect matches give writers more options for word choice and expression, allowing them to develop more intricate works of literature.

    Similarly, while perfect rhymes can feel obvious, predictable, and, at times, childish, slant rhymes lend a sense of subtle sophistication to a poem. In other cases, these near matches help create a more natural and conversational tone rather than the strong musicality associated with exact rhymes.

    Tips for Teaching Slant Rhymes

    While slant rhymes can be a difficult concept to grasp at first, the following tips can help make teaching the concept more accessible for your students:

    • Teach the Definitions First: Explain slant rhymes and how they differ from perfect rhymes to set the stage for understanding. Additionally, teach important terms like assonance and consonance to support learning.
    • Start with Isolated Examples: Introduce students to words or pairs of lines that put slant rhymes on display. Guide students through identifying and understanding the similar sounds.
    • Refer to Song Lyrics: Have students read the lyrics as they listen to the music, allowing them to hear and see the slant rhymes in action. Incorporating examples from pop culture makes the concept feel more relevant and engaging.
    • Practice Identifying: Provide students with various line pairings, stanzas, or whole poems for them to comb through and identify any slant rhymes they can find. Encourage the use of underlining or color coding to keep track of their findings.
    • Read Aloud: Slant rhymes are easier to hear than to see. Read poems aloud as a class or encourage students to read aloud on their own to help identify the words and syllables that sound similar, creating imperfect rhymes.
    • Listen to Poetry: Similar to reading aloud, find readings of famous poems online. Students can listen to the sounds of the poem as they follow along with the text, allowing them to hear the subtle differences.
    • Analyze Various Poems: Encourage students to explore a plethora of poems, identifying instances of slant rhymes. Guide students through a discussion, analyzing the use and effect of the near rhymes.
    • Compare and Contrast: Compare slant rhymes to perfect rhymes, using numerous examples as a baseline to discuss the similarities and differences between how each rhyme type impacts the poems.
    • Get Creative: Ask students to tap into their inner poet by writing their own poems using slant rhymes, helping them understand how these similar-sounding words can create rhythm without abiding by strict rhyming conventions.

    Examples of Slant Rhymes in Poetry

    1. “Sonnet 90” by William Shakespeare

    English sonnets are known for their uniform structure, including their established rhyme schemes—and Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 90” is no different. While the majority of the sonnet’s lines end with perfect (or extremely close to perfect) rhymes, the most recognizable slant rhyme is between “last” in line 9 and “taste” in line 11. While both words end with the consonant sound “st,” the initial vowel sounds in each word (short “a” in “last” and long “a” in “taste”) differ to create a similar—but not perfect—rhyme.

    Then hate me when thou wilt; if ever, now;

    Now, while the world is bent my deeds to cross,

    Join with the spite of fortune, make me bow,

    And do not drop in for an after-loss:

    Ah! do not, when my heart hath ‘scaped this sorrow,

    Come in the rearward of a conquered woe;

    Give not a windy night a rainy morrow,

    To linger out a purposed overthrow.

    If thou wilt leave me, do not leave me last,

    When other petty griefs have done their spite,

    But in the onset come: so shall I taste

    At first the very worst of fortune’s might;

    And other strains of woe, which now seem woe,

    Compared with loss of thee, will not seem so.

    2. “Toad” by Philip Larkin

    Larkin uses slant rhymes throughout the poem “Toad” to skillfully create a subtle sound pattern that reflects the poem’s themes of work, dissatisfaction, and internal conflict. While the first two lines of the poem are the closest Larkin comes to a perfect rhyme, the rest of the poem’s rhythm relies on similarly stressed consonant sounds and syllables.  As the poem explores the frustration of spending one’s life working, slant rhymes produce a consistent rhythm with just enough freedom to represent the inner desire to follow one’s wits and sense of adventure.


    Why should I let the toad work
    Squat on my life?
    Can’t I use my wit as a pitchfork
    and drive the brute off?

    Six days of the week it soils
    With its sickening poison
    Just for paying a few bills!
    That’s out of proportion.

    Lots of folk live on their wits:
    Lecturers, lispers,
    Losels, loblolly-men, louts-
    They don’t end as paupers;

    Examples of in Song Lyrics

    After all, aren’t songs basically poems put to music?

    1.”Bad Blood” by Taylor Swift

    Despite the words ending in different consonant sounds, the song’s chorus relies on the repetitive slant rhyme of the “uh” sound in each line to create an empowering and emotionally charged chant-like effect. These slant rhymes add to the chorus’ catchy, memorable quality. With lyrics with this kind of rhythm, it’s no wonder people everywhere are singing along to Swift’s tunes.


    ‘Cause baby, now we got bad blood

    You know it used to be mad love

    So take a look what you’ve done

    ‘Cause baby, now we got bad blood

    2. “All I Want For Christmas Is You” by Mariah Carey

    Perhaps one of the most well-known Christmas songs in the modern era, “All I Want For Christmas Is You” uses slant rhymes throughout to create a song that is hard not to sing along to and even harder to forget. More specifically, in the intro, the words “need” and “tree” come together with the long “e” sound, while the following two lines are joined by the “owe” sounds in “own” and “know.” While perfect rhymes may make the song sound too predictable and childish, the use of slant rhymes adds memorable rhythm with a more sophisticated touch. 


    I don’t want a lot for Christmas

    There is just one thing I need

    I don’t care about the presents underneath the Christmas tree

    I just want you for my own

    More than you could ever know

    Make my wish come true

    All I want for Christmas is you

    3. “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey

    A handful of slant rhymes can be found in the beginning of “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey. Right off the bat, the words “girl” and “world” share the “r” and “l” sounds, drawing listeners in with a subtly catchy intro. While the rhyme isn’t perfect, it certainly draws attention to the juxtaposition between the single girl and the entire world. The same can be said for the words “boy” and “Detroit,” which share the “oy” sound. The song continues with the repetition of the “oo” sound in “room” and “perfume,” drawing listeners into the scene created by the lyrics.


    Just a small-town girl

    Livin’ in a lonely world

    She took the midnight train going anywhere

    Just a city boy

    Born and raised in South Detroit

    He took the midnight train going anywhere

    A singer in a smoky room

    A smell of wine and cheap perfume

    For a smile they can share the night

    It goes on and on and on and on

    Additional Resources for Teaching Poetry and Slant Rhymes

    Planning your next poetry unit? Save time with 11 poetry lesson plans for middle school

    Here is a list of the best poems for middle school

    This article takes a closer look at slant rhymes vs. perfect rhymes

    Read this article for even more examples of slant rhymes in poetry

    Switch it up by incorporating videos into your classroom:

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