Slant Rhyme in Poetry: Definition, Examples & Quiz

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Jacob Erickson

Jacob has his master's in English and has taught multiple levels of literature and composition, including junior high, college, and graduate students.

In this lesson, we'll explore slant rhymes, which are sometimes called half rhymes or near rhymes. After we look at a formal definition and some examples of slant rhyme, there is a short self-assessment quiz that you can take.

We also recommend watching What Is Free Verse Poetry? - Examples & Definition and What Are Connotation and Denotation? - Definitions & Examples

Slant Rhymes

Have you ever read a poem or heard a song that uses two words that don't quite rhyme? It can be difficult to switch from a perfect rhyme scheme to one that has words that barely sound similar. This type of rhyme scheme is known as a slant rhyme.

Let's take a look at the rhymes in two different stanzas from Emily Dickinson's 'Not any Higher Stands the Grave.'

'Not any higher stands the Grave
For Heroes than for men--
Not any nearer for the Child
Than numb Three Score and Ten--
' (1-4)

Notice how 'men' and 'ten' rhyme perfectly? This, of course, is a perfect rhyme. Compare this to the next stanza, which uses the same rhyme scheme:

This latest Leisure equal lulls
The Beggar and his Queen
Propitiate this Democrat
A Summer's Afternoon.
' (5-8)

Along with her reclusive nature, many readers originally found the slant rhyme in the poetry of Emily Dickinson odd.
Emily Dickinson

It's quite obvious that 'queen' and 'afternoon' both end with similar sounds but don't rhyme. This imperfect rhyme is a slant rhyme, sometimes called a half rhyme or near rhyme. A more technical distinction between a full rhyme and a slant rhyme is that a full rhyme has a repetition in both the final consonant and the proceeding vowel or consonant, while a slant rhyme has a repetition in the final consonant but not in the proceeding vowel or consonant.

You won't find much slant rhyme in poetry that came before the mid 19th century, but it is very common in the poetry of the 20th century. Contemporary poets frequently use slant rhyme to give themselves a greater range and freedom in the words that they use, as well as to produce a desired feeling in the poem.

Examples

While it's fair to say that Emily Dickinson was famous for using slant rhymes, it was W. B. Yeats and Gerard Manley Hopkins who made them particularly popular. Here is an example from Yeats's 'Easter 1916.'

'I have met them at close of day
Coming with vivid faces
From counter or desk among grey
Eighteenth-century houses.
' (1-4)

The use of slant rhyme in many poems by Yeats influenced a tremendous amount of 20th century poets.
William Butler Yeats

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