Sound devices in poetry

Sound devices in poetry are various techniques that poets use to create auditory effects, enhance the musicality of their verses, and evoke specific emotions or responses in the reader or listener. These devices make the poem more engaging and memorable. Some common sound devices in poetry include:

  1. Rhyme
  2. Rhythm
  3. Meter
  4. Alliteration
  5. Assonance
  6. Consonance
  7. Onomatopoeia
  8. Refrain
  9. Euphony
  10. Cacophony

Read also: Style in poetry


In poetry, rhyme refers to the similarity or identity of sounds between words, specifically at the end of lines or in specific positions within lines. When two or more words have the same or similar sounds at their final syllables, they are said to rhyme with each other. Rhyme is a powerful and common poetic device that adds musicality, rhythm, and cohesion to a poem. It helps create a sense of harmony and unity, making the poem more memorable and aesthetically pleasing.

Rhymes are often represented using letters of the alphabet. For example:

  • Perfect Rhyme: When the final stressed syllables of two words have the same sound, they form a perfect rhyme. Examples include “cat” and “hat,” “moon” and “June,” or “fight” and “night.”
  • Slant Rhyme/Half Rhyme/Near Rhyme: In slant rhymes, the final sounds of the words are similar, but not identical. They are close, but not perfect. An example of a slant rhyme is “prove” and “love.”
  • Eye Rhyme: Eye rhymes are words that look as though they should rhyme because their spellings are similar, but they are pronounced differently. For instance, “through” and “cough” or “blood” and “food.”
  • Internal Rhyme: Internal rhyme occurs when rhyming words appear within the same line of poetry or in close proximity. For example, “Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary.”
  • Feminine Rhyme: Feminine rhyme involves two or more syllables rhyming at the end of lines, with the stress on the penultimate (second-to-last) syllable. An example is “butter” and “clutter.”
  • Masculine Rhyme: Masculine rhyme occurs when only one syllable rhymes at the end of lines, and the stress is on the final syllable. For example, “cat” and “mat.”

Rhyme is a versatile tool that poets use to create specific effects in their work. It can help establish a consistent rhythm and meter, highlight key ideas or themes, and reinforce the emotional impact of the poem. When reading or listening to rhymed poetry, the repetition of sounds provides a satisfying and memorable experience for the audience. However, not all poems employ rhyme, as some poets prefer to use other sound devices or free verse, which lacks a regular rhyme scheme.


Rhythm refers to the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in a line of verse. It is the musical quality of the poem created by the arrangement of these syllables, which contributes to the overall flow, pace, and structure of the poem. Rhythm is one of the fundamental elements of poetry and plays a crucial role in establishing the poem’s tone, mood, and emotional impact on the reader or listener.

In English poetry, syllables can be broadly categorized as stressed (accented) or unstressed (unaccented). Stressed syllables receive more emphasis when spoken, while unstressed syllables are less prominent. The arrangement of stressed and unstressed syllables in a line gives rise to different rhythmic patterns.

Here are some common rhythmic patterns found in poetry:

  1. Iambic: An iambic rhythm consists of alternating unstressed and stressed syllables. It creates a “da-DUM” pattern, resembling the natural cadence of speech. Example: “To BE or NOT to BE, THAT is the QUESTion” (Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”).
  2. Trochaic: A trochaic rhythm is the reverse of iambic, with stressed followed by unstressed syllables, forming a “DUM-da” pattern. Example: “TYger TYger, BURNing BRIGHT” (William Blake’s “The Tyger”).
  3. Anapestic: An anapestic rhythm comprises two unstressed syllables followed by one stressed syllable, creating a “da-da-DUM” pattern. Example: “And the SOUND of a VIOlin that SWEETly did PLAY” (Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven”).
  4. Dactylic: A dactylic rhythm features one stressed syllable followed by two unstressed syllables, forming a “DUM-da-da” pattern. Example: “This is the FORest PRImeval, the MURmuring PINES and the HEMlocks” (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “Evangeline”).
  5. Spondaic: A spondaic rhythm consists of two consecutive stressed syllables, creating a “DUM-DUM” pattern. This rhythm is less common due to its heavy, ponderous feel.
  6. Pyrrhic: A pyrrhic rhythm is the opposite of spondaic, with two consecutive unstressed syllables, forming a “da-da” pattern. This rhythm is also relatively uncommon.
  7. Free Verse: Some poems do not follow a strict rhythmic pattern and are written in free verse. Free verse allows poets to experiment with various rhythms, line lengths, and structures without adhering to traditional patterns.


Meter is the systematic arrangement of stressed and unstressed syllables in a line of verse. It involves the organization of the poem’s rhythmic patterns, typically based on the repetition of specific metrical units or “feet.” Each foot consists of one or more syllables, with a specific pattern of stressed (´) and unstressed (˘) syllables. The pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables creates the meter, which helps establish the poem’s overall rhythm and structure.

The most common types of metrical feet found in English poetry are:

  1. Iamb (iambic): Consists of two syllables, with the first being unstressed and the second stressed (˘ ´). Example: “be-LONG,” “aRISE.”
  2. Trochee (trochaic): Consists of two syllables, with the first being stressed and the second unstressed (´ ˘). Example: “TIG-er,” “HAP-py.”
  3. Anapest (anapestic): Consists of three syllables, with the first two being unstressed and the third stressed (˘ ˘ ´). Example: “un-der-STAND,” “in-ter-VENE.”
  4. Dactyl (dactylic): Consists of three syllables, with the first being stressed and the next two being unstressed (´ ˘ ˘). Example: “MER-ri-ly,” “HAP-pi-ly.”
  5. Spondee (spondaic): Consists of two consecutive stressed syllables (´ ´). Example: “TRUE LOVE,” “HEART BEAT.”
  6. Pyrrhic (pyrrhic): Consists of two consecutive unstressed syllables (˘ ˘). Rarely used on its own in English poetry but can appear alongside other metrical feet.

When writing in meter, poets compose lines that adhere to a consistent pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables. These lines are then grouped into metrical units known as “feet.” The number of feet per line determines the overall meter of the poem.

For example, iambic pentameter is a common meter in English poetry, consisting of five iambs (´˘) per line:

“To BE or NOT to BE, THAT is the QUESTion.”

Similarly, trochaic tetrameter consists of four trochees (´˘) per line:

“TYger TYger, BURNing BRIGHT.”

Meter provides structure and rhythm to poetry, helping to create a musical and memorable quality in the verses. Different meters can evoke various emotions and tones, and poets often use meter strategically to enhance the overall impact of their work. However, it’s essential to note that not all poems follow strict metrical patterns, and many poets choose to use free verse, which lacks a regular meter, for a more flexible and diverse expression.


Alliteration is a literary device commonly used in poetry and prose, where a sequence of words in close proximity begins with the same consonant sound. It involves the repetition of initial consonant sounds in neighboring words, creating a sense of rhythm, musicality, and emphasis. Alliteration is primarily employed for its aesthetic appeal and to draw attention to specific words or phrases.

Key characteristics of alliteration in poetry include:

  1. Repetition of Consonant Sounds: Alliteration involves repeating the same initial consonant sound at the beginning of words within a line or stanza. For example: “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.”
  2. Artistic Effect: The use of alliteration enhances the musical quality of the poem, making it more pleasant to read or hear. It can add to the poem’s tone, mood, and overall poetic effect.
  3. Emphasis and Memorable Language: Alliteration draws attention to particular words or phrases, making them more memorable and leaving a lasting impression on the reader.
  4. Creating Patterns: Poets may use alliteration to create patterns and add structure to their work, contributing to the poem’s cohesion and rhythm.
  5. Enhancing Imagery: Alliteration can be used to describe or emphasize elements of the poem’s imagery, bringing vividness and sensory appeal to the reader’s experience.

Here are a few more examples of alliteration in poetry:

  1. “She sells sea-shells by the sea-shore.” – Anonymous
  2. “A s ilent s uperhero s tands s trong.”
  3. “The w ind w hispered through the w ild w illows.”
  4. “F air f lowers f ade f ast.”


Assonance is a literary device used in poetry and prose to create musicality and internal rhyme by repeating vowel sounds in nearby or adjacent words. Unlike rhyme, which involves the repetition of both vowel and consonant sounds, assonance focuses only on the repetition of vowel sounds. The words may be in close proximity or spread throughout the lines of the poem.

Assonance is used to evoke a particular mood or atmosphere, enhance the rhythm of the poem, and create a sense of unity or cohesion within the verses. It can also be used to draw attention to specific words or phrases.

Key characteristics of assonance in poetry include:

  1. Repetition of Vowel Sounds: Assonance involves the repetition of similar vowel sounds within words, without necessarily repeating the consonant sounds. For example: “lake” and “fade,” or “made” and “day.”
  2. Versatility: Assonance can be used with varying degrees of subtlety, from subtle and understated to more pronounced and noticeable, depending on the poet’s intention.
  3. Internal Rhyme: Assonance contributes to internal rhyme when the repeated vowel sounds occur within a single line or stanza. This internal rhyme adds to the poem’s musicality and rhythm.
  4. Musical Effect: Like alliteration, assonance contributes to the musical quality of the poem, making it more pleasing to the ear and engaging for the reader.
  5. Contribution to Imagery: Assonance can enhance the sensory experience of the poem, contributing to its imagery and creating vivid mental pictures for the reader.

Here are a few examples of assonance in poetry:

  1. “A long song” – The repetition of the “o” sound creates assonance in this short phrase.
  2. “Men s ell the w edding b ells.” – The repetition of the short “e” sound creates assonance.
  3. “Th e silv er m oon s eldom s leeps.” – The repetition of the “e” and “o” sounds creates assonance in this line.

Assonance, along with other sound devices like rhyme and alliteration, adds depth and complexity to the poem’s language and enhances the overall poetic experience for the reader or listener. It is a valuable tool that poets use to create a wide range of effects and emotions in their work.


Consonance is a literary device used in poetry and prose that involves the repetition of consonant sounds, particularly at the end of words, within or at the end of neighboring words or stressed syllables. Unlike alliteration, which repeats consonant sounds at the beginning of words, consonance focuses on the repetition of consonant sounds in the middle or at the end of words.

Consonance is used to create musicality, rhythm, and a sense of harmony in the poem. It can also add subtle or internal rhyme to the verses. Like other sound devices, consonance contributes to the overall aesthetic appeal of the poem and can be used to convey emotions, imagery, and themes.

Key characteristics of consonance in poetry include:

  1. Repetition of Consonant Sounds: Consonance involves the repetition of similar consonant sounds, typically at the end of words or within stressed syllables. For example: “mad” and “bid,” or “torn” and “burn.”
  2. Versatility: Consonance can be used with different consonant sounds, including both soft and hard consonants. Poets can choose specific sounds to achieve their desired effect.
  3. Subtle Musical Effect: Consonance contributes to the poem’s musicality and rhythm, but it is often more subtle than other sound devices like alliteration or rhyme.
  4. Contribution to Tone and Mood: Depending on the consonant sounds used, consonance can help create specific tones or moods in the poem, such as harshness, softness, or melancholy.
  5. Enhancing Imagery: Consonance can enhance the imagery in the poem by emphasizing certain words or adding a sense of unity and cohesion to the language.

Here are a few examples of consonance in poetry:

  1. “The l o nely l ight lingers on the h orizon.” – The repetition of the “l” sound creates consonance in this line.
  2. “Th e st ars b linked in the d ark s ky.” – The repetition of the “k” sound creates consonance.
  3. “And all is s eared with t rade; bleared, smeared with to i l.” – The repetition of the “r” and “d” sounds creates consonance in this line from “Dulce et Decorum Est” by Wilfred Owen.


Onomatopoeia is a literary device that refers to words that phonetically imitate or resemble the natural sounds associated with the objects or actions they describe. In other words, onomatopoeic words sound like what they represent. They create a direct connection between the word and the sound it is describing, making the language more vivid and evocative.

Onomatopoeia is commonly used in poetry, prose, and everyday language to add sensory and auditory appeal to the writing. It helps readers or listeners better visualize and understand the actions or objects being described by hearing the word itself.

Examples of onomatopoeic words include:

  1. “Buzz” – imitates the sound of a bee or a vibrating object.
  2. “Hiss” – imitates the sound of a snake or steam escaping from a container.
  3. “Crash” – imitates the sound of a collision or something breaking loudly.
  4. “Moo” – imitates the sound made by a cow.
  5. “Chirp” – imitates the sound of a bird or a cricket.
  6. “Splash” – imitates the sound of water hitting a surface.
  7. “Tick-tock” – imitates the sound of a clock or a ticking watch.

Here are a few examples of onomatopoeia used in sentences:

  1. The thunder rumbled loudly, “Boom! Boom!”
  2. The cat meowed softly, looking for attention.
  3. The leaves rustled in the wind, making a “swish” sound.
  4. The baby giggled and cooed, “Goo goo, ga ga.”


A refrain is a repeated line, phrase, or group of lines that appears at regular intervals throughout a poem. It functions as a chorus or a recurring theme, providing a sense of rhythm, musicality, and emphasis to the poem. The refrain is typically found at the end of stanzas, but it can also appear within or at the beginning of stanzas.

The purpose of a refrain is to create a strong emotional impact, reinforce a central idea or theme, and add unity and structure to the poem. It serves as a reminder for the reader, emphasizing the key message or sentiment that the poet wishes to convey.

Key characteristics of a refrain in poetry include:

  1. Repetition: The refrain consists of identical or nearly identical words or lines that are repeated verbatim throughout the poem.
  2. Regular Placement: The refrain appears at predictable intervals, such as at the end of each stanza or after a specific number of lines.
  3. Emphasis: By repeating the same words or lines, the refrain adds emphasis to certain ideas or emotions, leaving a lasting impression on the reader.
  4. Musicality: The recurrence of the refrain contributes to the poem’s musical quality, creating a sense of rhythm and harmony.
  5. Structural Device: The refrain helps establish the poem’s structure, providing a sense of organization and coherence.

Here’s an example of a refrain in the famous poem “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe:

“And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door; And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming, And the lamplight o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor; And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor Shall be lifted—nevermore!”

In this excerpt, the phrase “nevermore” serves as the refrain, appearing at the end of each stanza. Its repetition adds a haunting and melancholic effect to the poem, underscoring the narrator’s sense of loss and despair.

Refrains can vary in length and significance, from a single word to multiple lines. They are a valuable poetic device that enhances the emotional impact of the poem and leaves a strong impression on the reader.


Euphony is a literary device used in poetry to create a pleasing, harmonious, and melodious effect through the use of smooth, pleasant-sounding words and combinations of sounds. It involves the deliberate selection of words and sound patterns that produce a sense of beauty and tranquility when read or heard aloud. Euphony is the opposite of cacophony, which refers to the use of harsh or discordant sounds.

In poetry, euphony is achieved through various means, including:

  1. Phonetic Selection: Poets carefully choose words that contain soft consonants (like “s,” “m,” “l,” “w,” and “v”) and smooth vowel sounds (like “e,” “o,” and “u”).
  2. Alliteration and Assonance: Employing gentle and subtle alliteration (repetition of initial consonant sounds) and assonance (repetition of vowel sounds) contributes to the musical quality of the verses.
  3. Meter and Rhythm: Using a regular and flowing meter, such as iambic or anapestic, helps establish a smooth and harmonious rhythm.
  4. Rhyme: Employing perfect or slant rhymes that are not jarring or forced can contribute to euphony.

Here’s an example of euphony in a few lines from John Keats’ poem “Endymion”:

“A thing of beauty is a joy forever: Its loveliness increases; it will never Pass into nothingness; but still will keep A bower quiet for us, and a sleep Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.”

In this excerpt, the poet’s use of soft consonants and smooth vowel sounds (“beauty,” “loveliness,” “increases,” “quiet,” “sweet,” “dreams,” “health,” “quiet,” “breathing”) creates a sense of euphony, making the lines pleasant and soothing to read.

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