Assonance refers to the repetition of vowel sounds in near-enough syllables, just like alliteration and consonance refer to the repetition of similar-sounding consonants. Even though used a little less deliberately than these latter two rhetorical figures, it is equally powerful and ever-present, as these 10 examples undoubtedly demonstrate.
10 Examples of Using Assonance in a Sentence
Example #1: Proverbs
The early bird catches the worm.
Proverbs, by their very nature, ought to be memorable, which is why it should come as no surprise the fact that they often use phonetic literary devices, such as rhymes, alliteration, and assonance. Here, three of the six words (early, bird, worm) contain the same vowel sound: the open-mid central unrounded vowel [ɜː]. This makes this short metaphorical proverb not only instantly decipherable to the mind but also melodious and pleasing to the ear.
Example #2: Cockney Rhyming Slang
Bubble bath; duck and dive; bit o’ tripe…
Even though its beginnings are somewhat obscure, Cockney rhyming slang is believed to have originated and developed among working-class Londoners during the second half of the 19th-century. As the name itself suggests, it is a form of slang in which a common word is replaced with a few-word phrase, the last word of which rhymes with the original term. That’s why, to the Cockneys, “brown bread” is a slang-synonym for dead, “apples and pears” for stairs, and “Uncle Ned” for head. However, since assonance can sometimes work as “a substitute for rhyme,” there are many rhyming slang phrases which are actually merely assonant. For example, “bubble bath” stands for laugh, “duck and dive” for hide and “bit o’ tripe” for wife; as is obvious, in each of these cases, assonance compensates for the lack of a rhyming word.
Example #3: Assonant Brands
Leading companies using two syllable names include Walgreens, YouTube and FedEx.
Two of the three companies named in this sample sentence employ assonance: YouTube (the [u:] is repeated in both “you” and “tube”) and FedEx (both “Fed” and “Ex” contain the “short e”). And they are not the only ones: many of the most profitable brands use assonance in their names. (Can you think of any others?) The reason for this is pretty apparent: assonance makes brand names sound not only more pleasant to the ear, but also much more memorable.
Example #4: Assonant Band Names
My favorite two bands of all time are Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones.
Many iconic bands employ assonance in their names. Sometimes, as in the case of The Rolling Stones, the vowel echo is used to connect even more closely an adjective and a noun which are logically linked either way. More often, however, assonance is the only thing which connects the words in the name. Led Zeppelin, for example, doesn’t mean anything specifically, but is a variation of the phrase “lead balloon.” However, what mattered to the band members the most was the musical coordination between the two words, so, at the suggestion of their manager, they changed “balloon” to “Zeppelin” and dropped the “a” in “lead” so as people to not mistakenly pronounce it as a verb (“li:d”). Def Leppard did the exact same spelling trick: originally, they should have been called “Deaf Leopard.”
Example #5: Assonant Names
Have you noticed how the names of the three male protagonists of the popular TV show, New Girl, are all assonant: Nick Miller, Winston Schmidt, and Winston Bishop?
And not only that: they are also assonant between each other since all of them employ the “short i” vowel! However, since by definition assonance means deliberate vowel coordination, in real life, some assonant names may sound a bit fictional or even artificial – if not because they tend to sound a bit sing-songy. But they seem perfect for the stage! Here are some famous examples from the music world for you to ruminate upon: Jeff Beck, John Bonham, Dizzy Gillespie, Cole Porter, B. B. King, Johnny Rotten, Sid Vicious, Thom Yorke, Boy George, Elton John, Chaka Khan, Miley Cyrus…
Example #6: Advertising Jingles
Hoover beats as it sweeps as it cleans.
Advertising jingles aim for memorability, so they often use phonetic literary devices. Even though it is only natural that in singing parts they almost always opt for rhyme, this short commercial for the “Hoover” vacuum cleaner from 1956 demonstrates that assonance can be at least as effective. Since all three verbs – “beats,” “sweeps” and “cleans” – contain the “long i” vowel, they sound almost as if rhymed. If you want, you can hear the original jingle in its entirety in the video below.
Example #7: Self-Help Advices
Whatever your mind can conceive and believe the mind can achieve, regardless of how many times you may have failed in the past.
Supposedly uttered by Napoleon Hill, the sentence above has been paraphrased numerous different times. In its barest form, it is a string of four assonant verbs “conceive it, perceive it, believe it, achieve it,” all containing the “long I.” Somehow, assonance—or, better yet, in this case, homeoteleuton (the repetition of endings in words, or “prose rhyme”)—makes claims such as these even more persuading. It almost makes it seem as if the words which sound similar to each other must also be consequentially related.
Example #8: Political Speeches
But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate—we cannot consecrate—we cannot hallow—this ground.
In his powerful “Gettysburg Address”—delivered on November 19, 1863—Abraham Lincoln employs assonance in a much similar manner as Napoleon Hill above (think, once again, in terms of “prose rhyme”). Here, it is the “long a” which harmoniously connects the first two verbs of the sentence (“dedicate” and “consecrate”), a link emphasized by the anaphoric “we cannot.” However, unlike Hill, Lincoln quickly follows up this pair with an almost synonymous non-assonant verb (“hallow”) which prevents the sentence from falling down in the pit of shallowness and achieves solemnity and gravity most fitting for the occasion.
Example #9: Biblical Verses
A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.
The verse above is taken from the Gospel According to Matthew, chapter 5, verse 14. It is one of many verses in the Bible which use assonance to create an effect of elegant and subtle harmony. Here, this is achieved through the repetition of the “short i” in “city,” “hill” and “hidden” and slightly emphasized through the assonance of the [æ] in “that” and “cannot.”
Example #10: Religious Sermons
When Jesus told his disciples to pray for the kingdom, this was no pie in the sky by and by when you die kind of prayer.
In this sentence taken from a sermon by Bill Clinton’s former spiritual advisor, pastor Tony Campolo, the “long a” is repeated in as many as six of the last thirteen words. Four of them—one is used twice—rhyme: “pie” “sky,” “by” and “die;” however, “kind” is purely assonant.