Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. The repetition of the same sounds or of the same kinds of sounds at the beginning of words or in stressed syllables, as in "on scrolls of silver snowy sentences” ( Hart Crane). Modern alliteration is predominantly consonantal; certain literary traditions, such as Old English verse, also alliterate using vowel sounds.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The repetition of consonants at the beginning of two or more words immediately succeeding each other, or at short intervals.
  • n. The recurrence of the same letter in accented parts of words, as in Anglo-Saxon alliterative meter.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The repetition of the same letter at the beginning of two or more words immediately succeeding each other, or at short intervals; as in the following lines:

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. The repetition of the same letter or sound at the beginning of two or more words in close or immediate succession; the recurrence of the same initial sound in the first accented syllables of words; initial rime: as, many men, many minds.
  • n. Alliteration was a characteristic of old Teutonic poetry (Anglo-Saxon and Middle English, Old Saxon, Icelandic, etc.), terminal rime, as a regular feature, being of later (Romance) introduction. The lines were divided into two sections, the first having regularly two alliterating syllables, the second one; but by license or mere accident four or more alliterating syllables might occur, as in the last line of the extract from Piers Plowman. The alliterating syllable was always accented, and was not necessarily initial, as written; it might follow an unaccented prefix, as ar-raye in the extract. The vowels, being all more or less open and easy of utterance, might alliterate with one another. In Churchill's line “Apt alliteration's artful aid,” given above, the initial vowel-sounds are different (a, a or a, ȧ, ā), though spelled with the same letter. The following is an example of Middle English alliteration:
  • n. Chaucer's verse is cast on the Romance model with final rime, but he often uses alliteration as an additional ornament:
  • n. Such alliteration is much affected by Spenser and his imitators, and occurs with more or less frequency in all modern poetry.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. use of the same consonant at the beginning of each stressed syllable in a line of verse

Etymologies

From ad- + Latin littera, letter.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Latin ad ("to, towards, near") and litera ("a letter"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • “The word alliteration is hardly new,” Grandma Margaret said.

    The Queen of Everything

  • The alliteration is killer (especially friggin flabbergastedness), and really helps propel the language along.

    Uncategorized Blog Posts

  • If he was related to these kings, that would be consistent with but is not proved by the name alliteration and his position of authority.

    Kings of Lindsey

  • Because ‘Mat Leave Monday’ has alliteration, and the word alliteration is grown-up and thinky.

    » 2008 » October Strocel.com

  • a little alliteration is always nice also, check out what this lady does with books!

    Are you ready for some football? « Awful Library Books

  • [MF: Writers will often hear that alliteration is annoying and that one ought not employ it, if at all possible.

    October 8th, 2008

  • The use of the word "rape" is not an exercise in alliteration.

    Week of Death Finale – Day 7

  • Or you go with the first syllable, last name alliteration and options such as....

    What's In A Name: The Key to Victory

  • Reeves attraction to a real-world lover with the same name alliteration may have been an identification with his alter ego on a subconscious level, or a tip of the hat to the casual observer that the Universe is up to its old tricks again.

    Archive 2006-01-01

  • An alliteration addict from Brazil has asked whether the notion of alliteration has to be purely sound-based.

    On alliterating, or not

Comments

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  • A Serenade

    In M flat. Sung by Major Marmaduke Muttonhead to Mademoiselle Madeline Mendosa Marriott.

    My Madeline! my Madeline !
    Mark my melodious midnight moans,
    Much may my melting music mean,
    My modulated monotones.
    My mandolin's mild minstrelsy,
    My mental music magazine,
    My mouth, my mind, my memory,
    Must mingling murmur " Madeline."

    Muster 'mid midnight masquerade,
    Mark Moorish maidens, matrons' mien,
    'Mongst Murcia's most majestic maids.
    Match me my matchless Madeline.
    Mankind's malevolence may make
    Much melancholy music mine ;
    Many my motives may mistake,
    My modest merits much malign.
    My Madeline's most mirthful mood
    Much mollifies my mind's machine;
    My mourn fulness's magnitude
    Melts—makes me merry, Madeline I
    Match-making ma's may machinate.
    Manoeuvring misses me misween ;
    Mere money may make many mate ;
    My magic motto's " Madeline."
    Melt, most mellifluous melody,
    'Midst Murcia's misty mounts marine.
    Meet me by moonlight—marry me,
    Madonna mia — Madeline.

    From the "Handy-Book of literary curiosities" by William Shepard Walsh, digitized on google-books.

    July 3, 2009

  • Avoid alliteration. Always.

    January 25, 2007