Pararhyme: Definition, Meaning and Examples

Pararhyme, also known as partial or half-rhyme, is a poetic technique that involves the use of words with similar consonant sounds but different vowel sounds. It is a variation of traditional full rhyme where both the vowel and consonant sounds match. In pararhyme, the consonant sounds create a sense of dissonance or tension, while the differing vowel sounds add an element of variation or irregularity.

The term “pararhyme” was coined by English poet and novelist Edmund Blunden to describe the poetic style of Wilfred Owen, a renowned World War I poet. Pararhyme was a distinctive feature of Owen’s poetry, allowing him to convey the horrors and dissonance of war through his use of sound. Then it has been used by W.B. Yeats, John Crowe Ransom. T. S. Eliot, Emily Dickinson, Allen Tate and W. H. Auden and many others.

Pararhyme is often used to evoke a sense of unease, disturbance, or discordance. It can create a jarring or unsettling effect on the reader, emphasizing the emotional or thematic content of a poem. By using words with similar consonant sounds, poets can establish a subtle connection or echo between words, while the differing vowel sounds introduce variation and ambiguity.

Here are a few examples of pararhyme:

  1. “Mistress of her mayhem is only laughter.” – Wilfred Owen In this line, the words “mistress” and “mayhem” share the same consonant sounds of “m” and “s,” creating a pararhyme effect.
  2. “Lost love’s light is like a starless night.” – Anonymous Here, the words “lost” and “light” share the same consonant sounds of “l” and “t,” while the differing vowel sounds contribute to the pararhyme effect.
  3. “Bitter winter winds, they whisper and whine.” – Emily Dickinson The words “bitter” and “whisper” share the same consonant sounds of “w” and “r,” creating a pararhyme relationship.

Pararhyme adds a distinct texture and emotional depth to poetry by playing with the sounds of words. It is a powerful tool for poets to convey specific moods, themes, or atmospheres, as it introduces a sense of tension and dissonance while still maintaining a connection between the words being used.