What is the exact definition of the literary device assonance?

This web site Literary Devices explains it as:

Assonance takes place when two or more words, close to one another repeat the same vowel sound, but start with different consonant sounds.


 “Men sell the wedding bells.”

The site says that the assonant words should begin with different consonants.

As per this definition, I think, this line 'I have no rest, nor joy, nor peace' (W B Yeats) is not an example of assonance. Am I right?

  • 2
    The literary device in your sentence is repetition rather than assonance, – user79638 Nov 21 '19 at 18:18
  • If you want a definition of assonance, the dictionary will provide one. A discussion of the literary technique is beyond the scope or English Language Learners. Perhaps ELU or Writers would be better place to ask. – James K Nov 21 '19 at 22:39
  • Because the vowel sound in 'nor' is different from 'no', I would not consider it an example of assonance. – Angelos Dec 24 '19 at 16:09

You are correct, that is not assonance. Repeating the same beginning consonant is often called "alliteration", or sometimes, "repetition".

  • Yes, it is alliteration because of the repetition of the initial consonant n. But, what about the repetition of the vowel sound o? Is it not an example of assonance? Would you provide a citation? – mahmud k pukayoor Nov 22 '19 at 1:30

Assonance is defined in the Cambridge Dictionary as:

the similarity in sound between two syllables that are close together, created by the same vowels but different consonants (e.g. "back" and "hat"), or by the same consonants and different vowels (e.g. "hit" and "hat").

So, assonance can be repeated vowel or consonant sounds, but when it is a consonant it must use different vowels. Therefore, your example of "no" and "nor" cannot be assonance as they are followed by the same vowel.

The literary device of starting words with the same sound is called alliteration, however, I still don't think your quote from Yeats is an example of this as it is the same word being repeated. The idea of alliteration is that different words begin with the same sound. This is just an example of repetition.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.