English Literature » Alliteration

Alliteration

Brief definition of Alliteration

In literature, alliteration is a term to describe a literary device in which a series of words begin with the same consonant sound.

Alliteration Definition

Alliteration is derived from Latin’s “Latira“. It means “letters of alphabet”. It is a stylistic device in which a number of words, having the same first consonant sound, occur close together in a series.

Examples of Alliterationin English literature

From Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”

“The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew,
The furrow followed free;
We were the first that ever burst
Into that silent sea.”

In the above lines we see alliteration (“b”, “f” and “s”) in the phrases “breeze blew”, “foam flew”, “furrow followed”, and “silent sea”.

From William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” (prologue to Act 1)

“From forth the fatal loins of these two foes;
A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life.”

This is an example of alliteration with the “f” and “l.” in words “forth, fatal, foes” and “loins, lovers, and life”.

From Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven”

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;

From James Joyce’s “The Dead”

“His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.”

We notice several instances of alliteration in the above mentioned prose work of James Joyce. Alliterations are with “s” and “f” in the phrases “swooned slowly” and “falling faintly”.

From Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”

“Up the aisle, the moans and screams merged with the sickening smell of woolen black clothes worn in summer weather and green leaves wilting over yellow flowers.”

Maya gives us a striking example of alliteration in the above extract with the letters “s” and “w”. We notice that alliterative words are interrupted by other non-alliterative words among them but the effect of alliteration remains the same. We immediately notice alliteration in the words “screams”, “sickening smell”, “summer”, “weather” and “wilting”.

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