Alliteration is a stylistic devices, or literary technique, in which successive words (more strictly, stressed syllables) begin with the same sound or with the same letter. Alliteration is a frequent tool in poetry but it is also common in prose, particularly to highlight short phrases. Especially in poetry, it contributes to euphony of the passage, lending it a musical air. It may act to humorous effect. Related to alliteration are assonance, the repetition of vowel sounds, and consonance, the repetition of consonant sounds.
Alliterative verse in one form or another is shared by all of the Germanic languages. In the English language, alliteration occurs in Old English poetry, of which it was a central component. In the Romantic era, it was once more given attention: the Romantics were generally interested in making poetry more musical, and in the ancient heritage of their native languages. Richard Wagner, for instance, used alliteration extensively in his opera libretti.
An example of alliteration: Well-known tongue-twisters such as "Round the rugged rock the ragged rascal ran" or "Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers".
An example of consonance: Sparkling...Flavorful...Miller High Life (advertising slogan for Miller beer)
- "Full in the passage of the vale, above, / A sable, silent, solemn forest stood;" James Thomson, The Castle of Indolence, Canto I, 37-38
- "I should hear him fly with the high fields / And wake to the farm forever fled from the childless land." Dylan Thomas, Fern Hill, II 50-51
- "Weia! Waga! Woge, du Welle, walle zur Wiege! Wagala weia! / Wallala weiala weia!" Richard Wagner
- "Sing a song of sixpence..." Nursery rhyme
Like rhyme, alliteration is a great help to memory: it is 'catchy', and frequently used in news headlines, corporate names, literary titles, advertising, buzzwords, and nursery rhymes.
Occasionally parents and authors use alliteration in the naming of their children and characters: