Alliteration is most commonly used in modern music but it can also be seen in magazine article titles, advertisements, business names, comic strip or cartoon characters, and common expressions. Different from other rhetorical devices, alliteration focused on sounds. It is a new aid in writing poems and songs by using an aural device in which the repetition of single sounds or groups of sounds is employed. Here are two examples:

  • “I see also the dull, drilled, docile, brutish masses of the Hun soldiery plodding on like a swarm of crawling locusts”
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Speech on Hitlers Invasion of the U.S.S.R by Winston S. Churchill

  • “It was a splendid population, for all the slow, sleepy, sluggish-brained sloths stayed at home”.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Mirror of America by Mark Twain



It is generally considered that the history of alliteration began after the Norman Conquest of 1066. Poetry displayed the style of stanzaic, syllabic rhyming verse and then returned to Germanic verse tradition with a modified alliterative technique in the second half of the 14th century. During this period, writers got so much liberties to use this rhymed, syllabic forms imported from Southern Europe by Chaucer and other people that it soon gained a national identity. This kind of style lasted into the earlier part of the 15th century and was referred to as alliterative revival. Whether it was a striving towards past Germanic composition or merely a continuation of orally composed alliterative pieces remains uncertain.



According to Advanced Learner's English-Chinese Dictionary(6th edition), alliteration is the use of the same letter or sound at the beginning of words that are close together. That is alliteration is the repetition of a particular sound in the first syllables of a series of words and/or phrases.



For most of the time, alliteration is seen used in literature whose functions are not only to accentuate the beauty of language but also to provide emphasis on a particular point or to make some aspects of the work more memorable.

  • The first function of alliteration is to draw readers' attention to a particular sentence which may have some important meanings in that context.
e.g: "Churchill paid the priceboth publicly and privately-He was removed from the Admiralty and lost his position of political influence."
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Winston Churchill-his other life by Mary Soames 
The use of sex “p” emphasizes the frustration and upset of Churchill when he lost his position and political status.

e.g: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
This repetition of “b” sounds reinforces the initial idea of beating stated in the sentence, and creates a rhythm and sound within the line. Through alliteration here, Fitzgerald not only makes his idea stand out, but also evokes a sense of rhythm and pounding against an object like a boat against waves.

  • The second function of alliteration can be seen when authors want to make the names of those characters more memorable or fun to say aloud. Popular comic book character names such as Peter Parker, Bruce Banner, and Clark Kent, as well as cartoon characters such as Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse, and Bugs Bunny all use alliteration. In fact, this function is more often seen in those advertisements and logos of companies when they want to spread and promote their brand, like PayPal, Best Buy, Borders Books, Coca-Cola, etc. All these names are fun to say and hear, and also easy to remember.

  • The third function is found in poems where alliteration is often used to establish the rhythm of a poem and to make a particular line stand out more against those lines around it. Since poems are frequently read aloud, this sound quality that such words have can be much more important. Sometimes, the use of alliteration may create other effects.
e.g: “The silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain”
--------------------------------------------------------------The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe

It features alliteration and onomatopoeia together. Poe’s word choice of the “s”, is not only alliterative, but also creates the very sound of those curtains rustling and shifting together.



The use of alliteration in poems is to create the effect of rhyme which differentiates poems from other genres of literature.

Don't delay dawns disarming display .
Dusk demands daylight .
Dewdrops dwell delicately drawing dazzling delight .
Dewdrops dilute daisies domain.
Distinguished debutantes .
Diamonds defray delivered daylights distilled daisy dance .
—————————— Dewdrops Dancing Down Daisies By Paul Mc Cann

Tongue Twisters:
A tongue-twister is a phrase or sentence that is designed to make it difficult to articulate properly, and can be used as a type of spoken word game as well. The use of alliteration in tongue twisters make it rhymed as well as poses some difficulties in speaking, thus producing lots of fun.
  • Alice’s aunt ate apples and acorns around August
  • Becky’s beagle barked and bayed, becoming bothersome for Billy.
  • Carries cat clawed her couch, creating chaos.
  • Dan’s dog dove deep in the dam, drinking dirty water as he dove.
  • Eric’s eagle eats eggs, enjoying each episode of eating.
  • Fred’s friends fried Fritos for Friday’s food.
  • Hannah’s home has heat hopefully.
  • Kim’s kid’s kept kiting
  • Larry’s lizard likes leaping leopards
  • Mike’s microphone made much music
  • Quincy’s quilters quit quilting quickly
  • Ralph’s reindeer rose rapidly and ran round the room
  • Sara’s seven sisters slept soundly in sand
  • Tim’s took tons of tools to make toys for tots.
  • Walter walked wearily while wondering where Wally was

Brand Names:
Companies use alliteration in their advertisements or logo because the alliterative effects can make their brand name is memorable.
  • Dunkin’ Donuts
  • PayPal
  • Best Buy
  • Borders Books
  • Coca-Cola
  • LifeLock
  • Park Place
  • Chuckee Cheese’s
  • Bed Bath & Beyond
  • Krispy Kreme
  • The Scotch and Sirloin

Famous characters:
Alliterative names can also help you stand out in the crowd and can make it easier for others to remember your name.

  • Ronald Reagan
  • Jesse Jackson
  • Michael Moore
  • William Wordsworth
  • Mickey Mouse
  • Marilyn Monroe
  • Donald Duck
  • Spongebob Squarepants

Phrases and Quotes:
Many famous phrases, quotes and saying also make use of alliteration which in turn will make them catchy.
  • Busy as a bee
  • Dead as a doornail
  • Give up the ghost
  • Good as gold
  • Home Sweet Home
  • Leave in the Lurch
  • Mad as a march hare
  • Moaning Minnie
  • Neck and neck
  • Not on your nelly
  • Out of order
  • Pleased as punch
  • Primrose Path
  • Right as rain
  • Round Robin

More examples:




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