Alliteration is a term that describes a literary stylistic device. Alliteration occurs when a series of words in a row (or close together) have the same first consonant sound. For example, “She sells sea-shells down by the sea-shore” or “Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers” are both alliterative phrases. In the former, all the words start with the “s” sound, while in the later, the letter “p” takes precedence. Aside from tongue twisters, alliteration is also used in poems, song lyrics, and even store or brand names.
How to Identify Alliteration
The best way to spot alliteration being used in a sentence is to sound out the sentence, looking for the words with the identical consonant sounds. For example, read through these sentences to test your skills in identifying alliteration:
- Alice’s aunt ate apples and acorns around August.
- Becky’s beagle barked and bayed, becoming bothersome for Billy.
- Carrie's 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.
- Garry’s giraffe gobbled gooseberries greedily, getting good at grabbing goodies.
- Hannah’s home has heat, hopefully.
- Isaac's ice cream is interesting and Isaac is imbibing it.
- Jesse’s jaguar is jumping and jiggling jauntily.
- Kim’s kids kept kicking.
- Larry’s lizard likes leaping leopards.
- Mike’s microphone made much music.
- Nick’s nephew needed new notebooks now.
- Orson’s owl out-performed ostriches.
- Peter’s piglet pranced priggishly.
- Quincy’s quilters quit quilting quickly.
- Ralph’s reindeer rose rapidly and ran round the room.
- Sara’s seven sisters slept soundly in the sand.
- Tim took tons of tools to make toys for tots.
- Uncle Uri's united union uses umbrellas.
- Vivien is very vixen-like and vexing.
- Walter walked wearily while wondering where Wally was.
- Yarvis yanked you at yoga, and Yvonne yelled.
- Zachary zeroed in on zoo keeping.
In each of these examples, the alliteration occurs in the words that have the same sound. As you can see:
- Not every word must be alliterative. You can use prepositions, such as 'of' and pronouns such as 'his' and still maintain the alliterative effect.
- Alliteration does not need to be an entire sentence. Any two-word phrase can be alliterative.
Even some single words can be alliterative, if they have multiple syllables which begin with the same consonant sound.
Brand Names and Alliteration
Companies use this alliterative effect all the time. The major reason companies use this technique is to ensure that their brand name is memorable. Think, for example, of all of the famous and well known brands and companies that have used alliteration in their names:
- Dunkin’ Donuts
- Best Buy
- Lulu Lemon
- Park Place
- American Apparel
- American Airlines
- Chuck E. Cheese
- Bed Bath & Beyond
- Krispy Kreme
- The Scotch and Sirloin
Famous People and Alliteration
Alliterative names can also help you stand out in the crowd and can make you more memorable. For example, both fictional characters and real people may stand out in your head as a result of the alliterative effect of their name. Think of:
- Ronald Reagan
- Sammy Sosa
- Jesse Jackson
- Michael Moore
- William Wordsworth
- Mickey Mouse
- Porky Pig
- Lois Lane
- Marilyn Monroe
- Fred Flintstone
- Donald Duck
- Spongebob Squarepants
- Seattle Seahawks
- Katie Couric (Remember, alliterative words don’t even necessarily have to start with the same letter, they simply have to have the same first sound).
Phrases and Quotes
Finally, many famous phrases, quotes and saying also make use of alliteration:
- Busy as a bee
- Dead as a doornail
- Get your goat
- Give up the ghost
- Good as gold
- Home sweet home
- Last laugh
- Leave in the Lurch
- Living the life
- Look to your laurels
- Mad as a March hare
- Make a mountain out of a molehill
- Method to the madness
- Moaning Minnie
- Neck and neck
- Not on your nelly
- Out of order
- Pleased as punch
- Primrose path
- Right as rain
- Ride roughshod
- Round Robin
Alliteration is a commonly used stylistic tool since it adds interest to a sentence and can be a great way to help you remember names and phrases that you might otherwise forget. Enjoy playing with alliteration. It is a very fun and useful literary device.