The UVic Writer's Guide


Alliteration is the repetition of consonantal sounds in words close together, particularly using letters at the beginning of words or stressed syllables.

In Old English meter, each line is divided by a caesura, or pause, and the stressed syllables in the first half-line alliterate with those in the second. A modern English equivalent would be a line like, "Beowulf the bold, bringer of bad tidings." Later, alliteration became a stylistic device used to reinforce word order rather than govern it, as in the parallelism used by John Lyly (whose style greatly influenced Elizabethan drama):

Hither came all such as either ventured by long travel to see countries or by great traffic to use merchandise, offering sacrifice by fire to get safety by water, yielding thanks for perils past, and making prayers for good success to come. . . .

(Gallathea (1583-85))

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Copyright, The Department of English, University of Victoria, 1995
This page updated September 23, 1995