What is alliteration? You may conclude comprehension because alliteration is everywhere. Always ask anyway! Question and be curious! Because alliteration words sometimes share special, specific significance not explicitly evident. Wise writers accept that meaning might manifest in a multifaceted manner, as we shall see shortly!

Applying Alliteration

What is the Meaning of Alliteration? 

In discerning differences, we will review alliteration definitions and examples, including examples in pop songs, marketing, literature and comic books. We will also discover how common alliteration words are in cinema -- especially in movie titles and character names, but also within character dialogue. Using Studiobinder’s Script Breakdown program, we will do a scene study from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire to show alliteration meaning at work. 

ALLITERATION DEFINITION

What is Alliteration?

Alliteration is a literary technique derived from Latin, meaning “letters of the alphabet.” It occurs when two or more words are linked that share the same first consonant sound, such as “fish fry.” Some famous examples of alliteration sentences include:

  • Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. 
  • Sally sells seashells by the sea shore. 
  • How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
  • “Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation,” Martin Luther King.

The sound, not the letter, is the most important element of alliteration meaning, as not all adjacent words sharing first consonants amount to alliteration. ‘Kitty cat’ and ‘fish phobia’ are considered alliteration examples, but not “thirty typists,” because ‘th’ and ‘ty’ don’t sound the same. 

Other Common Alliteration Words:

  • Cream of the crop
  • French fry
  • Hit the hay
  • Pecan pie
  • Super-Size
  • Tough talk
  • Trick or treat

Discerning Differences

Alliteration Vs. Assonance

Some alliteration definitions include words that begin with vowels or vowel sounds, while others hold that alliterative words can only begin with consonants. In these definitions, adjacent words beginning with vowel sounds are sometimes considered ‘assonance.’

Alliteration meaning: Designating distinctions

The narrator describes the difference between alliteration and assonance in the video and gives examples of each. Other examples include: 

  • Accidental acceptance  
  • Eagle eye
  • Imaginative improvisation
  • Open ocean
  • Umpire union

What is Alliteration in familiar phrases?

Using Alliteration 

Because alliteration is catchy and easy to remember, it is often used in songs, business and advertising. Some alliteration examples in song lyrics include:

  • “My mind makes marvelous moves, masses / Marvel and move, many mock what I've mastered,” Blackalicious -- Alphabet Aerobics
  • “Little old lady got mutilated late last night.” -- Warren Zevon - Werewolves of London
  • “Whisper words of wisdom …” -- The Beatles - Let It Be 
  • “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” -- Joni Mitchell, Big Yellow Taxi
     

Check out more alliteration examples  in this video.

Alliteration examples: Hip hop hooks

Business and marketing make frequent use of alliteration words for the same reason as pop music: a catchy, rhythmic phrase or title is easy to remember, especially if set to music. Alliterative sounds set to music easily get stuck in people’s heads, which is exactly what both pop music and advertising and marketing are trying to achieve. Here are some famous brands with alliterative names.

What is Alliteration - Business Brands

Alliteration words: Business Brands

These are just a few of many famous brands that alliterate. Others include:

  • American Apparel
  • Bed, Bath & Beyond
  • Kit Kat
  • Lululemon
  • Muscle Milk
  • Planter’s Peanuts
  • Tater-Tots

Formal functions of Alliteration Words

What is Alliteration in Literature?

Let’s define alliteration in literature. Writers have used alliteration for centuries across literary forms and genres, from poetry and drama, to novels and children’s books. Depending on the author’s intent, alliteration may function to emphasize a certain section of text; create an aesthetic linguistic effect; evoke musical and rhythmic sounds; or make a poem or speech easier to remember and recite.

Alliteration examples in poetry include:

  • “From forth the fatal loins of these two foes . . .” Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
  • “Burning bright,” and “frame thy fearful symmetry,” William Blake, Tyger
  • “The fair breeze blow, the white foam flew / The furrow followed free,” Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Rime of the Ancient Mariner
  • “Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
    Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore, —
    While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,” Edgar Allen Poe,
    The Raven

As explained above, the sound, not the letter, is the most important element of alliteration, as not all adjacent words sharing first consonants amount to alliteration. The line from The Raven featuring “quaint and curious” is this type of alliteration example.

DEFINE ALLITERATION IN LITERATURE

ALLITERATION IN BEOWULF

A literary classic famous for its use of alliteration is the long poem Beowulf, written in Old English between the 8th and 11th centuries.

Works like Beowulf were meant to be read aloud, using alliteration to help readers remember the story. Lines from the poem include:

  • “To feast his fill of the flesh of men.”
  • “Gulped the blood, and gobbled the flesh.”
  • “He found them sprawled in sleep, suspecting nothing, their dreams undisturbed / Up from his swampland, sliding silently. Toward that gold-shining hall.”

We can also define alliteration in literature using character names:

  • Humbert Humbert: Lolita 
  • Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf the Grey: The Hobbit 
  • Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov: Crime and Punishment 
  • Peter Pevensie: The Chronicles of Narnia
  • Sansa Stark, Lancel Lannister, Podrick Payne: A Song of Ice and Fire 
What is Alliteration - Sansa Stark

Snazzy Sansa

Alliteration is particularly prevalent in children’s literature because it makes language fun and easy to listen to. Studies also show that alliteration words enhance children’s ability to remember material and to later repeat it. 

Examples include works by Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein.

  • “David Donald Doo dreamed a dozen doughnuts and a duck-dog, too,” Dr. Seuss
  • “Many mumbling mice are making midnight music in the moonlight,” Dr. Seuss
  • “We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow / and watch where the chalk-white arrows go,” Shel Silverstein
  • I saw an ol' gnome/ Take a gknock at a gnat / Who was gnibbling the gnose of his gnu.”

As you can see, Silverstein even created nonsense words just so that he could alitterate!

JK Rowling frequently uses alliteration in her Harry Potter novels, because the books are for and about children. She also uses it to express the essence of her whimsical world of witches and wizards

What is Alliteration - Notable Nomenclature

Notable nomenclature  •  Harry Potter

Many of the Harry Potter characters in the chart have alliterative names, and not all of these start their first and last name with the same letter. Some have names featuring alliterative sounds, such as AlBUS DUMbledoere (the UH sound of each U) and BelLAtrix LEstrange, with the LA/LE sounds alliterating. CeDErick DIggory repeats prominent D sounds.

Alliteration Meaning 

What does Alliteration Mean in Comics?

Like Harry Potter and other works for children, comic books are also famous for alliterative character names. Some prominent alliteration examples in comic books include:
  • Billy Batson / Captain Marvel
  • Bruce Banner / The Incredible Hulk
  • Cassandra Cain / Batgirl
  • Clark Kent, Lois Lane, Lex Luthor, Lana Lang / Superman
  • Jessica Jones / Jessica Jones
  • Matt Murdock / Daredevil
  • Peter Parker, The Green Goblin, J. Jonah Jameson / Spider-Man        
  • Scott Summers / The X-Men
  • Stephen Strange / Doctor Strange
  • Susan Storm, Reed Richards / Fantastic Four
  • Wally West / The Flash
  • Wade Winston Wilson / Deadpool           

In this video, the narrator explains why alliterative character names are so prevalent in Marvel comics in particular.

What's an alliteration

As the narrator describes, alliteration has a particularly pleasant effect on our brains, which like to recognize patterns. This leads to the positive associations comic book authors want readers to have with their work. After all, positive associations often lead to profitable projects!

Other literary devices that work on our brain to create rhythm and meaning include symbolism and onomatopoeia.

What is alliteration in movies?

Alliterate to Attract Audiences

Thousands of novel and film titles are alliterative. Like company and brand names, short catchy titles are memorable and easy to market -- even to global audiences who may not speak much English, or who can more easily recognize words phonetically. 

The best of them can also be very economical in conveying the essence of a movie. Here are some of the alliteration examples of movie titles just for one letter -- M. For hundreds more from A-Z, visit this site.

What is Alliteration - Teeming with Title

Alliteration example: Teeming with titles

What does alliteration mean to screenwriters? Properly used, it can prove pragmatic and profitable. Want to both signal a Batman origin story, as well as set it apart from earlier installments? You could barely do better than Batman Begins

Need to indicate who is at the center of a film, as well as give an idea of his effect on audiences? How about Magic Mike

What Women Want -- here’s a movie with answers, the title slyly suggests. 

And while Unusual Day Before the Weekend delivers the data, it certainly can’t compete with the juicy jolt of Freaky Friday.

What is Alliteration - Lindsay Lohan Learns Lessons

What is alliteration in film?

Screenwriters can also apply alliteration to movie character names and quotes. Some famous alliterative movie character names include: 

  • Benjamin Button
  • Bobby Boucher 
  • Buckaroo Banzai 
  • Donnie Darko 
  • King Kong 
  • Marty McFly 
  • Roger Rabbit 
  • Steve Stifler 
  • Tracy Turnblad 
  • Vincent Vega 
  • Willy Wonka

Characters may also express themselves alliteratively as a way to convey personality traits such as eccentricity or precision. 

In this clip from V for Vendetta (2005), the masked freedom fighter V uses alliteration. Sentences convey that he is both a learned man and a showman who makes grand gestures as a way to draw attention to his cause.

What does alliteration sound like? 

Whats an alliteration?

Scene Study

As discussed above, JK Rowling uses alliteration extensively throughout her Harry Potter universe, for character names and places, as well as dialogue. Here is an example from the movie version of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, written by Steve Kloves:

Alliteration Words: Professorial palaver

What does alliteration mean to Minerva? As with V in V for Vendetta, McGonagall’s alliterative dialogue expresses the nature of her character - an erudite educator and whimsical wizard. Also, as someone who engages with children often, she is intermittently inclined to intone nursery rhymes.

Here you can see how alliteration is woven into the written script of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. As in the filmed scene, there is alliteration in the dialogue. But the writer even includes alliteration in the description of the action (“wolf whistle”) to help enhance the flavor on the page. 

Kloves adapts the essence of the character and the alliterative dialogue from the novel.  The zippy and playful dialogue helps the actors understand the tone of the scene and how to perform it. 

UP NEXT

What is a Metaphor?  

Alliteration is one of many figurative language devices screenwriters should be in command of, along with metaphor, allusion, similes, onomatopoeia, and personification, among others. Now that we have explained alliteration with examples, let’s look at some metaphors and explore how they are used in storytelling.

Up Next: What is a Metaphor? →
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