What is Alliteration - Featured Image

What is alliteration? You may conclude comprehension ‘cause alliteration words exist everywhere. Always ask anyway, as they sometimes share special, specific and subtle significance not explicitly evident. Writers would be wise to ascertain that alliteration 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 the alliteration definition and alliteration examples in pop songs, marketing, literature and comic books. We will also discover how common alliteration is in cinema — especially in movie titles and character names, but also within dialogue.

ALLITERATION DEFINITION

What is Alliteration?

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

  • 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?

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 Examples:

  • 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.’

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

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 

Check out more examples in this video.

Alliteration in hip hop hooks

Business and marketing make frequent use of alliteration for the same reason as pop music: a catchy, rhythmic phrase or title is easy to remember, especially if set to music.

What is Alliteration - Business Brands

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

Formal functions

What is alliteration in literature?

Writers have used alliteration for centuries across literary forms, 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 
  • “Once upon a midnight dreary while I pondered weak and weary.” Edgar Allen Poe, The Raven
  • “Burning bright,” and “frame thy fearful symmetry,”                  William Blake, Tyger

ALLITERATION ARCHETYPE

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.”

Other examples of alliteration in literature can be found in authors’ use of character names, including:

  • 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

Sansa Stark studies the snow

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

Examples include works by Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein.

  • “We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow / and watch where the chalk-white arrows go.” Shel Silverstein
  • “David Donald Doo dreamed a dozen doughnuts and a duck-dog, too.” Dr. Seuss

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 uses prominent D sounds.

Catchy comics

Alliteration meaning in comics

Like Harry Potter and other works for children, comic books are also famous for alliterative character names. Some prominent alliteration examples 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.

Stan Lee  •  Alliteration Generator

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. Other literary devices that work on our brain to create rhythm and meaning include symbolism and onomatopoeia, which is a great tool when writing a fight scene.

Movie Meaning

Alliterate to attract audiences

Thousands of film titles are alliterative. Why so many alliteration examples? Like the company and brand names, short catchy titles are memorable and easy to market. The best of them can also be very economical in conveying the essence of a movie.

What is Alliteration - Teeming with Title

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

Lindsay Lohan learns lessons

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

  • Benjamin Button / The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Bobby Boucher / The Waterboy
  • Buckaroo Banzai / The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension
  • Donnie Darko / Donnie Darko
  • King Kong / King Kong
  • Marty McFly / Back to the Future
  • Roger Rabbit / Who Framed Roger Rabbit
  • Steve Stifler / American Pie
  • Tracy Turnblad / Election
  • Vincent Vega / Pulp Fiction
  • Willy Wonka / Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

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 that convey he is both a learned man and a showman who makes grand gestures to draw attention to his cause.

The only verdict is vengeance

As discussed above, JK Rowling uses alliteration extensively throughout her Harry Potter universe, for character names, places, and dialogue.

Professorial palaver

As with V, Minerva 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.

UP NEXT

How to use 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 thoroughly reviewed an alliteration definition and examples, let’s look at some metaphors and explore how they are used in storytelling.

Up Next: How metaphor works →
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