Can You Rhyme the Same Word Twice (or with Itself)? and Other Common Rhyming Questions
A Songwriter’s Rhyming FAQ
Rhyme is an indispensable tool in the arsenal of a lyricist. But some songwriters struggle with the basic concepts of it; usually because they do not come from a formal background in literature. But you really do not need an English degree to be a songwriter. Let’s explore some of the basic components to rhyming, common questions, and how they relate to your songs.
- Can You Rhyme the Same Word Twice (or with Itself)? and Other Common Rhyming Questions
What Kinds of Rhymes Are There?
There are many types of rhymes possible in the English language and some of them go by several different names. Let’s briefly look at a few and what they mean.
Perfect Rhyme. This is the strictest form of rhyme where the stressed vowels are identical but the consonant that starts the stressed syllable is different.
- Example: Glean and clean
Half Rhyme (also called slant rhyme or near rhyme). This is where the stresses are not identical but they’re close; either the consonant sounds match (called alliteration) or the vowels match (also called assonance).
- Example (alliteration): brick and creek
- Example (assonance): take and save
Syllabic Rhyme. When the last syllables sound the same but the stressed syllables don’t.
- Example: mover and shaker
Pararhyme. When all of the consonants in both words match.
- Example: click and clack
Broken Rhyme. This is where you break a word in half, like a line break on paper, in order to make two lines rhyme.
- Example: the word behind is divided at the line break so it can rhyme with see.
If I could go be— Hind the set and see
Homophone. These are two or more words that are pronounced the same but are spelled differently and have different meanings. This is not to be confused with a homonym, when two words are spelled the same but have different meanings.
- Example: where and wear
Internal Rhyme (also called middle rhyme). This is where a rhyme occurs within a single line, rather than occurring at the end of two lines.
- Example: line 55 of Edgar Allen Poe’s poem The Raven
But the Raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only
Can I Rhyme a Word Twice/with Itself?
The explanation of identical rhyming now begs a common question from beginner songwriters: can I rhyme a word with itself? Technically speaking, yes, of course a word can always rhyme with itself. But what’s really being asked here? Is it lyrically acceptable to rhyme a word with itself? Generally, it is considered amateur to rhyme a word with itself if there is not a double meaning employed. Such rhyme patterns tend to look haphazard or lazy.
4 Reasons to Rhyme a Word with Itself
There are at least four instances when rhyming a word with itself works fine and nobody complains:
- Homonyms and Wordplay. Sometimes a word will sound the same but be used for two different meanings (homonym) or they will sound alike but be two differently-spelled words (homophone). Some very clever lyrics can be written when you use different connotations of a word to modulate the intent between lines.
- Example 1: “The Way I Am” by Eminem
Cause since birth / I was cursed With this curse / to just curse
- Example 2: “Where Is the Love?” by the Black Eyes Peas
What's wrong with the world, Mama? People livin' like they ain't got no mamas
- For Emphasis. Sometimes a verse written in ABAB format will repeat an entire line, thus causing the rhyme to be the same word. This is often done intentionally for emphasis of the topic.
- Example : “Revolution” by John Lennon
You say you want a revolution Well, you know, we all want to change the world You tell me that it’s evolution Well, you know, we all want to change the world
- Double Perfect Rhymes. A double rhyme is where the stress is placed on the second to last syllable rather than the final syllable of the words. For example, “see it” and “be it”. The final word “it” is used twice, but that’s not the part of the phrase meant as the rhyming element anyway.
- For Comedic Effect. Sometimes a word is rhymed with itself intentionally as comedy. An example would be “Trapped in the Drive-Thru” by Weird Al Yankovic:
Then we drive to the drive-thru Heading off to the drive-thru We're approaching the drive-thru Getting close to the drive-thru! Almost there at the drive-thru Now we're here at the drive thru Here in line at the drive-thru Did I mention the drive-thru?
Famous Songs that Break the Rules
Regardless of all I just mentioned, there are still plenty of popular songs that rhyme the same word without any of the previous four excuses and people still let it slide (mostly because the artists were already popular). Some noteworthy examples include:
- “Meet Virginia” by Train
- “No Scrubs” by TLC
- “Rollin” by Limp Bizkit
- “Girlfriend” by Avril Lavigne
- “You Belong With Me” by Taylor Swift
- “Without Me” by Enimem
- “Toxic” by Britney Spears
Does My Song Need to Rhyme?
I have an entire article dedicated to this question, but in short: no, your song does not need to rhyme. Plenty of songs are written in free verse or non-consecutive rhyme (where the verses do not follow a strict rhyme pattern, they are only used sporadically throughout the song). Rhyme should be looked at as a means of expression and not a hand-and-fast requirement for writing lyrics. With that being said, rhyming oftentimes can improve the catchiness of a song because novel sound patterns aid the human brain in memorization.
Is It Cheating to Use A Rhyming Dictionary?
Is a songwriter or rapper cheating if they use a rhyming dictionary (like Rhymezone) to complete their rhymes? No, you are not cheating if you use Rhymezone or any other rhyming dictionary. First off, a person cannot be expected to know every word in the English language and, by effect, memorize each rhyme pair possible out of hundreds of thousands of words. Second, reference materials are designed specifically for use by poets, rappers, and songwriters to improve their workflow by reducing writer’s block.
You know that moment, when you’re in the middle of a creative flow writing session but then you suddenly can’t think of a rhyming word that fits. Then you spend so much time racking your brain for words you do know, switching from a creative mindset into an editorial mindset, that you lose your stream of consciousness and the writing session gets deadlocked.
We are humans with finite conscious resources, not walking computers. So oftentimes our verses are limited by the amount of words we can retrieve on the fly from memory. Rhyming dictionaries can improve your verses by inspiring more interesting rhyme pairs than what the average person can formulate from the top of their head; Sure, anybody can think of rhyming sad and bad, but with the use of a rhyming dictionary you could easily find a less common and more creative rhyming pair like sad and notepad. These reference books are tools to aid the writing craft because the job of a songwriter is not to memorize dictionary entries. Rather, it’s to combine words in novel and meaningful ways.
What is Flow in Music?
We can’t talk all about rhyme without also mentioning rhythm or, as the rappers say, flow. Songwriters, especially in rap genres, often have questions on flow; what we mean by flow is having rhythm to our lyrics that synchronizes with our music. How do we develop flow? It’s really not as metaphysical or conceptual as rappers may think it is. Flow is really just an expression of poetic meter (after all, lyrics are just poetry set to music).
If you want to know more about flow and rhythm in your music, I recommend that you read my in-depth article that explains flow (a.k.a. lyrical rhythm) and how you can add it to your songs.
Other Articles to Consider
If you found this guide helpful, here are a few relates pages to also read: