[ uh-lit-uh-rey-shuhn ]
/ əˌlɪt əˈreɪ ʃən /
Save This Word!

the commencement of two or more stressed syllables of a word group either with the same consonant sound or sound group (consonantal alliteration ), as in from stem to stern, or with a vowel sound that may differ from syllable to syllable (vocalic alliteration ), as in each to all.Compare consonance (def. 4a).
the commencement of two or more words of a word group with the same letter, as in apt alliteration's artful aid.


Click for a side-by-side comparison of meanings. Use the word comparison feature to learn the differences between similar and commonly confused words.
There are grammar debates that never die; and the ones highlighted in the questions in this quiz are sure to rile everyone up once again. Do you know how to answer the questions that cause some of the greatest grammar debates?
Question 1 of 7
Which sentence is correct?

Origin of alliteration

1650–60; <Medieval Latin alliterātiōn-, stem of alliterātiō, equivalent to al-al- + literātiō, modeled after obliterātiōobliteration but intended to convey a derivative of littera letter
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What is alliteration?

Alliteration is the repetition of the same or a similar sound at or near the beginning of each word in a series.

The tongue twister Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers is a classic example of alliteration. The sentence uses the same consonant (the letter p) at the beginning of each main word to create alliteration. This specific kind of alliteration is called consonantal alliteration. Sometimes, this kind of alliteration can involve the repetition of not a single letter but the same letter combination, such as tr, as in Trip truly tricked Tracy. 

Alliteration that uses vowels or vowel sounds instead of consonants is known as vocalic alliteration. An example is Every editor expects excellence. But the vowel sounds don’t necessarily have to be created by the same letter. And even if different vowel sounds are used, the effect is still considered alliteration, as in Ed’s advice is always unexpected.

The adjective form of alliteration is alliterative, which is used to describe things that use or are examples of alliteration, as in Marilyn Monroe is an alliterative name. 

Alliteration is fun and it’s pleasant to hear. It’s typically used to call attention to a specific phrase or sentence or make it more interesting or memorable, such as in a story, a brand name, or advertising.

Why is alliteration important?

Alliteration is perhaps second only to rhyming in popular ways to have fun with words by stringing similar-sounding ones together. Use of the word alliteration dates back to the 1600s. Its ultimate root is the Latin word littera, meaning “letter” (as in a letter of the alphabet).

Though it often depends on the repetition of the same letter, alliteration is really about repeating the same sound at the start of a stressed syllable at or near the beginning of a word. Skillful use of alliteration can make words sound melodic or almost musical. A writer might do this just for fun, but many times it’s done to to play up a particular passage—to draw the reader’s attention to it for some reason. Overuse of alliteration can sometimes sound silly, especially since alliteration is associated with its use in nursery rhymes and tongue twisters like She sells seashells by the sea shore. 

Probably because it makes them more memorable, cartoon and comics characters are often given alliterative names: Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, Donald Duck, Daisy Duck, Betty Boop, Spongebob Squarepants, Peter Parker, Clark Kent, Lois Lane, Lex Luthor, and Wonder Woman are just a few of the many examples.

Alliteration is also common in brand names (Coca-Cola), stage names (Big Boi), band names (Foo Fighters), real names (Kourtney, Kim, and Khloé Kardashian), books (Pride and Prejudice), movies (The Fast and the Furious), TV shows (Breaking Bad), musical albums (Magical Mystery Tour), and many other things.

Did you know ... ?

Alliteration isn’t the only way that similar sounds are used to make patterns with a series of words. In poetry, consonance involves the repetition of consonants and consonant sounds, especially at the ends of words, as in sweet silent thought. Assonance, also called a vowel rhyme, involves the use of the same vowel sound with different consonants, as in time and light, or the same consonant with different vowels, as in mystery and mastery.

What are real-life examples of alliteration?

This video shows a scene from the film V for Vendetta that uses an extreme example of alliteration to create a memorable scene and character:

People love alliteration because it’s fun.


What other words are related to alliteration?

Quiz yourself!

True or False? 

Alliteration must involve the repetition of a consonant sound at the beginning of a word.

How to use alliteration in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for alliteration

/ (əˌlɪtəˈreɪʃən) /

the use of the same consonant (consonantal alliteration) or of a vowel, not necessarily the same vowel (vocalic alliteration), at the beginning of each word or each stressed syllable in a line of verse, as in around the rock the ragged rascal ran

Derived forms of alliteration

alliterative, adjective

Word Origin for alliteration

C17: from Medieval Latin alliterātiō (from Latin al- (see ad-) + litera letter), on the model of obliterātiō obliteration
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Cultural definitions for alliteration

[ (uh-lit-uh-ray-shuhn) ]

The repetition of the beginning sounds of words, as in “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,” “long-lived,” “short shrift,” and “the fickle finger of fate.”

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.