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Origin of limerick
Words nearby limerick
Definition for limerick (2 of 2)
What is a limerick?
A limerick is a five-line poem that is often humorous.
Limericks use the rhyme scheme AABBA, meaning that the first two lines rhyme with each other, and then the next (usually shorter) two lines rhyme with each other, and the last line rhymes with the first two lines. For example:
A limerick has five lines, not nine.
Start by rhyming two lines real fine.
Then rhyme another two.
It’s pretty easy to do.
Just don’t forget the punch line.
The limerick is a popular form of poetry that’s generally done just for fun, as opposed to being composed for high artistic value. Many children’s nursery rhymes are formatted as limericks. Limericks are also known for being used as a way to tell very raunchy jokes.
Limericks in poetry
The first known uses of the word limerick referring to the poem come from the late 1800s. The name is said to have originated from a kind of party game in which people took turns making up a set of nonsense verses, after which everyone would sing the same refrain, “Will you come up to Limerick?” (Limerick here refers to the county of Limerick in Ireland.)
People were writing and reciting limericks before they were called limericks—at least since the 1700s. The AABBA rhyme scheme that is almost always used today was popularized by poet Edward Lear in his 1846 collection A Book of Nonsense. In most limericks, the third and fourth lines are a rhyming couplet (a two-line rhyming poem whose two lines are usually the same length). These lines are often shorter than the first, second, and fifth lines. (In technical terms, they should have two metrical feet in contrast to the other three lines, which should have three metrical feet.) Here’s a classic example of a limerick that uses this structure:
There once was a man from Nantucket (A)
Who kept all his cash in a bucket. (A)
But his daughter, named Nan, (B)
Ran away with a man (B)
And as for the bucket, Nantucket. (A)
Get it? Nantucket in the final line is a pun meant to be interpreted as Nan took it. It’s common in many limericks for the final rhyme to end with the same word as the first line.
Limericks’ humor usually comes from puns and other kinds of wordplay, or just plain silliness. (Of course, a lot of people use them as an opportunity to make dirty jokes.) Limericks usually follow the traditional pattern, which makes them easy to recite. But they’re usually composed just for fun, and so the form doesn’t need to be perfect. Still, the last line is almost always the punch line.
Did you know ... ?
Many nursery rhymes are actually limericks, or at least very similar in form. For example:
Hickory, dickory, dock
The mouse ran up the clock
The clock struck one,
And down he run
Hickory, dickory, dock!
What are real-life examples of limerick?
Limericks are most commonly used as a fun way to tell a silly joke, especially one based on wordplay.
With math, Mrs Johnson could trace
Trajectories spinning through space,
And missions to follow—
Work nobody now can erase.
— Limericking (@Limericking) February 25, 2020
#AuthorConfession day 1: Introduce your WIP with a limerick!
Peter hides himself away.
Damian looks toward a new day.
It all starts out great
But they fear tempting fate.
Will they come out of this okay?
— Jennifer Gitler (@JenniferGitler) March 1, 2020
Which of the following choices is the traditional rhyme scheme for a limerick?
Example sentences from the Web for limerick
No alarms were triggered as she strolled out of the Giant supermarket in Limerick, Pennsylvania, and nobody thought otherwise.The Insane $11 Billion Scam at Retailers’ Return Desks|M.L. Nestel|December 19, 2014|DAILY BEAST
I was born in Limerick city but grew up in a small town in County Donegal—remote, windy, lots of rain.
As a teenager in 1952, Lee became pregnant and was immediately sent to a convent in Roscrea, County Limerick.Give Dame Judi Dench the Damn Oscar for ‘Philomena’|Nico Hines|October 18, 2013|DAILY BEAST
And I was trying to illustrate that with a more familiar example, which would be something like the repetition of a limerick.
He was taken to a place in Ireland called Limerick where he suffered undue hardships as opposed to due hardships.
Now the Waterford and Limerick were to lose, not only the Ennis line, but all their lines and their own identity as well.
On the 8th we ran our first running power train, and the Joy Bells rang in Limerick.
If only we could obtain running powers to Limerick and carry them back to Ireland, we should have secured some of the spoil.
Clanricarde himself dared not say a word, and Limerick threatened to be soon as bad as Galway.
He had spoiled the Sheriff of Limerick and threatened to cut his tongue out for complaining.
British Dictionary definitions for limerick (1 of 2)
Word Origin for limerick
British Dictionary definitions for limerick (2 of 2)
Cultural definitions for limerick
A form of humorous five-line verse, such as:
There once was a young man from Kew
Who found a dead mouse in his stew.
Said the waiter, “Don't shout
Or wave it about,
Or the rest will be wanting one too!”