Understanding Consonance: Definition, Examples, and Usage
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 6 min read


  1. What is Consonance?
  2. How to Identify Consonance
  3. Examples of Consonance in Literature
  4. How to Use Consonance in Your Own Writing
  5. Why Consonance Matters in Literature

Ever wonder why some phrases in poems, songs, or novels stick in your mind, leaving a lasting imprint? Or why some words in a line sound so harmonious together? The answer might lie in a literary technique known as consonance. This blog post will unwrap the definition of consonance, give you examples from literature and guide you on how to use it in your own writing. Let's dive into the world of consonance and explore its magic!

What is Consonance?

At its core, the definition of consonance revolves around a simple concept. It's a literary device that focuses on the repetition of the same consonant sounds in a line of text. But don't mistake it for mere repetition. Consonance can be a powerful tool in the hands of a skilled writer, adding depth and rhythm to words and phrases.

Consonance and Sounds

Consonance often deals with sounds, specifically consonant sounds. When consonance is at play, you'll notice certain sounds repeating often. For example, in the sentence "She ate some sweet treats," notice how the "t" sound repeats. That's consonance for you! It's not just about the beginning or end of words either. Consonance can happen anywhere in a word.

Consonance and Harmony

One of the key reasons the definition of consonance involves sound is because it brings a certain harmony to the text. Just like how certain notes sound good together in music, certain sounds bring a harmonious flow to words. Consonance helps create a smooth, pleasing rhythm that makes the text more memorable and impactful.

Consonance and Literature

While consonance can be found in everyday language, it's especially prevalent in literature. Poets and authors have long used consonance to add a musical quality to their work, making it more engaging and enjoyable to read. So, the next time you read a poem or a novel, try to spot the consonance. You'll be surprised by how often it's used!

How to Identify Consonance

Now that we've understood the definition of consonance, let's move to the next step: identifying consonance in text. It's not always as straightforward as you might think. But don't worry, with a bit of practice and these tips, you'll be able to spot consonance like a pro.

Listen for Repetitive Sounds

One of the easiest ways to spot consonance is to listen for repetitive sounds. If you're reading a piece of text and notice a consonant sound repeating frequently, that's likely consonance. Remember, these sounds can be anywhere in the word, not just at the beginning or end. So, keep your ears open!

Understand the Difference Between Consonance, Assonance, and Alliteration

Consonance often gets mixed up with assonance and alliteration—two other literary devices involving repetition of sounds. But don't be fooled. While assonance focuses on repetition of vowel sounds and alliteration involves repetition of the initial consonant sound in words, consonance is all about repetitive consonant sounds anywhere in a word. Understanding this difference is key to identifying consonance.

Read Out Loud

Sometimes, consonance is easier to hear than see. So, if you're having a hard time spotting it, try reading the text out loud. The repetitive sounds will be more noticeable when you hear them, making it easier for you to spot the consonance.

Use a Highlighter

Another practical tip to identify consonance is to use a highlighter. As you read through a text, highlight the words with repetitive consonant sounds. This visual aid can help make the instances of consonance stand out more clearly, helping you better understand its use and effect in the text.

Examples of Consonance in Literature

Now that we've equipped ourselves with the ability to identify consonance, it's time to dive into some real-life examples from various pieces of literature. These examples will help further clarify the definition of consonance and demonstrate how it enhances the beauty and impact of written work.

Consonance in Poetry

Consonance is a frequently used device in poetry. Take Robert Frost's poem "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" for example. In the line "Whose woods these are I think I know", the repetitive 's' sound is a clear example of consonance, adding a soft, whispery feel to the line.

Consonance in Prose

Prose isn't left out when it comes to using consonance. In F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby", the line "So we beat on, boats against the current" uses the 't' sound to emphasize the struggle and effort the characters experience.

Consonance in Song Lyrics

Songwriters also employ consonance to enhance lyrics. In the song "Hotel California" by The Eagles, the line "On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair" repeats the 'd' and 'h' sounds, creating a rhythmic flow that's pleasing to the ear.

Consonance in Famous Speeches

Even in speeches, consonance plays a significant role. In Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, the line "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character" repeats the 'c' sound, adding emphasis and rhythm to his powerful message.

These examples from diverse forms of literature show how versatile and powerful consonance can be when used effectively.

How to Use Consonance in Your Own Writing

Got the definition of consonance down? Good. Now let's focus on how you can use this tool in your own writing, whether it's poetry, prose, song lyrics, or even speeches. Here's how to get started:

Identify the Mood or Tone

First things first: identify the mood or tone you want to convey in your writing. Consonance can create a variety of effects, from a soft, soothing tone with the use of 's' or 'f' sounds, to a harsher, more dynamic tone with 'k' or 't' sounds. Once you know the mood you want, you can choose the right sounds to enhance it.

Choose the Right Words

Next, choose words that contain the consonant sounds you want to focus on. Remember, consonance is about the repetition of consonant sounds, not just letters. So, words like 'cake' and 'kick', despite having different consonants, can create consonance because they share the 'k' sound.

Test the Flow

Once you've written your piece, read it aloud. Listening to the sound and rhythm of your words can help you identify if the consonance is working as you intended. If something doesn't sound quite right, don't be afraid to tweak it until it does.

Remember the Balance

Finally, remember that balance is key. While consonance can add a beautiful rhythm and emphasis to your writing, overdoing it can make your work sound repetitive or forced. Use this tool sparingly and thoughtfully for the best effect.

With these steps, you're well on your way to using consonance to add depth and flair to your writing.

Why Consonance Matters in Literature

Now that we've explored the definition of consonance and how to apply it, let's delve into why it holds such importance in literature. The value of consonance extends far beyond creating pleasing sounds. Here's why:

Enhances Emotional Impact

Consonance can enhance the emotional impact of a piece of writing. By carefully choosing and repeating sounds, writers can create a mood that resonates with readers. For instance, the repeated 's' sound can create a calming effect, while a repeated 'k' sound can create tension.

Reinforces Meaning

Consonance can also reinforce the meaning of a piece. The repetition of sounds can help emphasize certain words, drawing attention to them. This can help underscore the themes or messages in a piece of writing.

Contributes to Rhythm and Musicality

One of the main reasons writers use consonance is to add rhythm and musicality to their work. This is especially true in poetry and song lyrics, but it can also make prose more engaging and memorable.

Improves Memorability

Finally, consonance can improve the memorability of a piece of writing. Just think of famous phrases or company slogans that use consonance – they're catchy because the repeated sounds make them easier to remember.

So there you have it. Consonance does more than just make words sound good. It's a powerful tool that can add depth, emotion, and rhythm to your writing. So why not give it a try in your next writing project?

If you're fascinated by the concept of consonance and want to learn more about how it's used in the world of music composition, we recommend checking out the workshop 'Indie Film Composing: Storytelling In Music' by Daisy Coole. This workshop will provide you with a deeper understanding of how consonance, along with other musical elements, can be effectively used to create compelling narratives in film scores and compositions. Don't miss this chance to expand your knowledge and skills in music composition!