by Chris Cole
Word Ways, 1990


In the February 1976 Word Ways, Maxey Brooke defines rhyme as "the identity in sound, of the accented vowels of words, usually the last one accented, and of all consonantal and vowel sounds following, with a difference in the sound of the consonants immediately preceding the accented vowels." Masculine rhymes have the final syllable accented, feminine rhymes have the penultimate syllable accented, and triple rhymes have the third-from-last syllable accented. Rhymes with the following consonants somewhat different are called vowel rhyme or assonance; rhymes with identical consonant sounds but slightly different vowel sounds are called off rhyme, sour rhyme, analyzed rhyme or consonance.

Refractory rhymes, or rhymeless words, involve the relatively unexplored area of word pronunciation (as opposed to word spelling). As such, they offer opportunities to distinguish true logology from mere word puzzling. For example, at least one recently-published word puzzle book states that there are two rhymeless words in English: ORANGE and SILVER. Actually, there are thousands of rhymeless English words, but Word Ways readers know of rhymes for ORANGE and SILVER.

Refractory rhymes are the subject of a chapter in Charles C. Bombaugh's Oddities and Curiosities of Words and Literature (Dover, 1961, reprint of 1890). In addition, several articles in Word Ways have discussed this subject:

Below is a list of allegedly rhymeless words from these and other sources. A rhyming word is given for each, although in many cases the rhyme is assonance. Unless otherwise indicated, all words occur in Merriam-Webster's Third New International Dictionary as an unpunctuated, uncapitalized, bold-faced entry or an inflected form thereof. The following abbreviations are used:

NI3 = Merriam-Webster's Third New International Dictionary

NI2 = Merriam-Webster's New International Dictionary, 2nd Edition

RHD = Random House Unabridged Dictionary

+ = slang, foreign, obsolete, dialectical, etc. words

Howard Bergerson's list contains several inflected forms for certain words. These entries have been compressed by giving a rhyme that is the same part of speech, and therefore has rhyming inflected forms.

Word		Rhyme					Assonance
aitch		braiche (NI2+), taich (NI2+)		naish
angry		unangry (NI2+)				aggry
angst							lanx
beards		weirds
breadth							death
bulb							pulp
carpet		charpit
chimney		timne, polymny (NI2+)
cusp		wusp (NI2)				bust
depth							stepped
eighth							faith
else							belts
exit		direxit (RHD+)				sexist
fiends		teinds, piends
filched		hilched (NI3+), milched (NI2)		zilch
filth		spilth, tilth
fifth							drift
film		pilm (NI3+)				kiln
fluxed		luxed (NI3+), muxed (NI3+)		ducked
glimpsed						rinsed
gospel							hostile
gulf							pulse
jinxed		outminxed (?)				blinked
leashed		niched, tweesht (NI2+)
liquid							wicked
mollusk							smallest
mouthed		southed
month							grumph
mulcts							bulks
mulched		gulched (NI3+)				bulged
ninth							pint
oblige							bides
oomph		sumph (NI3+)
orange		sponrange
pint		jint (NI2+)				bind
poem		phloem, proem
pregnant	regnant
purple		curple (NI3+), hirple (NI3+)
puss		schuss
rhythm		smitham
scalds		balds, caulds (NI3+), faulds (NI3+)
scarce		clairce (NI2), hairse (NI2+)		cares
sculpts							gulps
silver		chilver (NI3+)
sixth							kicks
spirit		squiret (NI2+)
tenth		nth
tsetse		baronetcy, intermezzi
tuft		yuft
twelfth							health
widow		kiddo
width							bridge
window		indo, lindo
wolf							bulls

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