List of English words without rhymes

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The following is a list of English words without rhymes, called refractory rhymes—that is, a list of words in the English language which rhyme with no other English word. The word "rhyme" here is used in the strict sense, called a perfect rhyme, that the words are pronounced the same from the vowel of the main stressed syllable onwards. The list was compiled from the point of view of Received Pronunciation (with a few exceptions for General American), and may not work for other accents or dialects. Multiple-word rhymes (a phrase that rhymes with a word, known as a phrasal or mosaic rhyme), self-rhymes (adding a prefix to a word and counting it as a rhyme of itself), and identical rhymes (words that are identical in their stressed syllables, such as bay and obey) are often not counted as true rhymes and have not been considered. Only the list of one-syllable words can hope to be anything near complete; for polysyllabic words, rhymes are the exception rather than the rule.

Definition of perfect rhyme[edit]

Following the strict definition of rhyme, a perfect rhyme demands the exact match of all sounds from the last stressed vowel to the end of the word. Therefore, words with the stress far from the end are more likely to have no perfect rhymes. For instance, a perfect rhyme for discomBOBulate would have to rhyme three syllables, -OBulate. There are many words that match most of the sounds from the stressed vowel onwards and so are near rhymes, called slant rhymes. Ovulate, copulate, and populate, for example, vary only slightly in one consonant, and thus provide very usable rhymes for most situations in which a rhyme for discombobulate is desired. However, no other English word has exactly these three final syllables with this stress pattern.[1] And since in most traditions the stressed syllable should not be identical—the consonant before the stressed vowel should be different—adding a prefix to a word, as be-elbow for elbow, does not create a perfect rhyme for it.

Words that rhyme in one accent or dialect may not rhyme in another. A commonplace example of this is the word of, which when stressed had no rhymes in British Received Pronunciation prior to the 19th century, but which rhymed with love in General American. (When unstressed, it's a homonym for have.)[2] In the other direction, iron has no rhyme in General American, but many in RP. Words may also have more than one pronunciation, one with a rhyme, and one without.

Words with obscure perfect rhymes[edit]

This lists includes rhymes of words that have been listed as rhymeless.

Non-rhyming English words[edit]

The majority of words with antepenultimate stress, such as animal, citizen, comedy, dangerous, and obvious, and with preantepenultimate stress, such as necessary, logarithm, algorithm and sacrificing, have no rhyme.

Masculine rhymes[edit]

Refractory one-syllable rhymes are uncommon; there may be fewer than a hundred in English.[16] A great many end in a present or historical suffix -th, or are plural or participle forms. This list includes a few polysyllabic masculine rhymes such as oblige, which have one syllable in their rhyming part.[17]

  1. angsts /ˈ-æŋksts/[18]
  2. breadth, -s /ˈ-ɛdθ/, /-s/
  3. bulb, -s, -ed /ˈ-ʌlb(d)/, /-z/[19]
  4. depth, -s /ˈ-ɛpθ/, /-s/
  5. fifth, -s, -ed /ˈ-ɪfθ(t)/, /-s/
  6. filmed /ˈ-ɪlmd/[20]
  7. glimpsed /ˈ-ɪmpst/
  8. (en)gulfed /ˈ-ʌlft/
  9. kirsch /ˈ-ɪərʃ/
  10. midsts /ˈ-ɪdsts/
  11. mulcts /ˈ-ʌlkts/[21]
  12. ninth, -s /ˈ-nθ/, /-s/
  13. oblige, -ed /ˈ-(d)/
  14. sculpts /ˈ-ʌlpts/
  15. sowthed, southed /ˈ-θt/[22]
  16. sixth, -s /ˈ-ɪksθ/, /-s/
  17. twelfth, -s /ˈ-ɛlfθ/, /-s/ The "f" in "twelfth" is commonly elided in casual speech, causing "twelfth" to rhyme with "health" and "wealth".
  18. whilst /ˈ-lst/
  19. vuln, -s, -ed /ˈ-ʌln(d)/, /-z/
  20. wolf, -s, -ed /ˈ-ʊlf(t)/, /-s/
  21. wolve, -s, -d /ˈ-ʊlv(d)/, /-z/

pork /ˈ-ɔərk/ has no rhymes in conservative RP and GA. However, the distinction between horse and hoarse has been mostly lost in younger generations, and for them pork rhymes with fork, cork, etc. (/ˈ-ɔrk/).

Nonce words ending in -ed ('provided with') may produce other potentially refractory masculine rhymes.[23] There are additional words which are only partially assimilated into English, such as Russian kovsh /ˈkɒvʃ/, which are refractory rhymes.

Although not meant as a complete list, there are some additional refractory rhymes in GA. Some of these are due to RP being a non-rhotic accent, and having merged rhymes formerly distinguished by /r/.

  1. heighth, -s /ˈ-tθ/, /-s/[24]
  2. iron /ˈ-aɪərn/[25]
  3. karsts /ˈ-ɑrsts/[26]
  4. scarce /ˈ-ɛərs/[27]

Feminine rhymes[edit]

Once the stress shifts to the penultimate syllable, rhymeless words are quite common, perhaps even the norm: there may be more rhymeless words than words with rhymes.[28] The following words are representative, but there are thousands of others.

  1. angel
  2. angry
  3. anxious
  4. chimney
  5. comment
  6. elbow
  7. empty
  8. engine
  9. foible
  10. foyer[29]
  11. hundred(th)
  12. husband
  13. liquid
  14. luggage
  15. monster
  16. neutron
  17. nothing
  18. olive
  19. penguin
  20. polka [30]
  21. problem
  22. sanction
  23. sandwich
  24. secret
  25. something [31]
  26. zigzag

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ OED search for pronunciations ending in "*QbjUleIt".
  2. ^ In RP, stressed of currently has the rhymes sov, short for sovereign, and Sov, short for Soviet.
  3. ^ Lopped off in a way reminiscent of a Manx cat's taillessness: in Horse Nonsense by R. J. Yeatman.
  4. ^ Exceptions for perfect rhymes with angst and angsts being some dialectical or theatrical (such as in performances of Shakespeare's plays) pronunciations of verbs conjugated in the somewhat obsolete second person plural form associated with the pronoun thou, which end with -est or -st. For example, thankest and wrongest, as in "thou thankest me too much" or "wrongst thou not me!", depending on how the words thankest /θæŋkst/) and wrongst /rɑːŋkst/ are pronounced, with the latter dependent on being subject to vowel-forward version of the cot–caught merger).
  5. ^ After /dʒ/ there is no distinction between /uː/ and /juː/. No other word ends in /ˈ-juːɡ/, but droog and for some people Moog end in /ˈ-uːɡ/; whether this is considered a rhyme depends on whether /ˈ-juː/ is considered a diphthong.
  6. ^ Also attested in poetry is onety-oneth /ˈwʌntiˈwʌnθ/
  7. ^ With the American pronunciation /ˈpəs/ with a long o, opus rhymes with other words, such as Canopus, lagopous, monopus (one-eyed), and slang mopus.
  8. ^ Webster's Third gives two pronunciations for sporange, one of which rhymes. However, one is a spelling pronunciation based on orange, and the OED only has the non-rhyming pronunciation, with the stress on the ange : /spɒˈræn/. The American pronunciation with one syllable has no rhyme, even in non-rhotic accents.
  9. ^ Held, Carl. Breaking the Orange Rhyme Barrier. Games. Issue 167 (Vol. 25, No. 1). pp. 10–13. February 2001.
  10. ^ The plural has a common rhyme in Heintz.
  11. ^ Held, Carl. Orange, Silver, now Purple (More Lexical Lunacy). Games. Issue 207 (Vol. 29, No. 1). pp. 4–9, 16. February 2005.
  12. ^ Rhythmic has no rhymes apart from logarithmic and algorithmic, which are often excluded for having identical syllables.
  13. ^ Held, Carl. From Orange to Silver (More Lexical Lunacy). Games. Issue 200 (Vol. 28, No. 4). pp. 4–9, 16. May 2004.
  14. ^ For some people, also environ, but this is not RP, in which environ /ˈ-aɪərən/ has no rhyme.
  15. ^ The plural women also has but a single rhyme, though a more common one: persimmon.
  16. ^ In the August 1980 Kickshaws,[1] Howard Bergerson listed 55, but rhymes have been found for some of them.[2]
    Apart from those listed under 'obscure rhymes' above, these are,
    beards – weirds; filched – obs. milched, dial. pilched, slang zilched; fluxed – betuxed (dressed in a tux), dial. muxed; jinxed – sphinxed, obs. nonce minxed; lairds – cairds (both Scottish); leashed – schottisched, niched (one pronunciation), Sc. creeshed; mouthed – southed (alt. pronunciation in Dict.com, but not OED); mulched – gulched; puss (cat, face) – wuss, schuss; scalds – tech. faulds, obs. balds, Sc. caulds & spauld; tenth/s – nth/s; tufts – Crufts, yufts (Russian leather).
  17. ^ Though Cole reported a phrasal rhyme in "Elijah knew, oblige a Jew".
  18. ^ The alternative American pronunciation /ˈɑːŋkst/ has no rhymes even in the singular.
  19. ^ Bulb can be assumed to rhyme with culb, an obsolete word (and hapax legomenon) for a glass distillation vessel attested without pronunciation from 1683.
  20. ^ The plural films rhymes with Wilms, a kidney tumor.
  21. ^ The infinitive mulct rhymes with sulked, bulked, etc.
  22. ^ As /ˈsaʊθt/. The verbs sowthed (as in sowthed a tune) and southed (pointed south) are identical and therefore not considered rhymes to each other. Phrases like foul-mouthed /ˈfaʊlmaʊθt/, though close, have the wrong stress to be perfect rhymes. Sowths, souths rhyme with mouth's. (Southed but not sowthed is also pronounced /ˈsaʊðd/, which rhymes with mouthed.)
  23. ^ Some promising words are befezzed (wearing a fez) and bemusicked, though the first rhymes with Yezd.
  24. ^ Colloquial GA heighth is /ˈhaɪtθ/. In RP, highth /ˈhaɪθ/ rhymes with dryth (= drought), rithe, etc., but is obsolete.
  25. ^ Two syllables, /ˈ-.ərn/, for many speakers. In RP, this rhymes with lion, cyan, Zion, etc.
  26. ^ In RP, this rhymes with fasts.
  27. ^ In RP, it rhymes with stairs, which is not a homonym for stares as it is in GA.
  28. ^ Liberman, Mark (8 December 2009). "Rhymes". Language Log. Retrieved 8 December 2009. 
  29. ^ British pronunciation /ˈfɔɪ/ or /ˈfɔɪj/ only. The US pronunciation /ˈfɔɪər/ has many rhymes including coyer and lawyer.
  30. ^ For some (GA) speakers, polka rhymes with mocha
  31. ^ Though of course something rhymes with phrases such as this dumb thing.

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