• assonance •
æs-ê-nêns • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, mass
Meaning: 1. The repetition of identical vowel sounds (not letters) separated by differing consonants, as in the stealthy leopard leapt the crevice deftly. 2. Roughly in agreement, generally but not exactly alike.
Notes: Do not confuse assonance with alliteration, the repetition of the same consonant sound that we find in tongue-twisters like Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. Assonance is the repetition of a vowel in a line. The suffix -ce is the regular suffix that creates nouns from adjectives ending on -ent and -ant, so we aren't surprised to find that this word is derived from the adjective assonant. If you use this adjective adverbially, don't forget to insert the meaningless suffix -al before the adverb marker -ly: assonantally.
In Play: To be in consonance on a topic is to be in complete accord, but to be in assonance is to share opinions that are not exact: "I feel a good deal of assonance with the Tory position on the issue, but I still cannot agree with it wholly." A complete lack of accord, of course, is dissonance. Here is another example of assonance as repeated vowels: "I think the after-class track fad will diminish once winter sets in."
Word History: Today's word is French assonance from a Latin noun derived from assonare "to respond to", made up of ad "to(ward)" + sonare "to sound", a verb from the noun sonus "sound'. The D of ad 'assimilates' to the consonant following it, so before the S of sonare, it becomes S, too. We find the root son- in many words borrowed by English from Latin: consonant, sonorous, and resonate. We also find son in Old English meaning "sound" but it sounded so much like sound "a channel between an island and the mainland" and sound "healthy", that its spelling and pronunciation gravitated to theirs.
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