Rhyming Dictionaries

Opinions differ about the value of rhyming dictionaries in lyric writing. Some see them as an indispensable aid for producing new and original rhymes, while others feel that they foster laziness and contrivance. Personally, I tend towards the latter view: if a rhyme isn’t natural enough to come to mind without the help of a dictionary, it’s probably going to sound a little artificial in the context of a song. It would certainly be a mistake to try to use rhyming dictionaries to generate all your rhymes as a matter of course, if only because they tend to be quite cumbersome and slow to use, and invariably come up with lots of words you can’t imagine using in any song. Where many people feel that rhyming dictionaries come into their own is when you have a great line, but are completely stuck for anything to rhyme it with. The idea of looking up all the possible rhymes in a book certainly appeals, and it can’t do any harm to find out the options that are available; but it’s by no means an infallible solution. If you can’t think of a suitable perfect rhyme yourself, the chances are that’s because there just isn’t one. And you may be better off either considering different end words to rhyme with, or settling for a half-rhyme, than making do with whatever your dictionary comes up with.Rhyming Dictionaries

There are actually two types of rhyming dictionary. The oldest, such as Walker’s Rhyming Dictionary, simply list words in reverse alphabetical order. These often do rhyme, as in ‘node’ and ‘mode’, but of course having a similarly spelt ending is no guarantee — consider ‘cough’ and ‘bough’. Nor do all rhyming words necessarily have similarly spelt endings, so such rhymes as ‘cake’ and ‘ache’ won’t show up. Modern rhyming dictionaries usually consist of two parts: an alphabetical list of words, and a list of words grouped according to their rhyming properties. Looking up a word in the alphabetical list directs you to groups of similar-sounding words. This type of rhyming dictionary is a lot more comprehensive than Walker’s, but can be more confusing to use, and still doesn’t include multi-word rhymes (‘gannet’ with ‘plan it’, for example).

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