Rhetorical Device: Alliteration

Alliteration is a very powerful rhetorical device used often in public speaking. It is defined as the repetition of initial consonant sounds in two or more nearby words. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica: "sometimes the repetition of initial vowel sounds (head rhyme) is also referred to as alliteration". Alliteration and consonance are related rhetorical devices that involve the repetition of sounds in nearby words, but they are not necessarily subtypes of each other.

Alliteration adds emphasis and cadence to a speech, drawing the listener's attention to certain words or phrases. It can also create a vivid and memorable impression in the mind of the listener, helping to express complex ideas in a succinct way. When used effectively, alliteration can help to engage an audience and add a captivating and memorable quality to a speech.

Examples

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear time's waste:
Then can I drown an eye, unused to flow,
For precious friends hid in death's dateless night,
And weep afresh love's long since cancelled woe,
And moan the expense of many a vanished sight:
Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,
And heavily from woe to woe tell o'er
The sad account of fore-bemoanèd moan,
Which I new pay as if not paid before.
But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restored and sorrows end. William Shakespeare, "Sonnet 30"
WWS rhetorical device explainer card on alliteration

And, above all, I will ask you to join in the work of remaking this nation, the only way it's been done in America for 221 years -- block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand. Barack Obama, "President-Elect Victory Speech" (4 November 2008)

They are part of the finest fighting force that the world has ever known. They have served tour after tour of duty in distant, different, and difficult places. Barack Obama, "Speech at Fort Hood Memorial Service" (10 November 2009)

And our nation itself is testimony to the love our veterans have had for it and for us. All for which America stands is safe today because brave men and women have been ready to face the fire at freedom's front. Ronald Reagan, "Vietnam Veterans Memorial Address." (11 November 1988)

I see the ten thousand villages of Russia, where the means of existence was wrung so hardly from the soil, but where there are still primordial human joys, where maidens laugh and children play. I see advancing upon all this in hideous onslaught the Nazi war machine, with its clanking, heel-clicking, dandified Prussian officers, its crafty expert agents fresh from the cowing and tying-down of a dozen countries. I see also the dull, drilled, docile, brutish masses of the Hun soldiery plodding on like a swarm of crawling locusts. I see the German bombers and fighters in the sky, still smarting from many a British whipping, delighted to find what they believe is an easier and a safer prey.Winston Churchill, "Germany’s Invasion of Russia" (22 June 1941)


Further reading

  • Wikipedia: Alliteration Visit
  • Silva Rhetoricæ: The Forest of Rhetoric Visit
  • Studio Binder: What is alliteration? Visit
  • Literary Devices: Alliteration Visit
  • MyShakespeare.me: Figures of Speech by Name Visit