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A masculine rhyme is one in which only a single syllable is rhymed. Most often, this is the final syllable in a given line, and the syllable is usually stressed. It contrasts with feminine rhyme, in which both syllables of the final word are rhymed. Masculine rhyme is the most common type of rhyme used in English poetry.
Poets use single-syllable words in masculine rhyme. For example, one might rhyme "door" with "floor" or "west" with "best." Words with more than one syllable, however, are often used. For example, behead might be rhymed with dread or commence with defense. As long as the final syllables of the words rhyme, words of any length may be used.
In most cases, the rhyming syllable must be the final stressed syllable. For example, "finding" is not generally considered to rhyme with "talking," even though they have the same final syllable. This is because the first part of each word is the stressed syllable rather than the "ing" part. In France, poets do not count the final syllable of a word if it ends with a silent "e."
The term "single rhyme" may also be used to describe masculine rhyme. Another term is monosyllabic. Still others use the term "simple rhyme."
Masculine rhymes can be used within any rhyming format. In a couplet, the last stressed syllable of the two lines would rhyme. In an "abab" stanza, the final syllables of each "a" line would rhyme, as would the final syllables of each "b" line.
Feminine rhyme, by contrast, requires at least the last two syllables of the words to rhyme. Examples could include "taken" and "bacon" or "blinded" and "minded." This type of rhyme is often called double or triple rhyme and might be referred to as multi- or polysyllabic rhyme.
Many poets alternate masculine rhyme and feminine rhyme within a single poem, while others choose one or the other. Most verse types express no preference, leaving the writer to determine the most effective use of rhyme in a given piece. In classical French poetry, however, two masculine rhymes must never be used in sequence.
Near rhyme is a term used to describe words that almost rhyme. A perfect rhyme is one that matches exactly. For example, "fold" and "hold" are a perfect rhyme, while "folder" and "blower" are a near rhyme. Traditionally, masculine rhyme requires that the rhyme be perfect rather than near.