Definition of a Limerick?
A limerick can be defined as,
“A five-line poem written with one couplet and one triplet”.
“Often referred to as nonsense poetry, Limericks are types of poems that are meant to be amusing, humorous and comical in nature and tonality; though the comedy can at times be obscene & raunchy in nature as well”.
Figurative Devices Used in Limericks
Figurative devices such as hyperbole, onomatopoeia, idioms, puns, and the kike are used to write down limerick poems. The last line of a good limerick poem typically contains the “punch line” or "heart of the joke."
History and Origin
The form of limerick poetry is originally derived from England as of the early years of the 18th century. It was popularized by Edward Lear in the 19th century, although he did not use the term in direct reference for this kind of poetry.
While the general consensus is that the term Limerick is derived from the Irish City of Limerick, many English and American authors around the same era claim to have coined the term; yet the popular opinion favors the Irishman.
Rhyming Format of a Limerick Poem
A standard limerick poem consists of a stanza of five lines, with the first, second and fifth usually rhyming with one another and having three feet of three syllables each.
The shorter third and fourth lines also rhyme with each other, but have only two feet of three syllables each. The defining "foot" of a limerick’s meter is usually the anapaest, (ta-ta-TUM), but limericks are also considered amphibrachic (ta-TUM-ta).
Characteristics of a Limerick
The following characteristics define what is a Limerick poem:
- A Limerick poem will always have 5 lines to it; no more, no less. And these are usually very short sentenced lines; nothing too elaborate; only a witty twist of words
- Off these 5 lines, lines # 1, 2 and 5 should always end in words that rhyme with each other
- Consequently, lines # 3 and 4 should always end in words that rhyme with one another. However, the ending words for lines 3 and 4 must have a different sound than the words than end lines # 1, 2 and 5.
- Usually most writers will reinforce the rhyming rule by asking you to follow the ‘aabba’ rule. To make it a little more engaging, simply go with the “DA DA DI DI DA” flow i.e. ending words for lines 3 & 4 rhyme with each other, and likewise the last words for the 3 other remaining lines should rhyme with each other as well.
- The essence of a Limerick poem is written in the last line i.e. Line # 5 contains the punch line (the most humorous or jokey) part of the whole poem.
The easiest way to remember the above mentioned rules are; there are 5 rules to the 5-lined Limerick poem; as simple as that.
Famous Limerick Poems
While you will come across many limericks that are acclaimed, one of the more popular and well-known classic Limericks goes like:
There was a young rustic named Mallory,
who drew but a very small salary,
When he went to the show,
his purse made him go
to a seat in the uppermost gallery
Notice how the words end up rhyming in lines # 1, 2, 5 and lines # 3, 4. While the history of limericks remains a point of debate till this day, the above written Limerick is one of the most primitive uses of this form of poetry from a newspaper published in New Brunswick during 1880.
Examples of Limericks – Limericks for Kids, and Funny Limerick
There once was an old man from Peru
His poor llamas came down with the flu
In the valley he passed
All the people who gasped
At the beast that was uttering "moo"
There was an old man from Peru,
who dreamed he was eating his shoe
He awoke in the night
with a terrible fright
and found out that it was quite true
Types of Limerick Poems
Limerick poetry is typically used for fun and entertaining events and comprise of the following kind of commonly crafted poems:
- Dirty limerick
- Funny limerick
- Birthday limerick
- Retirement limerick
- Escorts limerick
- Street girl limerick