Wordsmith.org: the magic of words


About Us | What's New | Search | Site Map | Contact Us  


Today's Word

Yesterday's Word




Pronunciation RealAudio

clerihew (KLER-uh-hyoo) noun

A humorous, pseudo-biographical verse of four lines of uneven length, with the rhyming scheme AABB, and the first line containing the name of the subject.

[After writer Edmund Clerihew Bentley (1875-1956), who originated it.]

Here is one of the first clerihews he wrote (apparently while feeling bored in a science class):

    Sir Humphrey Davy
    Abominated gravy.
    He lived in the odium
    Of having discovered sodium.

"Walter Bagehot, our most famous editor (from 1859 to 1877), advocated `animated moderation' in writing. And Sir Walter Layton, Crowther's immediate predecessor, spent hours rewriting his staff's articles--so many hours that one of his frustrated colleagues hit back with a clerihew:

    Sir Walter Layton
    Has a passion for alteration
    Would to God someone could alter
    Sir Walter."
M. Stevenson; Your Chance to Out-write `The Economist'; The Economist (London, UK); Dec 22, 1990.

"Settled in his living room with Italian liqueurs, I notice poet Henry Taylor's latest book, Brief Candles, a collection of clerihews: `Hart Crane/ plunged into the bounding main./ His situation could not have been graver:/ His father invented the candy lifesaver.'"
Michael Dirda; Excursions; The Washington Post; Jul 2, 2000.

This week's theme: words to describe poetic forms.


The violets in the mountains have broken the rocks. -Tennessee Williams, dramatist (1911-1983)

The Book:
A Word A Day is now a book. Find it in your local bookstore or at Amazon.com.

"A delightful, quirky collection." -The New York Times

Join Us:
Subscribe to A.Word.A.Day to receive it in your mailbox every day.


Bulletin board

Moderated Chat

Readers' Voice

Subscriber Services
Awards | Stats | Links | Privacy Policy
Contribute | Advertise

© 1994-2017 Wordsmith