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What is a Limerick? How to Write a Limerick?

Lena Kovadlo is a writer for various content-sharing websites. She's an author of 12 books and helps other authors publish theirs.

What is a limerick? How to write a limerick?

What is a limerick? How to write a limerick?

We often hear people talk about limericks but the word seems foreign to us and we wonder what is a limerick?

Well, a limerick is a type of poetry. Sometimes referred to as the "nonsense poem" a limerick is filled with humor and wit. While the poem is meant to cheer you up and make you laugh, it can also leave you thinking and inspire you too.

How to Write a Limerick?

A limerick consists of five lines with a rhyme scheme of AABBA. Each of the lines has a specific meter measure. The 1st, 2nd, and 5th lines have three feet, three syllables each, while the 3rd and 4th lines have two feet, three syllables each.

There are two types of "feet" in a limerick - either anapestic (two short unstressed syllables and a long stressed syllable) or amphibrachic (one stressed syllable and two unstressed syllables.

An easier way to illustrate this is to think of a rhythm that sounds like DA-DUM. One "foot" of an anapestic meter will have a rhythm of DA-DA-DUM, while one "foot" of an amphibrachic meter will have a rhythm of DA-DUM-DA.

When you finish writing your limerick read it with the DA-DA-DUM or DA-DUM-DA sounding rhythm. Your 1st, 2nd, and 5th lines, which are three "feet," should have three sets of DA-DA-DUMs or DA-DUM-DAs each. Your 3rd and 4th lines, which are two "feet," should have two sets of DA-DA-DUMs or DA-DUM-DAs each. If the lines sound like this then you've nailed the form. If your lines don't sound like this you may have to tweak the poem a bit. I am not sure if it is a must for the lines to strictly follow this rhythm/meter pattern to still be considered a limerick but it is best to adhere to the rules.

While a limerick consists of five lines you can have a long limerick poem that consists of many stanzas each one its own limerick poem. In this case the poems will most likely be of a similar nature or of a similar theme. Writing limericks in this way is both interesting and fun and a little more challenging. Once you figure out what you want to write about, writing a limerick is not that difficult to master, regardless of what kind it is and how long you intend for it to be.

Even though limericks are meant to be humorous you can still use poetic techniques in the poem such as metaphor, simile, personification and alliteration. Do not hesitate with experimenting with poetic techniques when writing this type of poetry. It will be more creative and challenging and you will be able to expand yourself as a poet and writer.

Example of a Limerick

A fellow I know bought a suit
I think it was made out of jute
The colours were mellow
It was red, green, and yellow
He looked like a large bowl of fruit

This limerick example is an excerpt from a long limerick poem "Get a Load of This" written by the talented poet and limerick writer Regis Auffray. He publishes his limericks on the AuthorsDen site and has recently released a book of limericks called Born Again: The Limericks of Regis that he is excited to share with the world.

Some interesting facts about Limericks

  • Edward Lear made this poetic form popular in this book Book of Nonsense, which he published in 1845.The origin of the name references the county of Limerick, which is located Ireland.
  • They were used during World Word II to gain higher priority when it came time to get new guns fitted to the Dutch sloop known as Soemba.
  • Poets tend to write limericks about a person or a place and they introduce that specific person or place in the first line of the poem.
  • Limerick poetry is a play on words.
  • Limericks can be turned into songs and it's been done in the past and present. Just add a refrain verse (chorus) between each five-line limerick and you got yourself a limerick song.
  • Some people write limericks using the required meter but refrain from using the required rhyme scheme of AABBA. These types of poems are referred to as "anti-limericks." People like W.S. Gilbert have written "anti-limericks."

I will admit that I wasn't a big fan of limericks... After helping my friend Regis Auffray with his limerick book I fell in love with limericks and have even written a few of my own. Now I am a limerick fan. I don't know if I have nailed the format of the limerick poem one hundred percent but I am surely satisfied with the limericks that I have written so far... I will certainly be writing more limericks in the future. And who knows... maybe I will have enough material for a limerick book of my own.

Limericks are certainly an addictive form of poetry... So, I will definitely be writing them from now on...

Learn about other poetic forms and styles...

© 2012 Lena Kovadlo


PoetikalyAnointed on September 21, 2018:

Great Hub, Lena.

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I've heard about Limericks in the past but never challenged myself to try it. You did a wonderful job explaining what this form of poetry is and how to write one.

You kinda piqued my interest with it...might give it a try one day. I'd have to really concentrate on the scheme to get it. It's always fun to experiment with poetry.

Thanks for sharing.

Dorothy Saltel on March 24, 2016:

I very much enjoy reading Limerick. Thanks for sharing this. I am going to give them a go.

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on August 20, 2014:

I'm not sure that anyone has limerick writing down 100%, but most limerick writers try as hard as we can. I also see poetry that the format isn't down 100%, but it isn't that easy to do and get the expression across. I have loved limericks since childhood and love to read them. It does disturb me, though when people take liberties with rhyming such as using "feathers" and "druthers".

Good instructive hub. Voted up++

picklesandrufus from Virginia Beach, Va on November 27, 2012:

I love limericks, but never knew all this information about them. Thanks for sharing!

Gypsy Rose Lee from Daytona Beach, Florida on November 24, 2012:

Thanks you for this interesting and informative hub. I love reading limericks but I'm not into writing them. Passing this on.

Lucille Apcar from Mariposa, California, U.S.A. on November 22, 2012:

I don't know much about limericks, but my favorite poet of all time is Ogden Nash. I quote him frequently, especially the one about Termites

Martin Kloess from San Francisco on November 21, 2012:

Thank you for explaining how to write a limerick.

Lena Kovadlo (author) from Staten Island, NY on November 21, 2012:

Wow! A poem about lil old me? Thank you for the honor. That was quick. Told you you are the "Limerick King" :)

rauffray from BC, Canada on November 21, 2012:

There's a lass in the east named Lena,

She's brave and she rides a hyena.

She's off on a mission,

She makes an impression,

In New York she's known as the Queena.


Lena Kovadlo (author) from Staten Island, NY on November 21, 2012:

Thank you Regis. I am honored to use you and your poetry (limericks in this case) as an example. I consider you a Limerick King! I need your help in turning me into a Limerick lover... :) meaning I want to "love" this type of poetry. Ah if only the flow didn't both me lol.

rauffray from BC, Canada on November 21, 2012:

Well, I am humbly honored that you would use me as an "example." I do love limericks; I always have. I think it is because for me, they are an escape from the "serious." Also, I love to "play" with words and with limericks, you do not have to worry about being serious. I think you did a great job of telling us all about this poetic genre. Thank you, Lena.

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