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What is a limerick?

A limerick is a five-line poetic form that is humorous and usually crass in tone.


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Last Updated May 26, 2023.

A limerick is a poem with a rhyme scheme of aabba, and it is structured using two long lines, followed by a short couplet, and ending with a long line. Limericks are almost always humorous and often crass. 


The poetic form is named for either the city or county of Limerick, Ireland. It is theorized that limericks got their name from an 18th-century song sung at social gatherings called "Will You Come Up to Limerick?" The song's title was repeated in its chorus, after which the gathered singers were encouraged to contribute improvised verses.


Edward Lear popularized the poetic form when he published a collection of limericks entitled Book of Nonsense (1846). However, the limerick forms predate his volume by at least a century, when similar poems were written in Gaelic by "the Poets of the Maigue," a group of Irish poets living near the Maigue river.


An example of a Limerick is the following poem by Ogden Nash, one of the most well-regarded American writers of humorous verse:, wrote the following limerick:

A flea and a fly in a flue

Were imprisoned, so what could they do?

Said the fly, "let us flee!"

"Let us fly!" said the flea.

So they flew through a flaw in the flue.

see: poetrycouplet

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