Guide to Literary Terms

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Limerick

Limerick - light verse consisting of a stanza of five lines, rhyming aabba, which is usually naughty in nature. The first, second, and fifth lines are in trimeter, and the third and fourth lines are in dimeter. Limericks are almost always humorous in tone.

The term takes its name from a county in Ireland and social gatherings there, at which nonsense verse was set out in facetious jingles.

Limericks first appeared in print in Anecdotes and Adventures of Fifteen Young Ladies and The History of Sixteen Wonderful Old Women in 1820. They were popularized by Edward Lear in two of his books: Book of Nonsense and More Nonsense.

An example is the following by Langford Reed:

An indolent vicar of Bray
His roses allowed to decay.
His wife, more alert,
Bought a powerful squirt
And said to her spouse, “Let us spray.”


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