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An example of a rhopalic (or snowball sentence) in which each word has one more syllable than the preceding one (from The Funny Side of English by O. Abootty. Pustak Mahal, 2004)


A sentence or a line of poetry in which each word contains one letter or one syllable more than the previous word.

Also known as gradual verse or wedge verse, rhopalic is a type of verbal play.

Charles O. Hartman notes that the "oddness of this form resides in only two characteristics--its unusual reliance on word boundary and its simplicity" (Free Verse: An Essay on Prosody, 1980).


From the Greek, "club, bludgeon"

Examples and Observations:

  • "I do not know where family doctors acquired illegibly perplexing handwriting; nevertheless, extraordinary pharmaceutical intellectuality, counterbalancing indecipherability, transcendentalizes intercommunications' incomprehensibleness."
    (Dmitri Borgmann, Language on Vacation: An Olio of Orthographical Oddities. Scribner, 1965)

  • "Very rare and curious is rhopalic verse (from Greek, 'clublike'--expanding or thickening toward the end). In whatever the meter, the words in the line get longer as the line moves on, e.g.,
    Words along rhopalic pentameters
    Add extra syllables, gradually;
    While shadows, lengthening, attenuate,
    Lines thicken approaching termination.
    (John Hollander, Rhyme's Reason: A Guide to English Verse. Yale Univ. Press, 2001)

  • "A rhopalic line is one in which each successive word has one more syllable than its predecessor. This sentence cleverly exemplifies rhopalicism. There are variations, like increasing each word in a line letter by letter (I am not sure about trying variant rhopalics) and decreasing rather than increasing the count . . .."
    (Stephen Fry, The Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking the Poet Within. Gotham, 2006)
Pronunciation: ro-PAL-ik
Also Known As: snowball sentence, wedge verse
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