Limericks are usually off-color poems set to a familiar rhythm and rhyme as naughty adult humor. However, limericks have also been known to be used in children’s poetry as nonsensical giggle creators. In any case, the trademark of a limerick is the snap of a sharp last line, which makes it memorable.
- Limericks are five lines long.
- Lines 1, 2, and 5 rhyme with one another.
- Lines 3 and 4 rhyme with one another.
- They follow the AABBA rhyming pattern (the “a” lines rhyme and the “b” lines rhyme (as shown below in the example poems).
- They are usually comical or nonsensical.
There was an Old Lady whose folly (a) induced her to sit in a holly; (a) whereupon, by a thorn (b) Her dress being torn, (b) She quickly became melancholy. (a) -Edward Lear
The limerick packs laughs anatomical Into space that is quite economical. But the good ones I've seen Hardly ever are clean And the clean ones so seldom are comical. -author unknown
There was an Old Man with a beard, (a) Who said, ‘It is just as I feared! (a) Two Owls and a Hen, (b) Four Larks and a Wren, (b) Have all built their nests in my beard! (a) -Edward Lear
Behind the poem
The origins of the limerick are unknown. Some say they point to Mother Goose Rhymes published in 1719. Others theorize soldiers returning from France brought them to the Irish town of Limerick in the 1700s. Edward Lear is known for establishing the limerick for comedic purposes in the 19th century.