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Named after the English humourist and novelist Edmund Clerihew Bentley (1875–1956), who invented the rhyme.




 • Sir Christopher Wren
Said, “I am going to dine with some men.
“If anyone calls
Say I am designing St. Paul’s.”
Biography for Beginners (1905) by Edmund Clerihew[1]
 • The clerihew, as you can see,
is shorter than it ought to be,
with just four lines I’m s’posed to tell,
what it’s all about ... oh well.

clerihew (plural clerihews)

  1. A humorous rhyme of four lines with the rhyming scheme AABB, usually regarding a person mentioned in the first line. [from 1920s]
    • 1984, Cum Notis Variorum: The Newsletter of the Music Library, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, Calif.: Music Library, University of California, Berkeley, ISSN 0161-1186, OCLC 3856408, page 115:
      CLERIHEW CONTEST. CNV announces a clerihew contest, with the best examples to be published in this newsletter.
    • 2002, Trevor Hold, “Peter Warlock (1894–1930)”, in Parry to Finzi: Twenty English Song-composers, Woodbridge, Suffolk: The Boydell Press, →ISBN, page 330:
      He [Peter Warlock] was the writer of brilliant limericks and clerihews and had a fine line in barbed invective.
    • 2008, Christopher Foyle, Foyle’s Further Philavery: A Cornucopia of Lexical Delights, Edinburgh: Chambers, →ISBN, page 38:
      A clerihew must contain the subject's name in the first line, be four lines in length, consist of two sets of rhyming couplets, have third and fourth lines longer than the first and second, and take a whimsical rather than cynical view of its subject.
    • 2009, Иностранные языки в школе [Foreign Languages at School], Moscow: Гос. учебно-педагог. изд-во Министерства просвещения РСФСР [Ministry of Education of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic], ISSN 0130-6073, OCLC 1753168, page 32:
      Among other clerihew writers one can find the name of J[ohn] R[onald] R[euel] Tolkien, the author of The Hobbit and the most famous at present trilogy The Lord of the Ring[s] widely read and enjoyed by adults and children alike.
    • 2009, Paul Joel Freeman, “Perverse”, in Wit in English, [Bloomington, Ind.]: Xlibris, →ISBN, page 256:
      This form was initiated by Edmund Clerihew Bentley who throughout his life kept churning out Clerihews, the name they ultimately became known by; he had published three collections under the name E. Clerihew.
    • 2017, E[dmund] C[lerihew] Bentley; H. Warner Allen, “Introduction”, in Trent’s Own Case (The Detective Club), London: HarperCollins Publishers, →ISBN:
      Warner Allen's own creation, the wine merchant William Clerihew, had appeared in 'Tokay of the Comet Year', a short story published in 1930, and also in the book Mr. Clerihew: Wine Merchant three years later. [] The Clerihew name was a hat-tip to [Edmund Clerihew] Bentley, who had, long before, devised the humorous four-line verse form known as the clerihew.

Alternative forms[edit]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ E[dmund] Clerihew, editor ([1905]), “Sir Christopher Wren”, in Biography for Beginners: Being a Collection of Miscellaneous Examples for the Use of Upper Forms, London: T[homas] Werner Laurie, Clifford's Inn, OCLC 557783041.

Further reading[edit]