wikiHow to Write a Limerick

Three Methods:Sample LimericksForming Your LimerickPutting It Together

A limerick is a short, comical, and almost musical poem that often borders on the nonsensical or obscene. It was popularized in English by Edward Lear (and thus Limerick Day is celebrated on his birthday, May 12). Writing them takes a little practice at first, but before long you'll be addicted to coming up with these witty, whimsical rhymes.

Sample Limericks

Sample Limericks

Sample Limerick

Sample Limerick Poems

Method 1
Forming Your Limerick

  1. Image titled Write a Limerick Step 1
    Know the basic characteristics of a limerick. While there are slight variations in this style of poetry, they all fall within the same rhythmic umbrella. A true limerick has five lines; the first, second, and fifth rhyme with each other, and the third and fourth rhyme with each other. In addition to rhyme, consider:
    • Number of syllables. The first, second and fifth lines should have eight or nine syllables, while the third and fourth lines should have five or six.
    • Meter. A limerick has a certain "rhythm" created by how the syllables are stressed.
      • Anapaestic meter - two short syllables are followed by a long (stressed) one (duh-duh-DUM, duh-duh-DUM). Here's an example (note that the emphasis naturally falls on the italicized syllables): Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house
      • Amphibrachic meter - a long (stressed) syllable is sandwiched between two short ones (duh-DUM-duh, duh-DUM-duh). Example: There was a young lady of Wantage
      • Lines can begin on two, one, or occasionally no unstressed beats. Some prefer to continue the rhythm across from one line to the next, especially when a sentence carries across lines, but this is not essential.
  2. Image titled Write a Limerick Step 2
    Choose the ending of your first line. Knowing this first will help you mentally sift through rhymes. The ending of the initial line is usually a geographical place. Take Pittsburgh. Note that the first syllable of Pittsburgh is stressed, resulting in one short syllable at the end of the line. Another example: New York. Note that the second syllable of New York is stressed. This will create two very different limericks.
    • Choosing a place like Pottawattamie or xyz may embark you on a long, uphill poem-writing battle. The more common the sound, the more rhymes you'll have at your disposal.
      • You don't have to choose a place! Or that place doesn't have to be a city -- "There once was a girl in a shoe," is more vivid than a girl living in a plain ol' city.
  3. Image titled Write a Limerick Step 3
    Think of different words to rhyme with your first line's ending. Let the story and punchline of your limerick be inspired by the rhymes you think of. After all, a good limerick is cohesive and clever. Let's go back to "Pittsburgh" and "New York."
    • Because Pittsburgh is stressed on the first syllable, you'll have to rhyme with both syllables. First things that come to mind: kids lurk, zits work, bits jerk, hits perk, lit smirk, or maybe a different combination of these words.
    • Because New York is stressed on the second syllable, you only need to rhyme with that one. First things that come to mind: cork, pork, stork, fork. Write your own extensive list.
  4. Image titled Write a Limerick Step 4
    Make associations with the rhyme words. The two examples we're using are already starting to form their own feel. For the Steel City, with words like kids and zits and private bits, you could go for a limerick about puberty. And for the Big Apple, through the combination of cork, pork and fork, you could imagine a limerick about a fancy dinner with lots of meat and wine.
    • Go through the list you created and think up little stories of what could have happened and how your ideas could be related. The association only has to be loose. Sometimes, the more nonsensical, the funnier the limerick is. So long as it paints a picture in the reader's head, your limerick is successful.
  5. Image titled Write a Limerick Step 5
    Pick a story that appeals to you. Decide on who the person(s) is you introduce in line 1. What is important about him or her? Do you focus on their profession or social status, or on age, health or particular stage in his or her life?
    • For the Pittsburgh limerick, you could go for the word "adolescent." Something everyone can relate to!
    • For the New York limerick, you might be thinking of the word "distinguished" with something following that.

Method 2
Putting It Together

  1. Image titled Write a Limerick Step 6
    Make the first line nice and fitting with the meter. Your word choice will determine which type of meter you employ; don't worry, you'll be able to hear what works and what doesn't. Let's keep going with our two examples:
    • Example 1, adolescent and Pittsburgh: Adolescent is stressed on the 3rd syllable. Pittsburgh starts with a stressed syllable. This means we need one more long syllable at the start, and only have room for one short syllable between "adolescent" and "Pittsburgh." So we might get: "A young adolescent from Pittsburgh."
    • Example 2, distinguished and New York: Distinguished is stressed on the second syllable. Combined with "from New York," that leaves us only two syllables for in between, with the second one stressed. You could solve this, for instance, by borrowing from a foreign language: "The distinguished beau monde of New York."
  2. Image titled Write a Limerick Step 7
    Choose a situation or action in which your person starts off. This is the starting point of your story or joke. Use one of the rhyming words from your list to complete your second line.
    • Example 1: "A young adolescent from Pittsburgh, was just finding out how his bits work." Now that's a set up for limerickal success.
    • Example 2: "The distinguished beau monde of New York, was heavily dining on pork." Note how the rhyme in line 2 seems to fit with the subject in line 1, while it actually is the other way around. Audience fooled!
  3. Image titled Write a Limerick Step 8
    Think of a 'turn' or 'twist' in your story. While considering rhyming words for the 3rd and 4th line, save the punchline for your last line. The fun in the limerick comes in the 4 line wait for the kick at the end.
    • Of course the "bits" story will probably get messy -- excellent. Because limericks often border on the obscene, you could have your hero's hormones take the best of him (without making it too explicit). How about: "He dreamt every night, of a girl by his side?" That's family friendly.
    • Example 2: Thinking of cork and pork, maybe you notice how wine rhymes with swine. That would be a great follow-up and set your imagery well.
  4. Image titled Write a Limerick Step 9
    Wrap up the story with a punchline. Go back to your list of rhyme words and find a nice one to cinch it all together. This is the most difficult part. Don't be put off if your first few limericks aren't funny enough. Remember that it's first of all a matter of taste, and second: everything takes practice. And sometimes it's just a matter of finding the right initial word to set up your rhymes!
    • Our Pittsburgh example evolved nicely: "A young adolescent from Pittsburgh, was just finding out how his bits work. He dreamt every night, of a girl by his side, but his zits seemed to make all the kids smirk."
    • The New York one did, too. "The distinguished beau monde of New York, was heavily dining on pork. They drank so much wine, that instead of the swine, many were chewing on cork."


  • Clap your hands when reciting your limericks aloud. It helps you find out the 'feel' of the meter, and check if it has the right flow.
  • If you're stuck, try looking through a few limericks other people have written; each writer's limericks have a special, individual "feel" to them. You never know which one may crack right through your writer's block.
  • There are many rhyming dictionaries in print and online that can help. Online you can also searching by smaller word endings and full words, too (in addition to by syllable, of course).
  • Choose animals, plants, or people as topics for starters. Don't begin with something too abstract.
  • When you know your way around the basics, try experimenting with internal rhyme, alliteration or assonance to make your poem even more special.
  • Read some of Edward Lear's limericks and nonsense poems.
  • Use the alphabet. This will allow you to quickly come up with an unlimited number of rhymes. For example, take the word "Wiki" and run the "iki" part through the alphabet: aicki...bicki.... By the time you've mentally checked off all 26 letters, you'll at least have chickie, hickey, mickey, picky, tricky, etc.
  • Love poems are harder to write. Limericks are jokes, not love poems.
  • Always check your spelling before publishing.

Article Info

Featured Article

Categories: Featured Articles | Poetry