Men are supposed to be the strong, silent type, while women have the reputation for being chattier. Maybe that’s why masculine rhyme involves single-syllable pairs, while feminine rhymes are those that involve two, or even three, chiming syllables. In the nature of things, masculine rhymes have only one term by which they are called, while feminine rhymes have a veritable cornucopia, including double rhyme, triple rhyme, and extended rhyme, among others.
Strictly speaking, feminine rhymes are words of at least two syllables in which the final syllable is unstressed. This unstressed syllable as well as the one before it are rhymed in a pair of words such as weather and feather. Words with three or more syllables that rhyme the final two syllables and have an unstressed last syllable can also be found in pairs of words with feminine rhyme.
In contrast, masculine rhyme focuses on the final, stressed syllable. Single-syllable rhyming pairs cannot be categorized as feminine; pairs such as quake and fake are masculine because of their structure. Word pairs like formulate and confiscate are also masculine, despite being composed of three syllables each; that is because the rhyme is on the final syllable only, and it is a stressed syllable.
Fans of silly poems are, whether they know it or not, probably also very fond of feminine rhymes. This type of sound pairing is very common in limericks and children’s stories that are told in rhyme. There’s just something inherently amusing about repeating double sounds, such as those that occur in wobble and bobble or turtle and girdle.
It is possible that feminine rhymes are more often sillier than masculine ones because it’s more difficult to find word pairs that share so much aural material. This can force the poet to marry words that are odd bedfellows, for example, jury and blurry or bemuse and accuse. Needless to say, this is pure delight to a limericist who has a ready-made excuse to write about a professor who learns lesser and lesser.
The quirky, comedic side to feminine rhyme can, in the right hands, give way to something sweeter. Feminine rhyme, handled well, is subtle and delicate, making it perfect for a love poem. William Shakespeare was particularly adroit at this use of feminine rhyme in his Sonnet 20: “A woman's face with Nature's own hand painted / Hast thou, the master-mistress of my passion; / A woman's gentle heart, but not acquainted / With shifting change, as is false women's fashion.”