Rhyme nor reason


What's the meaning of the phrase 'Rhyme nor reason'?

A thing which has neither rhyme nor reason makes no sense, from either a poetic or logical standpoint.

What's the origin of the phrase 'Rhyme nor reason'?

‘Rhyme or reason’ is first recorded by John Russell, in The Boke of Nurture, circa 1460:

As for ryme or reson, ye forewryter was not to blame,
For as he founde hit afore hym, so wrote he ye same.

Nicolas Udall, in his translation of The first tome or volume of the paraphrase of Erasmus upon the Newe Testament, in 1548, used the more usual negative form ‘rhyme nor reason’

Seeyng there is nether ryme ne reason in saing ye one eiuill spirite driueth out an other eiuil spirite.

This line is best known from Shakespeare – initially in Comedy of Errors, 1590:

DROMIO OF SYRACUSE:
Was there ever any man thus beaten out of season,
When in the why and the wherefore is neither rhyme nor reason?

The bard must have liked the line as he used it again in As You Like It, 1600:

ROSALIND: But are you so much in love as your rhymes speak?
ORLANDO: Neither rhyme nor reason can express how much.

Trend of rhyme nor reason in printed material over time

Gary Martin is a writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.

Gary Martin

Writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.