limerick, type of humorous verse. It is always short, often nonsensical, and sometimes ribald. Of unknown origin, the limerick is popular rather than literary and has even been used in advertising. The rhyme scheme of most limericks is usually aabba, as in the following example:
The most famous collection of limericks is Edward Lear's Book of Nonsense (1846).
There was an old man from Peru,
Who dreamed he was eating his shoe.
He woke in a fright
In the middle of the night
And found it was perfectly true.
See L. Reed, The Complete Limerick Book (1925); C. P. Aiken, A Seizure of Limericks (1964); V. B. Holland, An Explosion of Limericks (1967); W. S. Baring-Gould, The Lure of the Limerick (1967).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.