Poetic Form – The poetic feet

In verse, a foot is the basic unit of meter used to describe rhythm. A foot consists of a certain number of syllables forming part of a line of verse. A foot is described by the character and number of syllables it contains: in English, feet are named for the combination of accented and unaccented syllables; in other languages such as Latin and Greek, the duration of the syllable (long or short) is measured.

Below are listed the names given to the poetic feet by classical metrics. The feet are classified first by the number of syllables in the foot (disyllables have two, trisyllables three, and tetrasyllables four) and secondarily by the pattern of vowel lengths (in classical languages) or syllable stresses (in English poetry) which they comprise.

Disyllables

  • pyrrhus or dibrach: two short syllables
  • iamb: Consisting of a short syllable followed by a long one, or of an unaccented syllable followed by an accented; as, an iambic foot.
  • trochee or choree: A metrical foot of two syllables, the first long and the second short, as in the Latin word ante, or the first accented and the second unaccented, as in the English word motion; a choreus.
  • spondee: A poetic foot of two long syllables

Trisyllables

  • tribrach: short-short-short
  • anapest: short-short-long
  • amphibrach: short-long-short
  • bacchius: short-long-long
  • dactyl: long-short-short
  • amphimacer or cretic: long-short-long
  • antibacchius: long-long-short
  • molossus: long-long-long

Tetrasyllables

  • tetrabrach or proceleusmatic: short-short-short-short
  • quartus paeon: short-short-short-long
  • tertius paeon: short-short-long-short
  • minor ionic, or double iamb: short-short-long-long
  • secundus paeon: short-long-short-short
  • diamb: short-long-short-long
  • antispast: short-long-long-short
  • first epitrite: short-long-long-long
  • primus paeon: long-short-short-short
  • choriamb: long-short-short-long
  • ditrochee: long-short-long-short
  • second epitrite: long-short-long-long
  • major ionic: long-long-short-short
  • third epitrite: long-long-short-long
  • fourth epitrite: long-long-long-short
  • dispondee: long-long-long-long

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