Poetic Meter

We look at several forms of meter, beginning with the basic poetic foot. A “foot” of poetry is not 12 inches of verse; it’s a description of the meter, the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in a line.

In short, a foot is a set pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables. The common poetic feet are:

Foot
Pattern of Syllables
Example

iamb

unstressed-stressed

instead

in love

because

trochee

stressed-unstressed

novel

ice cream

basket

stop it

anapest

unstressed-unstressed-stressed

disregard

by myself

dactyl

stressed-unstressed-unstressed

Emily

kiddy swing

spondee

stressed-stressed

green truck

white hot

pyrrhic

unstressed-unstressed

for the

in a

Along with feet, we also describe meter by indicating the number of a particular foot that appears in a line of poetry.

Number of Feet
monometer 1
dimeter 2
trimeter 3
tetrameter 4
penatmeter 5
hexameter 6

The most common meter in English poetry is iambic pentameter.

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