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Foot (prosody)

Foot (prosody)

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In verse, many meters use a foot as the basic unit in their description of the underlying rhythm of a poem. Both the quantitative meter of classical poetry and the accentual-syllabic meter of most poetry in English use the foot as the fundamental building block. 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.

When scanning a line of verse, a poet looks at feet as the basic rhythmic unit rather than words. A foot can consist of multiple words and a single word can contain many feet; furthermore, a foot can and often does bridge multiple words, containing, for example, the last two syllables of one word and the first of the next. To scan for feet, one should focus on the stream of sound alone and set aside the actual meaning of the words.


The poetic feet in classical meter

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.

The following lists describe the feet in terms of vowel length (as in classical languages). Translated into syllable stresses (as in English poetry), 'long' becomes 'stressed' ('accented'), and 'short' becomes 'unstressed' ('unaccented'). For example, an iamb, which is short-long in classical meter, becomes unstressed-stressed, as in the English word "betray."

The most common in English verse are the iamb, the trochee, the dactyl, and the anapest.


x = short syllable, / = long syllable (ictus and x notation)

x xpyrrhus, dibrach
x /iamb
/ xtrochee, choree
/ /spondee


x = short syllable, / = long syllable (ictus and x notation)

x x xtribrach
/ x xdactyl
x / xamphibrach
x x /anapest, antidactylus
x / /bacchius
/ / xantibacchius
/ x /cretic, amphimacer
/ / /molossus


x = short syllable, / = long syllable (ictus and x notation)

x x x xtetrabrach, proceleusmatic
/ x x xprimus paeon
x / x xsecundus paeon
x x / xtertius paeon
x x x /quartus paeon
/ / x xmajor ionic, double trochee
x x / /minor ionic, double iamb
/ x / xditrochee
x / x /diamb
/ x x /choriamb
x / / xantispast
x / / /first epitrite
/ x / /second epitrite
/ / x /third epitrite
/ / / xfourth epitrite
/ / / /dispondee

External links

de: Versfuß es:Pie (métrica) nl:Versvoet pl:Stopa (metryka) ru:Размер (стихотворный) sv:Versfot

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