A little guide to metre in poetry Watch

Quirky Object
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Metre is the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in verse.

A foot is the smallest single unit of rhythm in a line, composed of two or three syllables. Whether or not these units fit neatly into words does not matter; an anapaest can be made up of three separate words just as easily as one word with three syllables, for example.

  • Iamb: the accent is on the second syllable in every two syllables (re-LEASE)
  • Trochee: the accent is on the first syllable in every two syllables (MA-lice)
  • Pyrrhic: two consecutive stressed syllables (FOR A)
  • Spondee: two consecutive unstressed syllables (these things)
  • Anapaest: two unstressed syllables followed by one stressed one (on the RISE)
  • Dactyl: a stressed syllable followed by two unstressed ones (SU-i-cide)
  • Amphibrach: a stressed syllable between two unstressed ones (well MAY-be)
  • Cretic: an unstressed syllable between two stressed ones (MARK my WORDS)
  • Molussus: three unstressed syllables (this is not*)


*not could be stressed for emphatic purposes in some contexts.

These units of rhythm are assembled into a line, and along with the type of feet used in the poem, the number of feet in each line determines which metric category the poem fits into:

  • 1 foot – monometer
  • 2 feet – dimeter
  • 3 feet – trimeter
  • 4 feet – tetrameter
  • 5 feet – pentameter
  • 6 feet – hexameter
  • 7 feet – heptameter


A caesura technically refers to the break in a metre, i.e. a missing syllable or missing foot, usually indicated by a full stop or semi-colon.

The iambic pentameter is the most common metre in English poetry and contains five iambic feet, i.e. five pairs of stressed, then unstressed syllables, in each line. You might also encounter dactylic hexameter, which contains six sets of one stressed, then two unstressed syllables. Once you get used to counting syllables to find the type and number of feet in a poem, you start to develop an intuition for spotting certain metres, so that’ll get easier with time.
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bluebookworm
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I think you have spondee and pyrrhic mixed up?
I thought it was 2 stressed in spondee (DUM-DUM) and 2 unstressed in pyrrhic (da-da)
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