Poetic Meters

Meter is the rhythmic structure of a poem. It refers to the number of syllables and the arrangement of stresses per line. Iambic pentameter is considered the most common form of meter in poetry, which was used extensively poetry from the likes of William Shakespeare.

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  • a

  • In poetry, the word “accent” refers to the stressed syllable in a word. Metered lines of verse are made up of different groups of syllables.
  • Accentual-syllabic verse is a type of accentual verse in which the writer uses the same number of syllables within each line.
  • Accentual verse focuses on the number of stressed syllables per line rather than the total number of syllables.
  • An acephalous line is a form of a catalectic line of poetry. This type of line omits the first syllable of a metrical pattern.
  • An alcaic stanza is a type of lyrical meter thought to have been invented by Alcaeus, a writer from Mitylene.
  • An alexandrine is a type of metrical line. It is most commonly refers to a line composed of twelve iambs.
  • Alliterative meter is a type of verse that focuses on alliteration as a way of creating a metrical structure. Alliteration is used rather than accents or rhymes.
  • An amphibrach is a form of meter. It occurs when the poet places one accented syllable, or stressed syllable, between two unstressed or unaccented syllables.
  • An amphimacer is a metrical foot that consists of three syllables. It’s the opposite of an amphibrach.
  • Anacrusis occurs when the poet includes an extra unstressed syllable at the beginning of a line of verse. This unstressed syllable is not part of the metrical pattern.
  • Anapestic Meter depends on three-syllable sections of verse, or words. An anapest is two unstressed syllables followed by one stressed.
  • Anapestic tetrameter is a poetic meter consisting of four anapests in each line of verse. An anapest is a three-syllable foot that is made up of two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed syllable. 
  • c

  • A cretic is an extremely rare metrical foot that’s composed of one stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable and concluded with one final stressed syllable. 
  • d

  • A dactyl is one stressed syllable followed by two unstressed syllables. It is the opposite of an anapest.
  • Dactylic hexameter is a historically important pattern of syllables in poetry. Lines of dactylic hexameter have six feet, divided into sets of three beats. 
  • Dactylic pentameter is a metrical pattern that can be found in some examples of English language poetry. The term refers to lines that consist of five, or sets of syllables, per line with three syllables per foot.
  • Dimeter refers to a specific arrangement of syllables in poetry. If a poem is written in dimeter, that means that the lines contain four syllables each.
  • f

  • The term “falling rhythm” refers to a rhythmic pattern that’s created through repeated metrical feet. These feet use a stressed beat followed by an unstressed beat or an accented syllable followed by an unaccented syllable.
  • h

  • Heptameter is a type of meter in which each line in a poem uses seven metrical feet for a total of fourteen syllables.
  • Hexameter refers to a meter commonly used in Greek and Latin epic poetry. It contains six feet and usually utilizes a combination of dactyls and spondees. 
  • i

  • An iamb is a metrical unit. It occurs when two syllables are placed next to one another and the first is unstressed, or short, and the second is stressed, or long.
  • Iambic dimeter is a type of meter used in poetry. It occurs when the writer uses two iambs per line of verse.
  • Iambic pentameter is a very common way that lines of poetry are structured. Each line has five sets of two beats, the first is unstressed and the second is stressed.
  • m

  • A masculine ending, a common term used in prosody, occurs when a metered verse line ends with a stressed syllable.
  • The meter is the pattern of beats in a line of poetry. It is a combination of the number of beats and arrangement of stresses.
  • Monometer is a type of meter that uses single units of meter per line of verse. It could use a single iamb, trochee, etc.
  • o

  • Octameter refers to a line of verse that contains sixteen syllables or eight metrical feet. It is one of the less common patterns in English language verse.
  • Octosyllabic verse, or an octosyllable poem, is a piece of poetry that uses eight-syllable lines. It’s possible to describe an entire poem or a single line as octosyllabic. 
  • p

  • In poetry, “pentameter” refers to a line that contains a total of ten syllables. Commonly, these are divided into iambs or trochees.
  • In literature, a foot refers to a unit of meter in poetry. It is a grouping of stressed and/or unstressed syllables.
  • The term “pyrrhic” is used to refer to a metrical foot that contains two unstressed syllables. The foot is less common today than it was in classical Greek poetry. 
  • q

  • Quantitative verse is a metrical system used in classical poetry that is dependent on the duration of syllables rather than the number of stresses.
  • r

  • Rhythm refers to the use of long and short stresses, or stressed and unstressed, within the writing.
  • s

  • Spondee is an arrangement of two syllables in which both are stressed.
  • Sprung rhythm is a rhythmic pattern used in poetry that mimics natural speech. 
  • Strong-stress meter is a less-commonly used term to describe the metrical pattern used in accentual verse. That is, verse that depends entirely on the number of stresses per line.
  • t

  • The term “tetrameter” refers to a line of poetry that includes four metrical feet. These feet may conform to various metrical forms. 
  • Trochaic heptameter is a metrical pattern that consists of seven sets of two syllables. The first syllable in each foot is stressed and the second is unstressed. In total, there are fourteen syllables in every line of trochaic heptameter. 
  • Trochaic pentameter is an uncommon form of meter. It refers to lines of verse that contain five sets of two beats, the first of which is stressed and the second is unstressed. 
  • Trochaic tetrameter is a metrical pattern that involves using four trochees in a regular pattern. Each trochee is made up of one stressed syllable and one unstressed syllable. 
  • Trochaic Trimeter is a poetic meter used in many different forms of writing. It consists of three syllables per line, with the first syllable being stressed and the second one being unstressed. 
  • Trochees are the exact opposite of an iamb, meaning that the first syllable is stressed and the second is unstressed.
  • w

  • A weak ending occurs when a poet ends a line with an unstressed syllable. Often, the syllable extends the metrical pattern beyond that which is used in most of the poem. 

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