Poetic Terms to Know

Poetry has a surprising number of terms to describe the wonderful twists and turns that language can take. I know the terms can all get very confusing so I wanted to create a quick simple list of terms. And hey, this is going to help me big time in learning them myself!


Iamb- Alright, simple ones first. This is the basic beat a lot of poetry takes. It involves an unaccented syllable followed by an accented syllable. For example: ‘the DOOR’ is an iamb.

Trochee- Now, we’re getting fancy! A trochee is the opposite of the iamb (they’re actually mortal enemies who duel every Wednesday at 3). It’s an accented syllable followed by an unaccented syllable. For example ‘TOtal’ is a trochee.

Anapest- This one is a bit rarer to see but still very interesting. This is two unaccented syllables followed by an accented syllable. For example: ‘for a TIME’ is an anapest.

Dactyl- Another rare one. This is the mirror version of an anapest. It’s an accented syllable followed by two unaccented syllables. For example: ‘MERrily’ is a dactyl.

Spondee- This is probably my favorite to say. It’s just fun! It is two accented syllables together. For example: BREAD BOX

Pyrrhic Foot- Two unaccented syllables together. For example: ‘and the’ is a pyrrhic foot.

Caesura- This is one I had never heard before but it’s a great way of manipulating how a poem is read. It involves a pause within a line of poetry. It’s usually created by punctuation. Alexander Pope has a very famous line that uses a great example of caesura: To err is human ; to forgive, divine.

Those are a few basic terms to begin gaining a familiarity. In future posts I’ll go into most detail about each of these and what roles they play in poetry. What terms are you familiar with or would you like to see?


1 Comment »

  1. Eve Said:

    Hi there,
    I am just popping in from Alex’s insecure writers group and it’s taking me to get around everybody’s blogs and say “hi”. I will pop by your blog as often as I can. Nice to “meet” you.
    Eve. 🙂

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