Iambs and Trochees and Spondees, Oh My! (Disyllable Metrical Types)

Hello! Today I am going to try and explain the most common types of meter as simply as I can.

Iambs (Iambic) is arguably the most used form of meter. An iamb is a foot that starts with an unaccented (or unstressed) syllable and ends with a stressed syllable. Iambs are commonly found in Shakespearean-style sonnets

Trochees (Trochiaic) are the opposite of iambs. A trochee will begin with a stressed syllable and end with an unstressed one.

Spondees are a kind of foot that have two stressed syllables. Spondees are not usually found to be the basis of a works meter but more as an irregular foot in specific lines. Spondees are great for repetitive exclamations for a dramatic effect as they put emphasis and feeling into the word repeated.

Pyrrhics are the opposite of a spondee. They have two unstressed syllables within a foot. Pyrrhics can sound very monotone and, like spondees, are not typically used as the base form of meter within a text.

Now that we know the specific disyllable metrical types I will explain how you take these feet and create something like Iambic Pentameter. ____meter refers to how many feet are in a line of text. I hope many of you know the prefixes for numbers but I will go through some of them now for those who don’t.

One: Mono- Monometer: One foot per line of text (two syllables per line)

Two: Di- Dimeter: Two feet per line of text (four syllables per line)

Three: Tri- Trimeter: Three feet per line of text (six syllables per line)

Four: Tetra- Tetrameter: Four feet per line of text (eight syllables per line)

Five: Penta- Pentameter: Five feet per line of text (ten syllables per line)

Six: Hexa- Hexameter: Six feet per line of text (twelve syllables per line)

Seven: Hepta- Heptameter: Seven feet per line of text (fourteen syllables per line)


Now we can put these types of meter together with the foot types to create things like iambic pentameter. Iambic pentameter would equivillate to a line of five iambic feet, trochaic tetrameter would be four trochaic feet in a line and so on with any combination you can imagine.

This concludes my mini “meter types” lesson. I would like to create a post with more information, maybe explain some examples of the types of feet. If anyone has any requests for further explanation please comment.

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