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Related to Iambic meter: Iambic pentameter, Iambic tetrameter


, iambus Prosody
1. a metrical foot consisting of two syllables, a short one followed by a long one (⌣ –)
2. a line of verse of such feet



(1) In quantitative versification, a foot equal to three moras (the smallest unit of measure in quantitative verse), usually consisting of a short and a long syllable, although other patterns occur.

(2) In syllabotonic versification, a foot consisting of two syllables, with the strong position occupied by the second syllable.

In Russian iambs, the weak positions are occupied by compulsorily unstressed syllables (∪), the strong positions by syllables that may or may not be stressed (×), and the final strong position by a compulsorily stressed syllable (—). The metrical scheme is ∪ × ∪ × . . . ∪ — (∪). Weak positions with hypermetrical stress may be occupied only by monosyllabic words, as in the following example from Pushkin: Shvéd, rússkii kólet, rúbit, rézhet (A Swede, then a Russian, stabs, slashes, cuts [Poltava]).

The most widely used iambic meters in Russian poetry are the trimeter, tetrameter, pentameter, and hexameter. There are also various irregular metrical patterns used in free verse. Examples from Pushkin of the principal types of iambic meter follow.

Iambic trimeter is found in Anacreontic verse of the 18th century, songs, and light and satirical verse: Podrúga dúmy prázdnoi (Friend of idle thought [“To My Inkwell”]). Iambic tetrameter is characteristic of odes and lyric verse of the 18th century, narrative poems, and lyric verse of the 19th and 20th centuries: Moi di-ádia sámykh chéstnykh právil (My uncle of the most honest principles [Eugene Onegin]). Iambic pentameter has been used in serious lyric poems, dramatic verse, and strophic verse. From the early 1800’s to the 1830’s, it was characteristically written with a caesura after the fourth syllable: Eshché odnó, ǀǀ poslédnee skazán’e (One more, the last record [Boris Godunov]); since the 1830’s, it has been written without a caesura.

In iambic hexameter, a caesura occurs after the sixth syllable: Ia pámiatnik sebé ǀǀ vozdvíg nerukotvórnyi (I have erected a monument to myself not made by human hand). Iambic hexameter is found in 18th-century narrative poems, tragedies, satires, and epistles and in 19th-century elegies, art songs, and anthology verses on classical themes. Free iambic verse is distinguished by an irregular alternation of lines with varying numbers of feet. It has been used in fables, in 18th-century Pindaric lyrics, and in elegies, epistles, and dramatic verse written during the first third of the 19th century.


Taranovskii, K. “O ritmicheskoi strukture russkikh dvuslozhnykh razmerov.” In the collection Poetika i stilistika russkoi literatury. Leningrad, 1971.
Gasparov, M. L. Sovremnnyi russkii stikh. Moscow, 1974.


References in periodicals archive ?
Thus it was possible for Keats to write a line like "Singest of summer in full-throated ease," which has an anapestic rhythm but still conforms to the iambic meter of "Ode to a Nightingale" (1819).
What makes these lines "Greek" is not merely the choriambic element intruding on iambic meters but the surprising infusion of the native, scanable English pattern where there was only an abstract Greek pattern.
In (31) we have scanned Rossetti's "Up-Hill," which is in strict iambic meter, with lines that vary in length.
Thus, this poem is a strict iambic poem, in a type of iambic meter which permits variation between five and three feet in the line.
The commonest verse foot shapes in iambic meter are LH and HH, as the percentages below (based on Medea 1-8 and Bacchae 616-622) make clear.
This is the only constant, surface-true rhythmic feature of iambic meter in Greek.
The constraint that iambic meter consistently violates may therefore be given simply as NOLAPSE.
We have yet to discuss the third of our three properties of iambic meter, namely that the first metrical position is always a syllable (H or L).
The formal analysis of iambic meter in Greek requires mention of the constant lapse across the second and third metrical positions in every verse foot.
The two lengths of iambic meter we find can also be described in terms of how much they deviate from a dimeter.
Summing up our section on iambs, we have shown that the only surface-true rhythmic fact of iambic meter in Greek is that each and every metron violates NOLAPSE exactly once.
Iambic meter is the most common English measure; insofar as one can generalize, it is the prevailing meter of natural English speech.