AskDefine | Define amphibrach

Dictionary Definition

amphibrach n : a metrical unit with unstressed-stressed-unstressed syllables (e.g., `remember')

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. a metrical foot of three syllables, the middle one of which is stressed e.g. jaMAIca


  • Croatian: amfibrah
  • Russian: амфибрахий

Extensive Definition

An amphibrach is a metrical foot used in Latin and Greek prosody. It consists of a long syllable between two short syllables.
Amphibrachs are seldom used to construct an entire poem. They mainly occur as variants within, for instance, an anapaestic structure.
In English stress-based poetry, an amphibrach is a stressed syllable surrounded by two unstressed syllables. It is the main foot used in the construction of the limerick, e.g., "There was a | young lady | of Wantage"
The amphibrach is also often used in ballads and light verse, such as the hypermetrical lines of Sir John Betjeman's Meditation on the A40.
Some books by Dr. Seuss contain many lines written in amphibrachs, such as these from If I Ran the Circus:
All ready | to put up | the tents for | my circus. I think I | will call it | the Circus | McGurkus.
And NOW comes | an act of | Enormous | Enormance! No former | performer's | performed this | performance!
Much of Leonard Cohen's song "Famous Blue Raincoat" is written in amphibrachs - eg the first verse (apart from the first foot of the third line, which is a spondee):
"It's four in | the morning, | the end of | December I'm writing | you now just | to see if | you're better New York | is cold, but | I like where | I'm living There's music | on Clinton | Street all through | the evening." (See Leonard Cohen's official website:
amphibrach in German: Amphibrachys
amphibrach in Interlingua (International Auxiliary Language Association): Amphibracho
amphibrach in Dutch: Amfibrachys
amphibrach in Polish: Amfibrach
amphibrach in Russian: Амфибрахий
amphibrach in Ukrainian: Амфібрахій
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