AskDefine | Define iambic

Dictionary Definition

iambic adj : of or consisting of iambs; "iambic pentameter" n : a verse line consisting of iambs

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. In the context of "Prosody": Consisting of iambs or characterized by their predominance
    • 1908, Frank Gilbert Bruner, The Hearing of Primitive Peoples, page 17
      [J]ust before the rhythm becomes iambic, there will be a point reached at which the rhythm can hardly be said to be more iambic than it is trochaic.

Derived terms


Extensive Definition

An iamb or iambus is a metrical foot used in various types of poetry. Originally the term referred to one of the feet of the quantitative meter of classical Greek prosody: a short syllable followed by a long syllable (as in i-amb). This terminology was adopted in the description of accentual-syllabic verse in English, where it refers to a foot comprising an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable (as in a-bove).

Accentual-syllabic use

In accentual-syllabic verse we could describe an iamb as a foot that goes like this: Using the 'ictus and x' notation (see systems of scansion for a full discussion of various notations) we can write this as:
The word 'attempt' is a natural iamb: Iambic pentameter is one of the most commonly used measures in English and German poetry. A line of iambic pentameter comprises five consecutive iambs.
Iambic trimeter is the metre of the spoken verses in Greek tragedy and comedy. In English accentual-syllabic verse, iambic trimeter is a line comprising three iambs.
Another common iambic form is ballad verse, in which a line of iambic tetrameter is succeeded by a line of iambic trimeter, usually in quatrain form.
A. B. Paterson wrote much of his poetry in iambic heptameter (which is sometimes called the 'fourteener'), and Samuel Taylor Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner also conforms to this stress pattern (although it is usually written as though it were composed of lines alternating between iambic tetrameter and iambic trimeter).
The reverse of an iamb is called a trochee.

Types of Meter


'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe. (Lewis Carroll, "Jabberwocky")


To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield. (Alfred Tennyson, "Ulysses")
Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? (William Shakespeare, Sonnet 18)
A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse! (William Shakespeare, Richard III)


I 'the flats is pretty green up there in Ironbark. (A. B. Paterson, The Man from Ironbark)
  • Non-bold = unstressed syllable
  • Bold = stressed syllable

See also

iambic in Tosk Albanian: Jambus
iambic in Bulgarian: Ямб
iambic in Czech: Jamb
iambic in Danish: Jambe
iambic in German: Jambus
iambic in Spanish: Yambo
iambic in Esperanto: Jambo
iambic in Galician: Iambo
iambic in Italian: Giambo
iambic in Latvian: Jambs
iambic in Hungarian: Jambus
iambic in Dutch: Jambe
iambic in Japanese: アイアンブ
iambic in Norwegian: Jambe
iambic in Polish: Jamb
iambic in Romanian: Iamb
iambic in Russian: Ямб
iambic in Slovak: Jamb
iambic in Swedish: Jamb
iambic in Ukrainian: Ямб

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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