AskDefine | Define iambus

Dictionary Definition

iambus n : a metrical unit with unstressed-stressed syllables [syn: iamb]

User Contributed Dictionary

English

Noun

  1. an iamb

Latin

Noun

  1. iamb

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

Tetrameter

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

Pentameter

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)

Heptameter

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

See also

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