AskDefine | Define iamb

Dictionary Definition

iamb n : a metrical unit with unstressed-stressed syllables [syn: iambus] [also: iambi (pl)]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. A metrical foot in verse consisting of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable.

See also

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

iamb in Tosk Albanian: Jambus
iamb in Bulgarian: Ямб
iamb in Czech: Jamb
iamb in Danish: Jambe
iamb in German: Jambus
iamb in Spanish: Yambo
iamb in Esperanto: Jambo
iamb in Galician: Iambo
iamb in Italian: Giambo
iamb in Latvian: Jambs
iamb in Hungarian: Jambus
iamb in Dutch: Jambe
iamb in Japanese: アイアンブ
iamb in Norwegian: Jambe
iamb in Polish: Jamb
iamb in Romanian: Iamb
iamb in Russian: Ямб
iamb in Slovak: Jamb
iamb in Swedish: Jamb
iamb in Ukrainian: Ямб
Privacy Policy, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Contact Us
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Material from Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dict
Valid HTML 4.01 Strict, Valid CSS Level 2.1