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The Rhythm of a Sonnet Is Called What?


All speech has a rhythm, with varying patterns of stressed and unstressed syllables that give it a “beat.” Some poetry organizes the rhythm of language into specific, repeating patterns, which are called meters. Sonnets are poems with a meter called “iambic pentameter.” Each line of a sonnet repeats a pattern of 10 syllables that alternate between unstressed and stressed: “da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM.”

Feet and Meter

In the term “iambic pentameter,” the “iambs” are the two-syllable units that make up the sonnet’s meter. Each iamb, or iambic foot, consists of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable, as in the word “protect.” The meter is called “pentameter” because each line has five of these iambs, and “penta” is a Greek prefix that means “five.”

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