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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.”

About the Author

Elissa Hansen has more than nine years of editorial experience, and she specializes in academic editing across disciplines. She teaches university English and professional writing courses, holding a Bachelor of Arts in English and a certificate in technical communication from Cal Poly, a Master of Arts in English from the University of Wyoming, and a doctorate in English from the University of Minnesota.

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