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Types of Poetic Feet


In poetry, feet are segments of stressed and unstressed syllables that, when used properly, create rhythmic sounds in each line of a poem. Poetic feet are combined with meter, the number of feet per line, to create the overall line length, but it is the feet that determine the placement or pattern of syllables. There are four main types of poetic feet, as well as two supplementary forms.

Anapestic

Anapestic feet consist of three syllables: two unstressed and one stressed. With a sound reminiscent of a horse's galloping, "intervene" and "interrupt" both follow this three-syllable pattern.

Dactylic

Like anapestic feet, dactylic feet are made of three syllables; however, dactylic feet have one stressed syllable followed by two unstressed syllables. This pattern is found in words such as "absently" and "daffodil."

Iambic

An iambic foot, very musical in its rhythm, is made up of one unstressed and one stressed syllable. The word "employ" is an example of an iambic foot because the second syllable receives the accent. Sonnets often make use of this syllabic pattern.

Trochaic

A trochaic foot occurs when one stressed syllable precedes one unstressed syllable. The words "lover," "railroad" and "singer" are examples. Edgar Allen Poe used trochaic feet in his poem, "The Raven."

Supplementary Forms

There are two kinds of supplementary poetic feet: spondaic, created from two stressed syllables, and pyrrhic, which is made of two unstressed syllables. Neither of these feet are used exclusively, as it would be difficult to write or read a poem written entirely in stressed or unstressed syllables. These feet, therefore, are only used to add variety to lines of poetry.

About the Author

Writing since 2008, Marisa Hefflefinger's work has appeared on websites such as SuperGreenMe, Jennifer McColm and Character Odyssey. She holds a Bachelor of Science in English education and a Master of Arts in teaching literacy and language, and she is currently working on a Ph.D. in critical literacy and English education.

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