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Poetry Terms Glossary


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This is a glossary of poetry terminology.

Measures of verse

Types of metre

Below, "short/long" definitions of a syllable of classical languages correspond to "unstressed/stressed" of English language.

Amphibrach: short-long-short

Amphimacer or cretic: long-short-long

Anapaest or antivdactylus: short-short-long

Choreus, choree same as Trochee: long-short

Dactyl: long-short-short

Iamb: short-long

Molossus: long-long-long

Pyrrhic or dibrach: short-short

Spondee: long-long

Tribrach: short-short-short

Trochee: long-short


tetrabrach or proceleusmatic: short-short-short-short

quartus paeon: short-short-short-long

tertius paeon: short-short-long-short

minor ionic, or double iamb: short-short-long-long

secundus paeon: short-long-short-short

diamb: short-long-short-long

antispast: short-long-long-short

first epitrite: short-long-long-long

primus paeon: long-short-short-short

choriamb: long-short-short-long

ditrochee: long-short-long-short

second epitrite: long-short-long-long

major ionic: long-long-short-short

third epitrite: long-long-short-long

fourth epitrite: long-long-long-short

dispondee: long-long-long-long

Verse forms

  • Ballade: Three stanzas of "ababbcbC" followed by a refrain of "bcbC". The last line of each, indicated by the capital letter, is repeated verbatim.

  • Chant royal: Five stanzas of "ababccddedE" followed by either "ddedE" or "ccddedE". (The capital letters indicate a line repeated verbatim.)

  • Cinquain: "ababb".

  • Clerihew: "aabb".

  • Couplet: "aa", but usually occurs as "aa bb cc dd ...".

  • Enclosed rhyme (or enclosing rhyme): "abba".

  • Ghazal: "aa ba ca da ...".

  • Limerick: "aabba".

  • Monorhyme: "aaaaa...", an identical rhyme on every line, common in Latin and Arabic

  • Ottava rima: "abababcc".

  • Rhyme royal: "ababbcc".

  • Rondelet: "AbAabbA".

  • Rubaiyat: "aaba".

  • Sapphics

    • Petrarchan sonnet: "abba abba cde cde" or "abba abba cdc cdc".

    • Shakespearean sonnet: "abab cdcd efef gg".

    • Simple 4-line: "abcb"

    • Spenserian sonnet: "abab bcbc cdcd ee".

    • Onegin stanzas: "aBaBccDDeFFeGG" with the lowercase letters representing Tanaga

  • Spenserian stanza: "ababbcbcc".

  • Tanaga: traditional Tagalog tanaga is aaaa

  • Terza rima: "aba bcb cdc ...", ending on "yzy z" or "yzy zz".

  • Triplet: "aaa", often repeating like the couplet.

  • Villanelle: A1bA2 abA1 abA2 abA1 abA2 abA1A2, where A1 and A2 are lines repeated exactly which rhyme with the a lines.

See all literary glossaries:

Published - January 2011

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