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13 Essential Literary Terms

pentameter

[pen-tam-i-ter] /pɛnˈtæm ɪ tər/
noun
1.
a line of verse consisting of five metrical feet.
2.
Also called elegiac pentameter. Classical Prosody. a verse consisting of two dactyls, one long syllable, two more dactyls, and another long syllable.
3.
unrhymed verse of five iambic feet; heroic verse.
adjective
4.
consisting of five metrical feet.
Origin
1540-1550
1540-50; < Latin pentametrus < Greek pentámetros. See penta-, meter2
Related forms
pentametrist, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples from the web for pentameter
  • And what romanticism did was to set the pentameter minuet aside and try to recover the older, more basic ballad rhythm.
  • For her drama students, iambic pentameter competes against the racket of truck deliveries and the aroma of cookies baking.
  • The lines are rather dramatically broken, but they still scan as pentameter if you take away those breaks.
  • She has used blank verse, primarily: unrhymed iambic pentameter.
  • Today the notion of people opening their mouths to sing their hearts out is as anachronistic as speaking in iambic pentameter.
  • We look forward to performers who have no need of a meter-reader when it comes to the proper scan of iambic pentameter.
  • Each will begin with one stanza to set the pentameter of the poem.
  • We will have more to share with you at the next meeting and that information will be communicated in iambic pentameter.
  • Business letter prose generally resists iambic pentameter.
  • Poetry doesn't always have to be organized into iambic pentameter or rhyme and scan perfectly.
British Dictionary definitions for pentameter

pentameter

/pɛnˈtæmɪtə/
noun
1.
a verse line consisting of five metrical feet
2.
(in classical prosody) a verse line consisting of two dactyls, one stressed syllable, two dactyls, and a final stressed syllable
adjective
3.
designating a verse line consisting of five metrical feet
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin and History for pentameter
adj.

1540s, from Middle French pentametre, from Latin pentameter, from Greek pentametros (adj.) "having five measures," from pente "five" (see five) + metron "meter" (see meter (n.2)). As a noun from 1580s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Encyclopedia Article for pentameter

in poetry, a line of verse containing five metrical feet. In English verse, in which pentameter has been the predominant metre since the 16th century, the preferred foot is the iamb-i.e., an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed one, represented in scansion as .

Learn more about pentameter with a free trial on Britannica.com
Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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