All terms

What is an iamb?

A two-syllable metrical foot consisting of a short syllable followed by a long one.

Rhythmic Footsteps: An In-Depth Look at the Iamb

A two-syllable metrical foot consisting of a short syllable followed by a long one, the iamb is one of the most commonly used rhythmic patterns in poetry and creative writing.

Its unique combination of unstressed and stressed syllables creates a natural and flowing rhythm that draws readers in and keeps them engaged with the text.

Although the iamb is most commonly used in traditional forms of poetry, such as sonnets and haikus, it can also be employed in free verse and experimental forms of writing to create varied and complex rhythms that keep the reader on their toes.

Etymologically, the word 'iamb' comes from the Greek 'iambos', which referred to a specific type of verse used in ancient Greek literature. Over time, the term has come to encompass any rhythmic pattern consisting of short and long syllables that follow the same basic structure as the iamb, making it a useful and versatile tool for writers of all kinds.

Iambic Works: Two Examples of the Iamb in Literature

The iambic foot has been a staple in literature for centuries. Here are two examples of how authors have employed the iambic foot to create evocative and memorable works.

Shakespeare's Sonnet 18

Shakespeare's Sonnet 18 makes masterful use of iambic pentameter to create a sense of musicality and poetic grace, a sample of which can be seen in its opening lines:

Shall I / com pare / thee to / a sum / mer's day?

Edgar Allan Poe's 'The Raven'

Edgar Allan Poe's 'The Raven' is another excellent example of the iambic foot at work in poetry. In fact, the poem's first stanza is almost entirely composed of iambs:

Once up / on a mid / night drear / y, while / I pon / dered weak / and wea / ry.