Poetic Meter and Scansion

Meter and Feet



Marking meter in poetry is also called scansion.

Now for some notes:

Stress= /  (ictus)             Unstressed= U (breve) or  – (macron)

Iamb: one unstressed and one stressed syllable ( U / )  = iambic

Trochee: one stressed and one unstressed syllable ( / U ) = trochaic

Anapest: two unstressed and one stressed syllable ( U U / ) =anapestic

Dactyl: one stressed and two unstressed syllables ( / U U ) = dactylic

Spondee: two stressed syllable ( / / ) = spondaic

Disyllable Feet (2 syllables in each foot)

Trisyllable Feet (3 syllables in each foot)

Standard Poetic Feet: 

  • A “foot” refers to one unit (consists of two or three syllables) of poetic meter.
  • Meter defines the number of feet in a single line of poetry.

1 foot= monometer

2 feet: dimeter

3 feet: trimeter

4 feet: tetrameter

5 feet: pentameter

6 feet: hexameter

7 feet: heptameter

8 feet: octameter


from “A Bird, came down the Walk”

u     /     u      /      u      /         u     /              (iambic trimeter)

Or Butterflies, off Banks of Noon

/               /      u     /       u       /                     (spondee, 2 iambs)

Leap, plashless as they swim.                                          *plashless= splashless


excerpt from “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe

/       u    /      u  /       u         /     u      /     u    /    u    /      u      /        u               (trochaic octameter)

Once upon a midnight dreary while I pondered weak and weary.


Your turn:

T’was the night before Christmas and all through the house.

Online Practice

Practice with Mr. Cooney’s English Class.

Practice prosody (the patterns of sound and rhythm used in poetry) here.

Practice online with the University of Virginia’s interactive tutorial. 


Additional Information:

Caesura (II) is indicated with a double-pipe (II) and signals a brief pause outside of the metrical rhythm.

  • initial caesura: near the beginning of the line
  • medial caesura: near the middle of the line
  • terminal caesura: (You guessed it!) near the end of the line


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