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dac·​tyl ˈdak-tᵊl How to pronounce dactyl (audio)
: a metrical foot consisting of one long and two short syllables or of one stressed and two unstressed syllables (as in tenderly)
dactylic adjective or noun


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combining form

variants or dactylo-
: finger : toe : digit

Examples of dactyl in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web
Crablike dactyl designs enable robots to achieve this anchoring behavior while still being lightweight enough to walk on dry sand. Evan Ackerman, IEEE Spectrum, 2 June 2023 Poems of the Week is this double dactyl by one of the legends of The Style Invitational, Brendan Beary, of the 1,084 blots of Invite ink and 39 outright wins, commemorating what might have been the most famous animal in the United States for a few days. Washington Post, 15 Oct. 2020 This week: Write a poem of no longer than eight lines (plus an optional title) about someone who died in 2021, as in the double dactyl above by Lover of Baseball, Double Dactyls and Bad Language Gene Weingarten. Washington Post, 30 Dec. 2021 This was the tack taken by Gene Weingarten in today’s example, a double dactyl about the famously profane Tommy Lasorda. Washington Post, 30 Dec. 2021

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'dactyl.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



Middle English dactyl, dactile "fruit of the date palm, a dactyl in verse," borrowed from Latin dactylus "dactyl in verse, kind of date," borrowed from Greek dáktylos "digit (finger or toe), finger's width as a measurement, dactyl in verse, date," of uncertain origin

Note: The metrical foot is so called because the first of the three syllables is the longest, as in the joints of a finger. — The sense "date" of the Greek word may depend on a Semitic source (compare Aramaic diqlā "date palm," from which Maghribi Arabic daqal "kind of date," post-biblical Hebrew deqel "palm tree" may have been borrowed), accommodated to dáktylos "digit" by folk etymology. — P. Chantraine (Dictionnaire étymologique de la langue grecque) alludes to a proposed connection between dáktylos and the Germanic verb represented by Old Norse taka "to seize, grasp," Gothic tekan "to touch," though the etymology of this verb and its possible Indo-European congeners is problematic (see take entry 1). The Boeotian variant dakkýlios of daktýlios "finger ring" implies an original form *datkylos, which, with the *-tk- cluster and *-yl- suffix, would make it of pre-Greek substratal origin according to R. Beekes (Etymological Dictionary of Greek, Brill, 2009). Compare digit, toe entry 1.

Combining form

Greek daktyl-, daktylo-, from daktylos

First Known Use


14th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of dactyl was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near dactyl

Cite this Entry

“Dactyl.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dactyl. Accessed 20 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


dac·​tyl ˈdak-tᵊl How to pronounce dactyl (audio)
: a metrical foot consisting of one accented syllable followed by two unaccented syllables (as in tenderly)
dactylic adjective

Medical Definition


dac·​tyl ˈdak-tᵊl How to pronounce dactyl (audio)
: a finger or toe

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