pen·​tam·​e·​ter pen-ˈta-mə-tər How to pronounce pentameter (audio)
: a line of verse consisting of five metrical feet

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In a line of poetry written in perfect iambic pentameter, there are five unstressed syllables, each of which is followed by a stressed syllable. Each pair of syllables is a metrical foot called an iamb. Much of the greatest poetry in English has been written in iambic pentameter; Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Milton used it more than any other meter. Robert Frost's line "I'm going out to clean the pasture spring" is an example of it; his "And miles to go before I sleep" is instead an example of iambic tetrameter, with only four accented syllables.

Examples of pentameter in a Sentence

a poem written in iambic pentameter
Recent Examples on the Web Adapted by Laurie Woolery, who directs, and the singer-songwriter Shaina Taub, who provides the music and lyrics, this easeful, intentional show bestows the pleasures typical of a Shakespeare comedy — adventure, disguise, multiple marriages, pentameter for days. Alexis Soloski, New York Times, 30 Aug. 2022 But all of this was before ChatGPT, which has no trouble with text generation, even with very difficult constraints like rhyming and iambic pentameter. Quanta Magazine, 27 Apr. 2023 Ask for a poem in Shakespearean iambic pentameter about your dog Spot, and ChatGPT will comply. Theodore McDarrah, Forbes, 10 Jan. 2023 While Deep-speare’s language model was learning about word probabilities from Project Gutenberg’s collection of sonnets, a separate rhythm model was learning about iambic pentameter. IEEE Spectrum, 30 Apr. 2020 Raised on jazz and classical and not rock and roll, Bacharach brought a level of melodic sophistication and romanticism — unconventional 5/4 time signatures, melodies that didn’t stick to standard iambic pentameter — into the top 40. David Browne, Rolling Stone, 9 Feb. 2023 In the 16th century, English poets developed a distinctive sonnet style using a rhythm called iambic pentameter, where 10-syllable lines have a regular unstressed-stressed rhythmic pattern. IEEE Spectrum, 30 Apr. 2020 Poochigian's dexterous iambic pentameter makes this version of the 3rd-century BCE Greek tale a lively, engaging read. The Week Staff, The Week, 5 Dec. 2022 From there, Bartlett uses Shakespearean iambic pentameter to point up the disparity between petty-minded behavior and grandiose dreams of a return to power. David Benedict, Variety, 13 Apr. 2022 See More

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

Word History


Latin, from Greek pentametros having five metrical feet, from penta- + metron measure — more at measure

First Known Use

1580, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of pentameter was in 1580

Dictionary Entries Near pentameter

Cite this Entry

“Pentameter.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


pen·​tam·​e·​ter pen-ˈtam-ət-ər How to pronounce pentameter (audio)
: a line of verse consisting of five metrical feet

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