pen·​tam·​e·​ter | \ pen-ˈta-mə-tər How to pronounce pentameter (audio) \

Definition of pentameter

: 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 Aside from being a nice, tongue-twisting bit of iambic pentameter, What makes lymphatic massage therapy so special? Carly Mallenbaum, USA TODAY, "Lymphatic massage: Is the celebrity wellness trend worth your time?," 31 Jan. 2020 Doescher and della Quercia relate the history of MacTrump in mock-Elizabethan lingo and mostly iambic pentameter. Joseph Peschel | For The Oregonian/oregonlive, oregonlive, "'MacTrump’ turns Donald Trump’s first two years as president into a Shakespearean satire," 3 Oct. 2019 Consider this example: In Elizabethan England, William Shakespeare wrote plays in iambic pentameter. Meghan Cox Gurdon, WSJ, "Children’s Books: High School as High Art," 17 May 2019 The usually reliable Gnapp makes for a blocky Claudius, chugging through lines as if buoyed by the iambic pentameter and nothing more. Lily Janiak, San Francisco Chronicle, "Youth gives some new energy to Marin Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet,’ but not enough," 2 June 2018 Mr Kinnear’s goal is to make the iambic pentameter seem as vernacular as artificial. The Economist, "The making of a Shakespearean actor," 15 Mar. 2018 Sarah Ruden took upon herself the Herculean task of translating Virgil line-by-line, in iambic pentameter, the normative rhythm of English verse, as dactylic hexameter is of ancient epic. Willard Spiegelman, WSJ, "Of Arms and the Man," 22 Sep. 2017 Shakespeare’s iambic pentameters were sacred, precise as a page of music, never to be broken mid-line, even at a full stop. The Economist, "Fighting for the stageObituary: Peter Hall died on September 11th," 21 Sep. 2017 Among others, there’s Ranjit Bhatnagar’s Pentametron, a Twitter bot that couples public tweets written in iambic pentameter to create rhyming couplets. Leah Henrickson, Slate Magazine, "Behold the Amazing Poetry-Generating Machine!," 29 Aug. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'pentameter.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of pentameter

1580, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for pentameter

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

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Time Traveler for pentameter

Time Traveler

The first known use of pentameter was in 1580

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Cite this Entry

“Pentameter.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 Jul. 2020.

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How to pronounce pentameter (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of pentameter

technical : a rhythm in poetry that has five stressed syllables in each line

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Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for pentameter

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with pentameter Encyclopedia article about pentameter

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