1 : a break in the flow of sound usually in the middle of a line of verse
3 : a pause marking a rhythmic point of division in a melody
Did You Know?
Caesuras (or caesurae) are those slight pauses one makes as one reads verse. While it may seem that their most obvious role is to emphasize the metrical construction of the verse, more often we need these little stops (which may be, but are not necessarily, set off by punctuation) to introduce the cadence and phrasing of natural speech into the metrical scheme. The word caesura, borrowed from Late Latin, is ultimately from Latin caedere meaning "to cut." Nearly as old as the 450-year-old poetry senses is the general meaning of "a break or interruption."
"The Anglo-Saxon idiom of Beowulf sounds particularly alien to modern ears: four stresses per line, separated in the middle by a strong pause, or caesura, with the third stress in each line alliterating with one or both of the first two." — Paul Gray, Time, 20 Mar. 2000
"Whenever anyone asks what I studied in school, the caesura of a deep breath inserts itself before the next line—the time it takes to summon the strength it takes to summon the word: 'poetry.'" — Michael Andor Brodeur, The Boston Globe, 14 June 2016
Test Your Vocabulary with M-W Quizzes
Test Your Vocabulary
Fill in the blanks to create a word that refers to half a poetic line of verse divided by a caesura: h _ m _ s _ _ ch.VIEW THE ANSWER
Theme music by Joshua Stamper ©2006 New Jerusalem Music/ASCAP