Masculine ending is term used in prosody, the study of verse form. It refers to a line ending in a stressed syllable. Its opposite is feminine ending, which describes a line ending in a stressless syllable. For example, in the following couplet by Longfellow, the first line has a feminine ending and the second a masculine one.
- Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
- Life is but an empty dream!
When a masculine ending is rhymed, the result is called a masculine rhyme.
The terms "masculine ending" and "feminine ending" are not based on any cultural concept of "masculinity" or "femininity". Rather, they originate from a grammatical pattern of French, in which words of feminine grammatical gender typically end in a stressless syllable and words of masculine gender end in a stressed syllable.
Poems often arrange their lines in patterns of masculine and feminine endings, for instance in "A Psalm of Life", from which the above couplet is taken, every couplet consists of a feminine ending followed by a masculine one.
- OED, cited below
- "Feminine", in The Oxford English Dictionary, online edition. Downloaded 12 October 2010.