Masculine ending

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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.[1]

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.


  1. ^ OED, cited below

References[edit]

  • "Feminine", in The Oxford English Dictionary, online edition. Downloaded 12 October 2010.