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Metrical feet
˘ ˘ pyrrhus, dibrach
˘ ¯ iamb
¯ ˘ trochee, choree
¯ ¯ spondee
˘ ˘ ˘ tribrach
¯ ˘ ˘ dactyl
˘ ¯ ˘ amphibrach
˘ ˘ ¯ anapaest, antidactylus
˘ ¯ ¯ bacchius
¯ ¯ ˘ antibacchius
¯ ˘ ¯ cretic, amphimacer
¯ ¯ ¯ molossus

An amphibrach /ˈæmfibræk/ is a metrical foot used in Latin and Greek prosody. It consists of a long syllable between two short syllables.[1] The word comes from the Greek ἀμφίβραχυς, amphíbrakhys, "short on both sides".

In English accentual-syllabic poetry, an amphibrach is a stressed syllable surrounded by two unstressed syllables. It is rarely used as the overall meter of a poem, usually appearing only in a small amount of humorous poetry, children's poetry, and experimental poems. The individual amphibrachic foot often appears as a variant within, for instance, anapaestic meter.

It is the main foot used in the construction of the limerick, as in "There once was / a girl from / Nantucket." It was also used by the Victorians for narrative poetry, e.g. Samuel Woodworth's "The Old Oaken Bucket" beginning "How dear to / my heart are / the scenes of / my childhood." [2] W.H. Auden's "Oh Where Are You Going" is a more recent and slightly less metrically-regular example. The amphibrach is also often used in ballads and light verse, such as the hypermetrical lines of Sir John Betjeman's "Meditation on the A30".

Amphibrachs are a staple meter of Russian poetry. A common variation in an amphibrachic line, in both Russian and English, is to end the line with an iamb, as Thomas Hardy does in "The Ruined Maid": "Oh did n't / you know I'd / been ru in'd / said she". [3]

Some books by Dr. Seuss contain many lines written in amphibrachs, such as these from If I Ran the Circus:

All ready / to put up / the tents for / my circus.
I think I / will call it / the Circus / McGurkus.
And NOW comes / an act of / Enormous / Enormance!
No former / performer's / performed this / performance!

Much of Leonard Cohen's song "Famous Blue Raincoat" [4] is written in amphibrachs - e.g. the first verse (apart from the first foot of the third line, which is a spondee):

It's four in / the morning, / the end of / December
I'm writing / you now just / to see if / you're better
New York / is cold, but / I like where / I'm living
There's music / on Clinton / Street all through / the evening.


  1. ^ Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria 9.4.81.
  2. ^ Finch, Annie. A Poet's Craft. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2012, p. 407
  3. ^ Finch, Annie, A Poet's Craft. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2012, p. 406
  4. ^ Leonard Cohen's official website

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