The foot is the basic metrical unit that forms part of a line of verse in most Western traditions of poetry, including English accentual-syllabic verse and the quantitative meter of classical ancient Greek and Latin poetry. The unit is composed of syllables, the number of which is limited, with a few variations, by the sound pattern the foot represents. The most common feet in English are the iamb, trochee, dactyl, and anapest. Contrasting with stress-timed languages such as English, in syllable-timed languages such as French, a foot is a single syllable.
Below are listed the names given to the poetic feet by classical metrics. The feet are classified first by the number of syllables in the foot (disyllables have two, trisyllables three, and tetrasyllables four) and secondarily by the pattern of vowel lengths (in classical languages) or syllable stresses (in English poetry) which they comprise.
The following lists describe the feet in terms of vowel length (as in classical languages). Translated into syllable stresses (as in English poetry), 'long' becomes 'stressed' ('accented'), and 'short' becomes 'unstressed' ('unaccented'). For example, an iamb, which is short-long in classical meter, becomes unstressed-stressed, as in the English word "betray".
Macron and breve notation: = stressed/long syllable, = unstressed/short syllable
|iamb (or iambus or jambus)|
|trochee, choree (or choreus)|
|˘||major ionic, double trochee|
|¯||minor ionic, double iamb|