Trochee

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

In poetic meter, a trochee /ˈtrk/, choree, or choreus, is a metrical foot consisting of a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed one, in English, or a heavy syllable followed by a light one in Latin or Greek. In this respect, a trochee is the reverse of an iamb.

The adjective form is trochaic.

Etymology[edit]

Trochee comes from French trochée, adapted from Latin trochaeus, originally from the Greek τροχός (trokhós), "wheel",[1] from the phrase trokhaios pous, literally "running foot";[2] along with choree from χορός, khorós, "dance"; both convey the "rolling" rhythm of this metrical foot. The phrase was adapted into English in the late 16th century.

Examples[edit]

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's The Song of Hiawatha, whose meter was taken from Elias Lönnrot's Kalevala,[3] is written almost entirely in trochees, barring the occasional substitution (iamb, spondee, pyrrhic, etc.).

Should you ask me, whence these stories?
Whence these legends and traditions,
With the odours of the forest,
With the dew and damp of meadows,

In the second line, "and tra-" is a Pyrrhic substitution, as are "With the" in the third and fourth lines and "of the" in the third. Even so, the dominant foot throughout the poem is the trochee.

Apart from the case of Longfellow's The Song of Hiawatha, this metre is rarely found in perfect examples, at least in English. This is from Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven":

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December;
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.

Trochaic meter is also seen among the works of William Shakespeare:

Double, double, toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.[4]

Perhaps owing to its simplicity, though, trochaic meter is fairly common in children's rhymes:

Peter, Peter pumpkin-eater
Had a wife and couldn't keep her.


Trochaic verse is also well known in Latin poetry, especially of the medieval period. Since the stress never falls on the final syllable in Medieval Latin, the language is ideal for trochaic verse. The dies irae of the Requiem mass is an example:

Dies irae, dies illa
Solvet saeclum in favilla
Teste David cum Sibylla.

The Finnish national epic Kalevala, like much old Finnish poetry, is written in a variation of trochaic tetrameter.

The Taylor Swift song "Blank Space" contains examples of trochaic metre in its chorus, which is responsible for many listeners mishearing part of the lyric[5] as the line "Got a long list of ex-lovers" is forced into an unnatural shape to fit the stress pattern:

Got a long list of ex-lovers

Where the stress would, in spoken English, naturally fall on the 'ex' of 'ex-lovers', it instead falls on 'of' and the first syllable of 'lovers', which can confuse on first hearing and cause the mind to try to fit an alternative two-syllable word into the 'of ex-' foot.[original research?]

Latin[edit]

In Greek and Latin, the syllabic structure deals with long and short syllables, rather than accented and unaccented. Trochaic meter was rarely used by the Latin poets, except in certain passages of the tragics and the comics.[6]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Etymology of the Latin word trochee, MyEtymology (retrieved 23 July 2015)
  2. ^ Trochee, Etymology Online (retrieved 23 July 2015)
  3. ^ Christoph Irmscher (2006), Longfellow Redux, Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press, p. 108.
  4. ^ The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. London: Abbey Library/Cresta House, 1977.
  5. ^ Dahl, Melissa. "Why You Keep Mishearing That Taylor Swift Lyric". New York Magazine. Retrieved April 3, 2016. 
  6. ^ Gustavus Fischer, "Prosody", Etymology and an introduction to syntax (Latin Grammar, Volume 1), J. W. Schermerhorn (1876) p. 395.