One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
A metrical foot consisting of one stressed syllable followed by two unstressed syllables or (in Greek and Latin) one long syllable followed by two short syllables.
- ‘Thus a pattern consisting of five iambs would be an iambic pentameter; a pattern consisting of six dactyls would be a dactylic hexameter; and so on.’
- ‘His formula for modern heroic verse, proclaimed up front in the essay, was, in short: more dactyls than trochees, and more trochees than spondees.’
- ‘My name is absurd too: Malachi Mulligan, two dactyls.’
- ‘His rhythmic faculties drive anthology-pieces like ‘The Dance’, whose dactyls skip happily over its line breaks.’
- ‘Southey agrees, however, that the foot before the final trochee should always be a dactyl.’
Late Middle English: via Latin from Greek daktulos, literally ‘finger’ (the three bones of the finger corresponding to the three syllables).
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