Definition of dactyl in English:



  • 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.

    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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 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).