One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
Designating verse in which each word contains one syllable more, or (occasionally) each line one foot more, than the preceding one.
In plural: rhopalic verse. Also (in singular): a rhopalic line or passage. rare before 20th cent.
Late 17th century; earliest use found in Thomas Browne (1605–1682), physician and author. From post-classical Latin rhopalicus (adjective) (of a line or passage of verse) in which each word contains one syllable more than the one immediately preceding it (3rd cent.) from ancient Greek ῥόπαλον cudgel thicker towards one end (from an ablaut variant ( o -grade) of the base of ῥέπειν to turn the scale, sink, cause to incline, of uncertain origin + -αλον, suffix forming nouns) + classical Latin -icus.
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