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In modern prosody, a dactyl is a metrical foot composed of one accented syllable followed by two unaccented ones. These words are dactyls:


Classical dactyl

In Classical prosody, a dactyl is a foot composed of one long syllable followed by two short ones. Dactyl-based meter, especially dactylic hexameter, was the basis for much Classical Greek and Latin poetry. With the shift to vernacular verse during the Middle Ages, dactylic verse gave way to iambic verse, which was more natural to vernacular speech in almost every European language.

Modern dactylic verse

Since Classical times, dactylic verse has had periodic revivals, but the term is mostly used in the context of scansion. As a basis for English poems, dactylic meter has a humorous tone, as in this double-dactyl poem by Ian Lancashire:

Higgledy piggledy,
Bacon, lord Chancellor.
Negligent, fell for the
Paltrier vice.

Bribery toppled him,
Finished him, testing some
Poultry on ice.