Trochaic Meter: Definition & Examples

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Introduction to Shakespeare: Life and Works

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:05 Defining Trochaic Meter
  • 1:47 Examples of Trochaic Meter
  • 3:44 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Joshua Wimmer

Joshua holds a master's degree in Latin and has taught a variety of Classical literature and language courses.

In this lesson, you'll explore trochees to learn what they are and how they are used. We'll also look at a couple examples of this rare meter in English poetry.

Defining Trochaic Meter

To define trochaic meter as simply as possible, it is a line of poetry composed of trochees. Like the iamb that is favored in over 75% of English poetry, the trochee is a basic metrical unit called a foot consisting of two syllables.

The trochee, though, begins with a stressed syllable, followed by an unstressed, or weak, syllable. This makes it the mirror image of the iamb, which follows the pattern weak-stressed. Think of the word 'trouble' (a trochee) as opposed to 'above' (an iamb). Say both words out loud, and you'll be able to hear which syllable is the stressed one.

Diagram of a trochaic metrical foot

So why would English (among other languages) prefer the iamb over the trochee, especially considering they are both disyllabic? We can actually begin to see the problem in the origin of the trochee's name. Derived from the Greek trokhaios ('falling, tripping'), this foot's name is representative of its falling rhythm, meaning a stressed syllable is followed by weaker ones. The iamb, on the other hand, corresponds to a rising rhythm, one that is most prevalent in English stress and speech patterns.

Speakers of English and Greek alike have found that the trochee's falling rhythm can easily become monotonous and exhausting if allowed to continue for very long. In fact, the Greeks often reserved use of the trochee for choral performances, giving us its alternative title: the choree. Although the trochee is seldom used by itself, there are some examples of purely trochaic meter and the ones below should be fairly recognizable.

Examples of Trochaic Meter

As you look at the following examples, be aware that the trochee's stressed syllable is in all capital letters, while the weak syllables are in lowercase.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's epic poem The Song of Hiawatha is certainly unique. Written in 1855 and based on his visits with members of the Ojibwe, Black Hawk, and other Native-American tribes, this is one of the few pieces of English poetry that uses the trochee as its primary metrical foot. It is one of fewer still that contains line after line of perfect trochaic tetrameter (4 feet per line)! Let's look at a few lines.

SHOULD you ASK me, WHENCE these STORies?

WHENCE these LEgends AND traDItions,

WITH the Odors OF the FORest,

WITH the DEW and DAMP of MEAdows,

WITH the CURLing SMOKE of WIGwams,

WITH the RUSHing OF great RIVers,

WITH their FREquent REpeTItions,

AND their WILD reVERberAtions,

AS of THUNder IN the MOUNtains?

Photo of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account