Anapestic tetrameter

Anapestic tetrameter

Anapestic tetrameter is a poetic meter that has four anapestic metrical feet per line. Each foot has two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed syllable. It is sometimes referred to as a "reverse dactyl," and shares the rapid, driving pace of the dactyl.

Description and uses

Anapestic tetrameter is a traditional rhythm for comic verse, and prominent examples include Clement Clarke Moore's 'Twas the night before Christmas, Lewis Carroll's The Hunting of the Snark, and Dr. Seuss' Yertle the Turtle and The Cat in the Hat. When used in comic form, Anapestic tetrameter is often highly regular, as the regularity emphasizes the breezy, melodic feel of the meter, though the initial unstressed beat of a line may often be omitted.

However, the verse form is not solely comic, and Lord Byron's epic Don Juan, for example, contains much anapestic tetrameter. In non-comic works, it is likely that anapestic tetrameter will be used in a less regular manner, with caesuras and other meters breaking up the driving regularity of the beat.


An anapestic foot is two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed syllable. We could write the rhythm like this:

The following lines from Dr. Seuss' classic "Yertle the Turtle" are examples, showing both a complete line of anapestic tetrameter and a line with the first beat omitted:

We can notate the scansion of this as follows:

Another, rather driving, example of anapestic tetrameter is the M.C. Hammer rap song, "Addams Family."

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