In poetic metre, a trochee (//), choree (//), or choreus, is a metrical foot consisting of a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed one, in English, or a heavy syllable followed by a light one in Latin or Greek. In this respect, a trochee is the reverse of an iamb.
|˘ ˘||pyrrhic, dibrach|
|¯ ˘||trochee, choree|
|˘ ˘ ˘||tribrach|
|¯ ˘ ˘||dactyl|
|˘ ¯ ˘||amphibrach|
|˘ ˘ ¯||anapaest, antidactylus|
|˘ ¯ ¯||bacchius|
|¯ ¯ ˘||antibacchius|
|¯ ˘ ¯||cretic, amphimacer|
|¯ ¯ ¯||molossus|
|See main article for tetrasyllables.|
The adjective form is trochaic. The English word trochee is itself trochaic since it is composed of the stressed syllable // followed by the unstressed syllable //.
Trochee comes from French trochée, adapted from Latin trochaeus, originally from the Greek τροχός (trokhós), "wheel", from the phrase trokhaios pous, literally "running foot"; it is connected with the word τρέχω trékhō, "I run". The less-often used word choree comes from χορός, khorós, "dance"; both convey the "rolling" rhythm of this metrical foot. The phrase was adapted into English in the late 16th century.
There was a well-established ancient tradition that trochaic rhythm is faster than iambic. When used in drama it is often associated with lively situations. One ancient commentator notes that it was named from the metaphor of people running (ἐκ μεταφορᾶς τῶν τρεχόντων) and the Roman metrician Marius Victorinus notes that it was named from its running and speed (dictus a cursu et celeritate).
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's The Song of Hiawatha, whose meter was taken from Elias Lönnrot's Kalevala, is written almost entirely in trochees, barring the occasional substitution (iamb, spondee, pyrrhic, etc.).
- Should you ask me, whence these stories?
- Whence these legends and traditions,
- With the odours of the forest,
- With the dew and damp of meadows,
In the second line, "and tra-" is a Pyrrhic substitution, as are "With the" in the third and fourth lines and "of the" in the third. Even so, the dominant foot throughout the poem is the trochee.
- Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December;
- And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Trochaic meter is also seen among the works of William Shakespeare:
Perhaps owing to its simplicity, though, trochaic meter is fairly common in children's rhymes:
- Peter, Peter pumpkin-eater
- Had a wife and couldn't keep her.
Trochaic verse is also well known in Latin poetry, especially of the medieval period. Since the stress never falls on the final syllable in Medieval Latin, the language is ideal for trochaic verse. The dies irae of the Requiem mass is an example:
- Dies irae, dies illa
- Solvet saeclum in favilla
- Teste David cum Sibylla.
Trochaic metre is popular in Polish and Czech literatures. Vitězslav Nezval's poem Edison is written in trochaic hexameter.
The Taylor Swift song "Blank Space" contains examples of trochaic metre in its chorus, which is responsible for many listeners mishearing part of the lyric as the line "Got a long list of ex-lovers" is forced into an unnatural shape to fit the stress pattern:
- Got a long list of ex-lovers
Where the stress would, in spoken English, naturally fall on the 'ex' of 'ex-lovers', it instead falls on 'of' and the first syllable of 'lovers', which can confuse on first hearing and cause the mind to try to fit an alternative two-syllable word into the 'of ex-' foot. Supposedly, the line is misheard as "All the lonely Starbucks lovers".
- Etymology of the Latin word trochee, MyEtymology (retrieved 23 July 2015)
- Trochee, Etymology Online (retrieved 23 July 2015)
- A.M. Devine, Laurence Stephens, The Prosody of Greek Speech, p. 116.
- Christoph Irmscher (2006), Longfellow Redux, Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press, p. 108.
- The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. London: Abbey Library/Cresta House, 1977.
- Josef Brukner, Jiří Filip, Poetický slovník, Mladá fronta, Praha 1997, p. 339-340 (in Czech).
- Wiktor J. Darasz, Trochej, Język Polski, 1-2/2001, p. 51 (in Polish).
- Dahl, Melissa. "Why You Keep Mishearing That Taylor Swift Lyric". New York Magazine. Retrieved April 3, 2016.
- https://www.thecut.com/2014/11/why-you-keep-mishearing-that-taylor-swift-lyric.html, for example
- Gustavus Fischer, "Prosody", Etymology and an introduction to syntax (Latin Grammar, Volume 1), J. W. Schermerhorn (1876) p. 395.
|Look up trochee in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|