AskDefine | Define trochee

Dictionary Definition

trochee n : a metrical unit with stressed-stressed-unstressed syllables

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  1. A metrical foot in verse consisting of a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable.

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Extensive Definition

A trochee or choree, choreus, is a metrical foot used in formal poetry. It consists of a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed one.


Longfellow's The Song of Hiawatha 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.
Apart from the famous case of Longfellow's Hiawatha, this metre is rarely found in perfect examples, at least in English. This is from Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven:
Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December;
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
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.
Often a few trochees will be interspersed among iambs in the same lines to develop a more complex or syncopated rhythm. Compare (William Blake):
Tyger, Tyger, burning bright
In the forests of the night
These lines are primarily trochaic, with the last syllable dropped so that the line ends with a stressed syllable to give a strong rhyme or masculine rhyme. By contrast, the intuitive way that the mind groups the syllables in later lines in the same poem makes them feel more like iambic lines with the first syllable dropped:
Did he smile his work to see?
In fact the surrounding lines by this point have become entirely iambic:
When the stars threw down their spears
And watered Heaven with their tears
. . .
Did he who made the lamb make thee?
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 a perfect example:
Dies irae, dies illa
Solvet saeclum in favilla
Teste David cum Sybilla.
trochee in Tosk Albanian: Trochäus
trochee in Czech: Trochej
trochee in Danish: Trokæ
trochee in German: Trochäus
trochee in Estonian: Trohheus
trochee in French: Trochée
trochee in Interlingua (International Auxiliary Language Association): Trocheo
trochee in Italian: Trocheo
trochee in Hungarian: Trocheus
trochee in Dutch: Trochee
trochee in Japanese: トロキー
trochee in Norwegian: Troké
trochee in Polish: Trochej
trochee in Portuguese: Troqueu
trochee in Romanian: Troheu
trochee in Russian: Хорей
trochee in Swedish: Troké
trochee in Ukrainian: Хорей

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Alexandrine, accent, accentuation, amphibrach, amphimacer, anacrusis, anapest, antispast, arsis, bacchius, beat, cadence, caesura, catalexis, chloriamb, chloriambus, colon, counterpoint, cretic, dactyl, dactylic hexameter, diaeresis, dimeter, dipody, dochmiac, elegiac, elegiac couplet, elegiac pentameter, emphasis, epitrite, feminine caesura, foot, heptameter, heptapody, heroic couplet, hexameter, hexapody, iamb, iambic, iambic pentameter, ictus, ionic, jingle, lilt, masculine caesura, measure, meter, metrical accent, metrical foot, metrical group, metrical unit, metron, molossus, mora, movement, numbers, paeon, pentameter, pentapody, period, proceleusmatic, pyrrhic, quantity, rhythm, spondee, sprung rhythm, stress, swing, syzygy, tetrameter, tetrapody, tetraseme, thesis, tribrach, trimeter, tripody, triseme
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