A metrical foot consisting of one stressed syllable followed by two unstressed syllables or (in Greek and Latin) one long syllable followed by two short syllables.
- ‘Thus a pattern consisting of five iambs would be an iambic pentameter; a pattern consisting of six dactyls would be a dactylic hexameter; and so on.’
- ‘His formula for modern heroic verse, proclaimed up front in the essay, was, in short: more dactyls than trochees, and more trochees than spondees.’
- ‘Southey agrees, however, that the foot before the final trochee should always be a dactyl.’
- ‘My name is absurd too: Malachi Mulligan, two dactyls.’
- ‘His rhythmic faculties drive anthology-pieces like ‘The Dance’, whose dactyls skip happily over its line breaks.’
Late Middle English via Latin from Greek daktulos, literally ‘finger’ (the three bones of the finger corresponding to the three syllables).