Meaning of iambus in English:


Pronunciation /ʌɪˈambəs/

nounplural noun iambuses, plural noun iambi/ʌɪˈambʌɪ/

  • A metrical foot consisting of one short (or unstressed) syllable followed by one long (or stressed) syllable.

    ‘Of the five kinds of feet illustrated here, the iambus is by far the most often used in English verse; the spondee is the rarest.’
    • ‘The metre throughout is iambic tetrameter, alternating with trimeter - in other words, lines of four iambuses alternate with lines of three.’
    • ‘They consist of a collection of seventeen poems in different versions of the iambus, the metre traditionally associated with lampoon.’
    • ‘The aural effect, then, is that the second and last feet are always heard as true iambuses, while the first and/or third may be spondees.’
    • ‘For example, an iamb / iambus or iambic foot is represented by an unaccented syllable followed by an accented one.’


Late 16th century Latin, from Greek iambos ‘iambus, lampoon’, from iaptein ‘attack verbally’ (because the iambic trimeter was first used by Greek satirists).