Glossary
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What follows is a list of terms used throughout Hexametrica. Each word is linked to its first appearance in the site.
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anceps

> Lat. "two-headed." The final syllable of a hexameter verse, anceps can be either long or short, noted either as  or 

 

arsis

> Gk. "raising up." The second half of a dactylic foot or metron, in which the foot is imagined as lifting up for the next thesis.

 

bucolic diaeresis

The diaeresis between the fourth and fifth feet, after which a "dum-diddy dum-dum" ( ) line ending follows. > Gk. boukolos, "herdsman," since the dactylic poetry of herdsmen was famous for such line endings.

 

caesura (pl. caesurae)

> Lat. "cut." A division between words that occurs within a foot. Caesurae are of two kinds: strong and weak. There may be many caesurae in a line; but there will usually be only one principal caesura. Caesura is not to be confused with the diaeresis, which occurs between feet.

 

contraction

The substituting of a long syllable () for two shorts (). The opposite of resolution.

 

dactyl

A metron that resembles, at least aurally, a finger (> Gk. dactylos). A dactyl has one long syllable plus two short syllables: .

 

dactylic hexameter

The most common meter in ancient poetry. A verse composed in dactylic hexameter consists of six (hex > Gk.) dactyls in a row.

 

dactylos

A Greek word meaning "finger" or "toe."

 

diaeresis

> Gk. "division." A division between words that also occurs between feet. The bucolic is the best known diaeresis. Not to be confused with the caesura, which occurs within a foot.

 

diphthong

> Gk. "double-sound." A pair of vowels (such as the -ae- in nautae) that are pronounced as a single syllable. English example: the -ea- in "beat."

 

elision

> Lat. "knocking out." The practice of omitting certain syllables during scansion. A final syllable ending in a vowel (or the letter -m) is normally elided before a word beginning with a vowel (or an h-).

 

foot

Another term for metron. Every hexameter foot has two parts, the thesis and the arsis.

 

hexameter

A verse of poetry consisting of six (hex > Gk.) metra in a row. The term is sometimes used as shorthand for the dactylic hexameter itself.

 

hiatus

> Lat. "gap." The deliberate avoidance of elision. Occurs only rarely.

 

liquid

A consonant, such as l or r, whose pronunciation may be extended without stoppage. The opposite of a stop.

 

meter

> Gk. "measure." A meter is a distinctive rhythmic pattern used for a particular genre of poetry. Dactylic hexameter, for example, is the meter of epic poetry.

 

metron (pl. metra)

A rhythmic unit that can be repeated in a verse or series of verse. The dactyl is the basic metron of the dactylic hexameter.

 

nature

A determining factor for vowel quantity. Vowels are either naturally long or naturally short. That is, the Romans pronounced them as such, having learned to distinguish their sound during the course of acquiring Latin. See below on position.

 

position

A determining factor for vowel quantity. A vowel that is naturally short becomes long when followed by two consonants. In such cases the vowel is said to be long by position (or to "make position").

Vowels followed by a stop-liquid consonant combination rarely make position.

 

principal caesura

The main caesura in a line, usually marking not only a division between words, but also a pause in the sense. Normally appears in the third foot, but may also appear in feet two and four.

 

quantity

Quantity refers to the length of a vowel or syllable, either long or short. In theory, long syllables take longer to pronounce, the ratio being one long syllable per two shorts.

 

resolution

The substituting of two short syllables () for one long (). The opposite of contraction.

 

scan (scanning)

To scan a line of poetry is to follow the rules of scansion by dividing the line into the appropriate number of feet, and indicating the quantity of the syllables within each foot.

A line of dactylic hexameter is properly scanned when divided into six feet, with each foot labelled a dactyl or a spondee.

 

scansion

> Lat. scandere, "to move upward by steps." Scansion is the science of scanning, of dividing a line of poetry into its constituent parts.

 

spondê

> Gk. "libation." Spondaic rhythms, because of their stately, long rhythm, often occurred in songs at solemn drink-offerings.

 

spondee

> Gk. "spondê." A spondee fills the same metrical space as a dactyl, except that the arsis has a long syllable instead of two shorts: .

 

stop

A consonant (such as t, d, p, b, k, g) whose pronunciation requires complete stoppage of airflow. The opposite of a liquid.

 

strong caesura

A caesura that occurs between the thesis and the arsis of a foot. Compare the weak caesura.

 

syllabification

The process of dividing a word up into the proper number of syllables. Unlike English, all Latin words have as many syllables as vowels or diphthongs.

 

thesis

> Gk. "putting down." The first half of a dactylic foot or metron, in which the foot is imagined as touching the ground. It will lift up again during the following arsis.

 

weak caesura

A caesura that occurs within the arsis of a foot (i.e. between the ). Compare the strong caesura.

 
 
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