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Literature Glossary

Don’t be an oxymoron. Know your literary terms.

Over 200 literary terms, Shmooped to perfection.



No toes, no shoes, no soles here, folks. In literary circles, this term refers to the most basic unit of a poem's meter.

A foot is a combination of stressed and unstressed syllables. There are all kinds of feet in poetry, and they all sound different, so we'll give you a handy list. If you want to be the nerdiest nerd in the nerd herd, you should memorize it:

A combination of feet makes up a line of meter. So, for example, the most common meter in English poetry is iambic pentameter, which contains five (that's where that "pent-" comes from) iambs, all in a row.

Finding your feet can be as tricky as learning the Viennese waltz, but that's the main task of scansion, a fancy term for analyzing a poem's meter. Just remember the list above, and read aloud, read read aloud.