|? ?||pyrrhic, dibrach|
|¯ ?||trochee, choree|
|? ? ?||tribrach|
|¯ ? ?||dactyl|
|? ¯ ?||amphibrach|
|? ? ¯||anapaest, antidactylus|
|? ¯ ¯||bacchius|
|¯ ¯ ?||antibacchius|
|¯ ? ¯||cretic, amphimacer|
|¯ ¯ ¯||molossus|
A dactyl (; Greek: , dáktylos, "finger") is a foot in poetic meter. In quantitative verse, often used in Greek or Latin, a dactyl is a long syllable followed by two short syllables, as determined by syllable weight. In accentual verse, often used in English, it is a stressed syllable followed by two unstressed syllables--the opposite is the anapaest (two unstressed followed by a stressed syllable).
The Greek and Latin words and dactylus are themselves dactyls (and hence autological). The English word poetry is also a dactyl. A useful mnemonic for remembering this long-short-short pattern is to consider the relative lengths of the three bones of a human finger: beginning at the knuckle, it is one long bone followed by two shorter ones (hence the name dactyl).
The first five feet of the line are dactyls; the sixth a trochee.
The first three feet in both lines are dactyls.
Another example: the opening lines of Whitman's "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking" (1859), his poem about the birth of his poetic voice:
The dactyl "out of the..." becomes a pulse that rides through the entire poem, often generating the beginning of each new line, even though the poem as a whole, as is typical for Whitman, is extremely varied and "free" in its use of metrical feet.
Dactyls are the metrical foot of Greek and Latin elegiac poetry, which followed a line of dactylic hexameter with dactylic pentameter.