Definition - A long syllable followed by two short ones.

Example -
'Ka - ther - ine

Etymology -
The word derives from the Greek dactylos, finger.
Note: The digital reference is because fingers have three segments: a long one followed by two short ones.

Oxford English Dictionary -
Its first citation is from about 1420:
"Vers of sixe feet, rennende with dactile and sponde feet."
(Wyclif Bible, Job Prol. (1850) II. 671)


1. I know this is the standard way of defining dactyls (and anapests), but it's not very accurate, since the business of long and short syllables doesn't hold. Check out any limerick, a form which is also in a triplet-based rhythm. The beat or pulse remains constant and the syllables are more or less equal in length. There is, however, a stressed syllable followed by two unstressed ones (or sometimes vice-versa).
(Jack Ognistoff)

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