In poetry, an iamb is part of a line that's made up of a short syllable followed by a long syllable. In an iamb, the stress is always on the second syllable.

Not all poetry uses iambs, but they lend a very specific, deliberate kind of rhythm and meter when they are used. Iambs show up in multiple forms, including "iambic pentameter," otherwise known as five iambs in a row, seen here in Tennyson's "Ulysses:" "To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield." The stressed syllables in this line are "strive, seek, find, not," and "yield." One individual iamb is "to seek."

Definitions of iamb
  1. noun
    a metrical unit with unstressed-stressed syllables
    synonyms: iambus
    see moresee less
    type of:
    foot, metrical foot, metrical unit
    (prosody) a group of 2 or 3 syllables forming the basic unit of poetic rhythm
Word Family

Test prep from the experts

Boost your test score with programs developed by Vocabulary.com’s experts.

  • Proven methods: Learn faster, remember longer with our scientific approach.
  • Personalized plan: We customize your experience to maximize your learning.
  • Strategic studying: Focus on the words that are most crucial for success.


  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 8 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week


  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 10 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week


  • Number of words: 700+
  • Duration: 10 weeks
  • Time: 1 hour / week