I enjoy writing poetry in strict meter (example: iambic pentameter), but I keep running into an issue with word choice. I lack a reference for words and the way they are accented. I am wondering if there is a compendium that lists different types of words (in terms of stress). For example, the following words have trochaic rhythm (/u):


And these words have iambic rhythm (u/):


Ideally, word choice would come first, but I prefer the restrictions in play when writing in meter. Perhaps it is my job as the poet to sound out various words aloud and decide where the stresses are . . . but some words are very ambiguous or subject to an individual's way of speaking, no? I am wondering if there is a "word bank" for various types of rhythm for me to draw from when writing in specific meters. Thank you.

1 Answer 1


When I'm not sure about accent, I just use dictionary.com or m-w.com (Merriam-Webster's site) and look for the diacritical marks or bolded syllables. For example, "legend" has [ lej-uhnd ]. I also find it useful for words that my ear wants to make two syllables but that are actually one, like "wild". My ear wants "wy-uld" but the dictionary has [ wahyld ] -- one vowel makes one syllable.

  • \ ˈle-jənd is what I see on merriam webster. No bold. I was thinking the slash meant something, but the same dash appears for "attempt" which has the opposite stress: \ ə-ˈtem(p)t. Thoughts?
    – 286642
    Mar 12, 2020 at 20:51
  • Merriam-webster uses an accent mark (apostrophe) at the beginning of the emphasized syllable. Something like ab-so-'luh-shun for absolution. I think the bold on dictionary.com is easier to see. Mar 13, 2020 at 15:51

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