One of the several kinds of metrical feet in poetry, a dactyl is a foot containing syllables in the pattern STRESSED-UNSTRESSED-UNSTRESSED. The word "dactyl" comes from the ancient Greek for "finger", because a finger has three bones (metacarpals) whose lengths correspond to the lengths of the syllables in a dactyl; compare "rosy-fingered Dawn" and "polydactylism".

The meter of classical epic poetry, such as the Iliad, Odyssey, and Aeneid, is dactyllic hexameter.

Dac"tyl (?), n. [L. dactylus, Gr. a finger, a dactyl. Cf. Digit.]

1. Pros.

A poetical foot of three sylables (�xf5; �xde; �xde;), one long followed by two short, or one accented followed by two unaccented; as, L. tegm&icr;n&ecr;, E. mer"ciful; -- so called from the similarity of its arrangement to that of the joints of a finger.

[Written also dactyle.]

2. Zool. (a)

A finger or toe; a digit.


The claw or terminal joint of a leg of an insect or crustacean.


© Webster 1913.

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