Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. The short or unaccented part of a metrical foot, especially in quantitative verse.
  • n. The accented or long part of a metrical foot, especially in accentual verse.
  • n. Music The upbeat or unaccented part of a measure.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The stronger part of a musical measure or a metrical foot.
  • n. The elevation of the hand, or that part of the bar at which it is raised, in beating time; the weak or unaccented part of the bar, opposed to the thesis.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n.
  • n. That part of a foot where the ictus is put, or which is distinguished from the rest (known as the thesis) of the foot by a greater stress of voice.
  • n. That elevation of voice now called metrical accentuation, or the rhythmic accent.
  • n. The elevation of the hand, or that part of the bar at which it is raised, in beating time; the weak or unaccented part of the bar; -- opposed to thesis.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. In prosody: Originally, the metrically unaccented part of a foot, as opposed to the thesis or part which receives the ictus or metrical stress.
  • n. In prevalent modern usage, that part of a foot which bears the ictus or metrical accent, as opposed to the metrically unaccented part, called the thesis.
  • n. In physiol. acoustics, a periodical increase in the intensity of a sound, producing a rhythmical effect.

Etymologies

Middle English, raising of the voice, from Late Latin, raising of the voice, accented part of a metrical foot, from Greek, raising of the foot (marking the upbeat), the unaccented part of a metrical foot, from aeirein, to lift; see wer-1 in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Ancient Greek ἄρσις (ársis, "lifting"), from αἴρω (aírō, "I lift"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • While from an objective view-point, the rhythm of the two elements pulsates evenly on the same level, our valuation articulates, as it were, iambic periods, with war as thesis, and peace as arsis.

    Conflict and The Web of Group-Affiliations

  • Nam in unaquaque parte oratione arsis et thesis sunt, non in ordine syllabarum, sed in pronuntiatione: velut in hac parte _natura_, ut quando dico _natu_ elevatur vox, et est arsis intus; quando vero sequitur _ra_ vox deponitur, et est thesis deforis.

    The Roman Pronunciation of Latin Why we use it and how to use it

  • The syllable which receives the ictus is called the thesis; the rest of the foot is called the arsis.

    New Latin Grammar

  • The hiatus is commonest in monosyllabic words, or words ending in a short syllable followed by _m_, making the first syllable of an arsis resolved into two shorts.

    The Student's Companion to Latin Authors

  • Their general theory of rhythm, according to which it consists in the succession of arsis and thesis, i. e., one part leading forward and a second part marking a point of arrival and of provisional or final rest, is substantially the same as Riemann's (see his "System der musikalischen Rhythmik und Metrik", Leipzig, 1903), and is becoming more and more accepted.

    The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 12: Philip II-Reuss

  • But their special feature, which consists in placing the word accent by preference on the arsis, has not found much favour with musicians generally.

    The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 12: Philip II-Reuss

  • Following the law of binary movement (the alternation of arsis and thesis), the accent is made to shorten long syllables and to lengthen short ones, in such wise that the verses, while using the external form of iambic dimeters, are purely rhythmic.

    The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 13: Revelation-Stock

  • Camp and king's antechamber and embassage and battle made the arsis and thesis of his poetry, and his poems are a picture of Edward III's age, accurate as if a king's pageant passing flung shadow in a stream along whose bank it marched.

    A Hero and Some Other Folks

  • The final _s_ is generally elided before a consonant when in the thesis of the foot, but often remains in the arsis (_e.g. plenu 'fidei, Isque dies_).

    The History of Roman Literature From the earliest period to the death of Marcus Aurelius

  • /'And YET' /is a complete 'iambus'; but 'anyet' is, like 'spirit', a dibrach u u, trocheized, however, by the 'arsis' or first accent damping, though not extinguishing, the second.

    Literary Remains, Volume 2

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