Definitions

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

  • n. A half line of verse, especially when separated rhythmically from the rest of the line by a caesura.
  • n. An incomplete or imperfect line of verse.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. An approximate half-line of verse, separated from another by a caesura, often for dramatic effect
  • n. An unfinished line of verse

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. Half a poetic verse or line, or a verse or line not completed.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. In prosody: The exact or approximate half of a line or verse; one of the two commata or sections of a line divided by the cesura or dieresis.
  • n. Any group of words forming part of a line, and considered or cited by itself; an incomplete or unfinished line.
  • n. A colon, comma, or group of feet of less extent than the average line, or than the other lines of the same poem or stanza, standing metrically by itself, or so written, as, for example, an epodic line, ephymnium, or refrain.

Etymologies

Latin hēmistichium, from Greek hēmistikhion : hēmi-, hemi- + stikhos, line; see steigh- in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)

Examples

  • Misrá‘ah or hemistich is half the “Bayt” which, for want of a better word, I have rendered couplet: this, however, though formally separated in Mss., is looked upon as one line, one verse; hence a word can be divided, the former part pertaining to the first and the latter to the second moiety of the distich.

    The Book of The Thousand Nights And A Night

  • The hemistich is a kind of verse where long lines are split into two and linked by alliteration.

    Nick Laird enters the spirit of Anglo-Saxon poetry

  • The chapter might be omitted without any injury to the action of the poem, and besides the metre, style, conceits and images differ from the general tenour of the poem; and that continual repetition of the same sounds at the end of each hemistich which is not exactly rime, but assonance, reveals the artificial labour of a more recent age.”

    Ramayana. English

  • Horace's Epicuri de grege, but let none add to it the sad spondee which ends the hemistich, "is more unsettling, since it mainly seems devoted to playing, through negation and elaborate periphrasis, with the possibility of referring to its subject as" an

    Economies of Excess in Brillat-Savarin, Balzac, and Baudelaire

  • The Mukhammas, cinquains or pentastichs (Night cmlxiv.), represents a stanza of two distichs and a hemistich in monorhyme, the fifth line being the “bob” or burden: each succeeding stanza affects a new rhyme, except in the fifth line, e.g., aaaab + ccccb + ddddb and so forth.

    The Book of The Thousand Nights And A Night

  • The strength of a line in our language consists principally in saying something in each hemistich.

    A Philosophical Dictionary

  • However, as my commander was absolute, his orders peremptory, and my obedience necessary, I resolved to avail myself of a philosophy which hath been of notable use to me in the latter part of my life, and which is contained in this hemistich of Virgil: — — — Superanda omnis fortuna ferendo est.

    The Journal of a Voyage to Lisbon

  • It has been especially observed, that the first hemistich is a broken or short line, and does not correspond with the next in length or rhyme.

    Commentary on Genesis - Volume 1

  • In answer to H.H. who advertises in No. 568, p. 208, of _The Mirror_, for a translation in one line rhyming with Virgil's hemistich:

    The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction Volume 20, No. 572, October 20, 1832

  • _Nec (non) meminisse_ is metrically useful for filling the second hemistich of the pentameter up to the disyllable; so used at vi 50 'arguat ingratum non meminisse sui', _Tr_

    The Last Poems of Ovid

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