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

  • n. A 19-line poem of fixed form consisting of five tercets and a final quatrain on two rhymes, with the first and third lines of the first tercet repeated alternately as a refrain closing the succeeding stanzas and joined as the final couplet of the quatrain.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. a type of poetry, consisting of five tercets and one quatrain, with only two rhymes.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A poem written in tercets with but two rhymes, the first and third verse of the first stanza alternating as the third verse in each successive stanza and forming a couplet at the close.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A poem in a fixed form borrowed from the French, and allied to the virelay.


French, from Italian villanella, from feminine of villanello, rustic, from villano, peasant, from Vulgar Latin *vīllānus, from Latin vīlla, country house; see weik-1 in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From the French (Wiktionary)


  • The above villanelle is simply a whiny complaint, composed in boredom, regarding my inability to support myself solely through my keyboard.

    Frustration: a villanelle

  • The villanelle is a nineteen-line poem made up of five triplets with a closing quatrain.

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  • Jamais Hylas ne changera, the two last being the continuous refrain of a "villanelle" in which this bad man boasts his constancy in inconstancy.

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  • The poem was a beautifully constructed villanelle, however, had little meaning.

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  • You get the feeling that, like the villanelle or sestina, concrete poetry is now something that poets try their hand at as a demonstration of their virtuosity rather than a poetic tactic or affinity.

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  • The country would be a better and happier place if no one could hold a government job above GS-9 without having produced a tolerable sonnet (a villanelle for positions involving complex issues) or a readable rendition of a hundred lines of Latin, Greek or Italian literature.

    A Proper Tory Civil Servant

  • Educated at Amherst and later at Harvard, he served in the U.S. Army during World War II, first as a cryptographer and then in combat, shocking experiences that became the source for the early villanelle "First Snow in Alsace" and the recent "Terza Rima."

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  • “That's a villanelle I'm working on,” I said, and if I sounded a bit miffed, I was.

    Spring Cleaning for Poets

  • The strictures of the sonnet or villanelle or sestina drive you to see what can be done within those strictures.

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  • Her father's advocacy of Welsh nationhood and pioneering work in the translation of Welsh poetry – notably with The Burning Tree, published by Faber in 1956 – undoubtedly planted the seeds of the quiet, watchful child's own passions (one of her poems, a villanelle titled Dychwelyd, was read at the services), but the inheritance of her mother's calm, generous temperament and artistic instinct was equally salient.

    Lowri Gwilym obituary

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  • But it's such a delicious word--vanilla and villainy all in one!

    December 8, 2010

  • Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

    (IMO the only good villanelle ever written.)

    December 8, 2010