Definitions

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

  • n. A pause in a line of verse dictated by sense or natural speech rhythm rather than by metrics.
  • n. A pause or interruption, as in conversation: After another weighty caesura the senator resumed speaking.
  • n. In Latin and Greek prosody, a break in a line caused by the ending of a word within a foot, especially when this coincides with a sense division.
  • n. Music A pause or breathing at a point of rhythmic division in a melody.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A pause or interruption in a poem, music, building or other work of art.
  • n. In Classical prosody, using two words to divide a metrical foot.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A metrical break in a verse, occurring in the middle of a foot and commonly near the middle of the verse; a sense pause in the middle of a foot. Also, a long syllable on which the cæsural accent rests, or which is used as a foot.
  • n. a pause or interruption (as in a conversation).

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. etc. See cesura, cesural, etc.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a break or pause (usually for sense) in the middle of a verse line
  • n. a pause or interruption (as in a conversation)

Etymologies

Latin caesūra, a cutting, from caesus, past participle of caedere, to cut off; see kaə-id- in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Latin caesūra ("cutting, hewing"), from caesus, perfect passive participle of caedō ("I cut down, hew"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Among occasional variations of the normal strophe as here described may be mentioned the following: The end-rhyme is in a few instances feminine instead of masculine; while on the other hand the ending of the first half-lines is occasionally masculine instead of feminine, that is, the caesura is not "ringing."

    The Nibelungenlied Translated into Rhymed English Verse in the Metre of the Original

  • Still, he remembers one space offering a welcome caesura from the ormolu and swag: the Blue Room, which the Count used as his personal sitting area.

    Museum Quality

  • "Labor Day," from The Triumph of Achilles, is occasion only to remember her father's death a year ago, which the poet processes conclusively with this profound insight about the length of a human life: "Not a sentence, but a breath, a caesura."

    Anis Shivani: Philip Levine and Other Mediocrities: What it Takes to Ascend to the Poet Laureateship

  • Well, there seems to be an intergalactic-sized caesura.

    Elizabeth Boleman-Herring: Selling Mother's Louis Vuittons on eBay

  • There's a sense of arrival in line seven, but only a moment's hesitation, enacted by the caesura, the full-stop, after "up to the ridge".

    Poem of the week: Pier by Vona Groarke

  • And a feeble attempt, given the ongoing lack of an irony font, or a signal for a non-grammatical caesura, or an indicator for unusually quiet or calm speech the way we can signal loud and excited speech!

    Archive 2008-09-01

  • It is the transcendental event that starts it all; it is the caesura that defines her heroes and heroines 'lives, the way they conceive of their task in this world and their failure to live.

    Carlo Strenger: Nicole Krauss protests against the Weight of Jewish Inheritance

  • "O" of sheer pre-apostrophic exclamation (at the core of "Lo!" before it) appears to suggest that pure audition might — across the caesura, the epistemological gap itself — become cognition as smoothly as the phonetic ligature at "listen: O" releases the verbal alter ego of "(k) n-ow."

    Phonemanography: Romantic to Victorian

  • Yet the diffusive linked progress of Victorian perfectibility seems instinct there nonetheless, grammatically as well as rhythmically, overriding the caesura and all the other shocks and setbacks of progression, not only in the emphatic glottal ligature of "growing good" but in the double semantic bond of the words.

    Phonemanography: Romantic to Victorian

  • The Flavian dynasty marks a caesura in the history of Roman first ladies.

    Caesars’ Wives

Comments

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  • 1: in modern prosody : a usually rhetorical break in the flow of sound in the middle of a line of verse
    2: Greek & Latin prosody : a break in the flow of sound in a verse caused by the ending of a word within a foot
    3: break, interruption
    4: a pause marking a rhythmic point of division in a melody

    "The words are normal Law & Order words, but you wouldn't know it: Goldblum turns dialogue inside-out with stylized speech and a range of pregnant pauses, looping his eyes around the room with each caesura as if tracking an imagined hummingbird."
    --Slate

    June 30, 2009