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One: Scansion and Related Matters    Two: Description of the Metres

a: Vatta    b: Tuññhubha    c: Measure Metres    d: Bar Metres    e: Fixed Metres

Three: The Mixing of Metres    Four: Glossary & Index

Five: The Evolution of Vatta & Tuññhubha    Six: Guide to Further Study


Four: Glossary and Index


(Roman order of letters)

aóóhasamavutta (ardhasamavçtta) a metre having two dissimilar lines repeated to make up a verse e.g. Vatta, Vetàlãya, see also 2.20ff

akkharacchandas (akùaracchandas), syllabic metres, there are two types:

1) the flexible syllabic metres e.g. Vatta, Tuññhubha, in which the syllabic patterns are still somewhat variable, see 2.1ff

2) the fixed syllabic metres, in which all, or nearly all, of the syllables are of fixed quantity e.g. Vaüsaññhà, Uggatà, see 2.20ff

anacrusis one or two extra syllables at the beginning of a line, before the metre proper begins.

anceps 3 indicates that the syllable may be long or short in the stated position. In the Pàëi canonical period the last syllable in a line is nearly always considered to be anceps, and sometimes the first syllable too, see pàdàdigaru & pàdantagaru.

Anuññhubha (Anuùñubh), see 2.3ff

1) this is a Vedic metre originally having a samavutta structure 33331213 x4. Over time variations from this basic pattern started to emerge, which eventually gave rise to a new metre having two dissimilar lines, the Vatta. As this was a gradual evolution at which point we should declare the metre to have gone over from Anuññhubha to Vatta is a moot point. But the general position is that in the Pàëi canonical period we find that we are dealing with the new metre, which has an aóóhasamavutta structure (see Five: The Evolution of Vatta and Tuññhubha, for more details).

2) The name is also used when describing a variation that occurs in the odd lines of Vatta metre, which shows the same structure as the line illustrated above, and which is therefore the same as the Vatta even line.

3) Sometimes used as generic name applied for any metre having 8 syllables to the line.

anusvara see niggahãta

Aparavatta (Aparavaktra) 2.22

Ariyà (âryà) 2.17

1) a gaõacchandas metre having two dissimilar lines with a matta count of 30 + 27

2) sometimes the name is used more loosely to refer to any gaõacchandas metre.

assimilation euphonic change whereby one consonant takes the form of another which follows or precedes it e.g. ud + ghàta > ugghàta

br see 1.5

Brahatã generic name for metres having 9 syllables to the line

bar metres see gaõacchandas

break the middle part of the Tuññhubha and other similar metres, see 2.6ff

cadence the closing rhythm of a line, or pair of lines

caesura see yati

catalectic having an incomplete number of syllables or mattà (opp: acatalectic, complete).


1) metre

2) sometimes is used loosely to indicate merely the number of syllables in a line

cheda, pause, see also yati

closed syllable see 1.1

conjunct consonants two (or more) consonants which are not seperated by a vowel e.g. tt in mettà, ndr in indriya

contraction change from original two short vowels (usually seperated by a semivowel) to one long one e.g. aya > e, ava > o. This sometimes makes sense of otherwise metrically `wrong' verses.

Dodhaka 2.21

dãgha (dãrgha) used to refer to a naturally long vowel, not to be confused with garu which refers to metrical length

digraphs two letters that indicate but one sound, see 1.2

elision the loss of a syllable, or part of a syllable, at the beginning or end of a word (which sometimes happens m.c.)

epenthesis the insertion of a vowel between two consonants for euphonic reasons, see sarabhatti

euphony ease of pronounciation, see also sandhi

even line = posterior line = the second line in a pàdayuga

fixed metre akkharacchandas type 2, aka vutta 2.20ff

foot a division of a line of poetry, usually consisting of 3 syllables, see also gaõa

gaõa a bar or section

1) in gaõacchandas metre this refers to a bar normally consisting of 4 mattà, derived from musical structure. These accurately reflect the structure of the metres. There are five such gaõas, which are given here with their Sanskrit and Greek names.
















2) a division consisting of 3 syllables which are a kind of shorthand used to describe the akkharacchandas metres. There are 8 such gaõas which are used in classical Indian theory:















cretius, amphimacer










in the descriptions that occur in the Indian prosodies these are normally indicated as ja, bha, sa, etc.

la(hu) 1 and ga(ru) 2 are used to describe the end syllable(s),

sometimes la la (i.e 11) is seen written as là; and ga ga (22) as gà.

(note: 12 = iambus; 21 = trochee; 22 = spondee; 11 = pyrrhic)

(cf magaõa & nagaõa as they are used differently in the two

systems, and have different names in Greek)

Although these signs can be used to describe the alternation of long and shorts quite accurately, they often disguise the underlying structure of the metres, so that e.g. Indavajirà is described as being ta ta ja ga ga, which when written out gives the pattern:


this gives the impression that there are rhythmic patterns in the metre which do not, in fact, appear. The structure is better defined like this:


which better reflects the rhythm.

gaõacchandas name of a class of metres built around the first of the gaõa principles prosodyd above, there are about 450 gaõacchandas verses in the canon, see 2.15ff

garu literally heavy, a syllable considered to be long metrically, see 1.1ff

gàthà variously translated as verse, stanza, or strophe. A gàthà normally consists of 4 lines, sometimes 6, though occasionally we come across a verse which is defective in this regard

geyya literally singable, in the tradition it signifies a type of composition of mixed prose and verse, some of which at least may have been `performed' to illustrate points of Buddhist doctrine or folklore. Sagàthavagga of Saüyuttanikàya contains many examples of geyya

Gãti literally song 2.17ff cf also Old Gãti 2.16

Gubbinã (Gurviõi) a gaõacchandas hypermetre 2.19

half-verse (or half-stanza etc.) see pàdayuga

haplography omission of a syllable by accident when it appears twice in a word


1) a gap

2) sometimes used to refer to two vowels in succession without an intervening consonant


1) a class of metres composed using extendable forms, see 2.19

2) having a syllable, or syllables additional to the normal metre (even a line showing syllablic resolution may be referred to as hypermetric)

ictus in metre a syllable that is stressed or emphasized (ictus strictly speaking does not apply to Pàëi verse composition, but it is sometimes mentioned in the literature).

iti quotation marker 1.13


1) a syllabic metre 2.6ff

2) sometimes used as a generic name for any metre having 12 syllables to the line


1) another name for the measure metres

2) another name for Upajàti

junction see sandhi

kabba (kàvya), literature

lahu (laghu)

literally light, a syllable considered to be short metrically, see 1.1ff

Màgadhikà (aka Màgadhã) another name for Vetàlãya, presumably because Magadhi is where the metre originated

mattà (màtrà) literally a measure, short syllables are counted as one mattà, long ones as two

mattàchandas (màtràcchandas), measure metre 2.9ff there are about 400 verses in mattàchandas metre in the canon

measure metre see mattàchandas above

metathesis exchange of syllabic position e.g. kariyà > kayirà

metrical licence see 1.8ff

metri causa the metre is the cause (of a change in word form)

mora = mattà = a measure

musical metres refers to the mattàchandas and gaõacchandas metres which have been derived under the influence of musical structures

new metres refers to the mattàchandas, gaõacchandas, and fixed akkharacchandas metres

niggahãta the pure nasal sound. Only occurs normally after a short vowel (i.e as aü, iü, & uü), but then makes that syllable long metrically, sometimes also referred to as anusvara, see 1.1 & 1.11

odd line = prior line = the first line in a pàdayuga

Old Gãti (aka Old âryà) the earliest form of gaõacchandas metre 2.16

Opacchandasaka (Aupacchandasaka) 2.10

opening the beginning section of a line, may be followed by a break and cadence as in Tuññhubha and related metres, or simply by a cadence as in Vatta and the mattàchandas metres

open syllable, see 1.1

pàda a line of verse

pàdàdigaru a short syllable that is counted as long because it stands at the beginning of a line (this is sometimes seen in early gaõacchandas verses)

pàdantagaru a short syllable that is counted as long because it stands at the end of a line, see 2.9


1) a pair of lines

2) sometimes loosely used to refer to a line in gaõacchandas verse

pajja (padya) verse (as opposed to gajja, prose)

Pamitakkharà (Pramitàkùarà) 2.21

Panti generic name for metres having 10 syllables to the line

partial vowels, see sarabhatti

pathyà the normal structure of a line (as opposed to vipulà, variation), see 2.3

pause cheda (see also yati)

position for syllables not making position see 1.5

posterior pàda = even line = the second line in a pàdayuga

prior pàda = odd line = the first line in a pàdayuga

Pupphitaggà (Puùpitàgrà) 2.12

rassa a naturally short vowel, not to be confused with lahu, which refers to metrical length

Rathoddhatà 2.12

recitor's remarks 1.13

redundant syllable a syllable extra to the metre

replacement see 1.14ff

resolution see 1.14ff

Rucirà 2.8

rule of resolution 1.15; 2.4; 2.15

samavutta (samavçtta) a metre having the same line repeated (normally four times) to make up a verse e.g. Tuññhubha, Rucirà, Pamitakkharà, see also 2.20ff

samprasàna reduction, a phonetic change whereby a semi-vowel is reduced to its vowel equivalent e.g. ya > ã; va > å

sandhi refers to the junction between words, and the euphonic changes that take place accordingly

sara (svara), vowel; (vya¤jana, consonant)

sarabhatti (svarabhakti) literally a broken vowel, an anaptyctic vowel, see 1.6

scansion metrical analysis, see 1.1ff

Siloka (øloka) another name for Vatta, for which see 2.3ff

stanza see gàthà

strophe see gàthà

Svàgatà 2. 14

syllable can be defined as a word, or a part of a word, which can be uttered with a single effort of the voice

syllabic metres akkharacchandas type 1, see 2.2ff

syncopation a change in the order of syllables, which produces a different rhythm e.g.2211 > 2121 see 2.10

Tuññhubha (Triùñubh) 2.6ff also sometimes used as a generic name for any metre having 11 syllables to the line

Uggatà (Udgatà) 2.23

Uggãti (Udgãti) 2.17

Upagãti 2.17

Upajàti 2.8 sometimes loosely referred to as Tuññhubha

Upaññhità 2.21

Upaññhitappacupita (Upasthitapracupita) 2.23

Vaüsaññhà (Vaü÷asthà) 2.8 sometimes loosely referred to as Jagatã

vaçõaka a descriptive compound having an extendable metrical structure, see 2.19

Vatta (Vaktra) 2.3ff

Veóha 2.19

Vegavatã 2.13

Vetàlãya (Vaitàlãya) 2.10

vipulà variation (as opposed to pathyà, normal) 2.4

visamavutta (visamavçtta) a verse with 4 dissimilar lines 2.23ff

vutta (vçtta) a fixed syllablic metre, akkharacchandas type 2, see 2.20ff

vutti the "length", or weight, of a syllable

yati caesura, a word break (not a pause as sometimes stated). Occasionally the word break is hidden or concealed (avyakata) in a compound


Home Page

One: Scansion and Related Matters    Two: Description of the Metres

a: Vatta    b: Tuññhubha    c: Measure Metres    d: Bar Metres    e: Fixed Metres

Three: The Mixing of Metres    Four: Glossary & Index

Five: The Evolution of Vatta & Tuññhubha    Six: Guide to Further Study