In poetry the rhythmic beats in verses are sometimes created by metrical feet such as a trochee. Trochees are a pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in which the stressed syllable is immediately followed by an unstressed one such as in the word "happy." Trochaic meters are one of the most popularly used feet in poetry.
Ancient Greek and Latin artists frequently used trochees in comedy and tragedy music, poetry, and plays. Trochees were first used in English around the beginning of the 17th century. Longer poems in English tend to sound monotonous when trochaic meters are used; however, short poems use them quite well. The best example of this would be with William Blake’s “Tiger.” Trochaic meters are not popular in modern-day poetry, but they are frequently used in advertisement jingles and slogans to help make them more memorable.
The best use of trochee is when it is combined with other metered feet. Trochee is often combined with anapest, which is a pattern of two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed syllable, and dactyl, which is one stressed syllable followed by two that are unstressed. Two other more rare types of metered feet are spondee, which is two stressed syllables in succession, and pyrrhic, which is two unstressed syllables in succession.
Trochees used sparingly or with other metric feet help to create an engaging rhythm. It can make the poem sound chant-like — as in the poem “Tiger” — or to merely give it a more distinct beat. Using trochee in a poem may also make it sound more musical and pleasing to the ear. The overall aim of trochee is to remove monotony and make the poem feel less flat and predictable.
Trochaic meters are often confused with iambic meters which are unstressed syllables followed by stressed syllables. The best way to tell if a foot is trochaic or iambic is to analyze the first line. This is because each follows a similar pattern of singular stresses and non-stresses.
Linguists note that children tend to prefer trochaic words, meters and sentences over other types, particularly iambic. Some believe that trochees help children with their phonological progression, because it helps them to pronounce unstressed syllables better. There is a debate as to why this is so. Some believe it is because trochees are found more in children’s literature and school books, while others believe it is due to the fact that trochees provide a syllable pattern that is easier to mimic.