Cinquain (pronounced /ˈsɪŋkeɪn/) is a class of poetic forms that employ a 5-line pattern. Earlier used to describe any five-line form, it now refers to one of several forms that are defined by specific rules and guidelines.[1]


Crapsey cinquain

American poet Adelaide Crapsey invented the modern form,[2] inspired by Japanese haiku and tanka.[3][4] In her 1915 collection titled Verse, published one year after her death, Crapsey included 28 cinquains.[5]

Crapsey's cinquains utilized an increasing syllable count in the first four lines, namely two in the first, four in the second, six in the third, and eight in the fourth, before returning to two syllables on the last line. In addition, though little emphasized by critics, each line in the majority of Crapsey cinquains has a fixed number of stressed syllables, as well, following the pattern one, two, three, four, one.[citation needed] The most common metrical foot in her twenty-eight published examples is the iamb, though this is not exclusive. Lines generally do not rhyme. In contrast to the Eastern forms upon which she based them, Crapsey always titled her cinquains, effectively utilizing the title as a sixth line.

The form is illustrated by Crapsey's "November Night":[6]

With faint dry sound,
Like steps of passing ghosts,
The leaves, frost-crisp'd, break from the trees
And fall.


The Crapsey cinquain has subsequently seen a number of variations by modern poets, including:

Variation Description
Reverse cinquain a form with one 5-line stanza in a syllabic pattern of two, eight, six, four, two.
Mirror cinquain a form with two 5-line stanzas consisting of a cinquain followed by a reverse cinquain.
Butterfly cinquain a nine-line syllabic form with the pattern two, four, six, eight, two, eight, six, four, two.
Crown cinquain a sequence of five cinquain stanzas functioning to construct one larger poem.
Garland cinquain a series of six cinquains in which the last is formed of lines from the preceding five, typically line one from stanza one, line two from stanza two, and so on.

Didactic cinquain

The didactic cinquain is closely related to the Crapsey cinquain. It is an informal cinquain widely taught in elementary schools and has been featured in, and popularized by, children's media resources, including Junie B. Jones and PBS Kids. This form is also embraced by young adults and older poets for its expressive simplicity. The prescriptions of this type of cinquain refer to word count, not syllables and stresses. Ordinarily, the first line is a one-word title, the subject of the poem; the second line is a pair of adjectives describing that title; the third line is a three word phrase that gives more information about the subject; the fourth line consists of four words describing feelings related to that subject; and the fifth line is a single word synonym or other reference for the subject from line one.

Other cinquains

Form Description
Tanka is a five-line form of unrhymed Japanese poetry, totalling 31 moras structured in a 5-7-5-7-7 pattern.
Tetractys is five-line poem of 20 syllables with a title, arranged in the following order: 1,2,3,4,10, with each line standing as a phrase on its own. It can be inverted, doubled, etc. and was created by the late English poet Ray Stebbings.
Cinqku is a five line blending of the Cinquain and Tanka forms, created by American poet Denis Garrison. It consists of five lines with a total of 17 syllables.
Lanterne is an untitled five line quintain verse with a syllabic pattern of one, two, three, four, one. Each line is usually able to stand on its own.

See also

  • Gogyōka
  • Gogyōshi
  • Quintain (poetry)
  • Poetry


  1. ^ Hobsbaum, Philip (1996). Metre, rhythm and verse form. The new critical idiom. Routledge. pp. 186–188. ISBN 041508797X. 
  2. ^ Alakalay-Gut, Karen (May 1985). "Death, Order, and Poetry". American Literature 57 (2): 263–289. JSTOR 2926066. 
  3. ^ Drury, John (2006). The poetry dictionary. Writer's Digest Books. p. 61. ISBN 1582973296. 
  4. ^ Toleos, Aaron. Cinquains explained Retrieved 2010-06-11.
  5. ^ Toleos, Aaron. Verse and its legacy Retrieved 2010-06-11.
  6. ^ Crapsey, Adelaide (1922). Verse, p. 31. Quoted in 28 cinquains from Adelaide Crapsey's Verse, at Retrieved 2010-06-09.

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • cinquain — (n.) collection of five, 1711, from Fr. cinquain bundle of five objects, from cinq five (see FIVE (Cf. five)). Originally in English of military orders of battle; of five lined stanzas of verse from 1882 …   Etymology dictionary

  • cinquain — (sin kin) s. m. Pièce, couplet de cinq vers, nommé plus souvent quintil. HISTORIQUE    XVIe s. •   Cinquain, OUDIN Dict.. ÉTYMOLOGIE    Cinq, comme quatre a formé quatrain. Cinquain s est dit pour une collection de cinq objets quelconques : un… …   Dictionnaire de la Langue Française d'Émile Littré

  • cinquain — noun Etymology: French, from cinq five, from Old French, from Latin quinque more at five Date: 1882 a 5 line stanza …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Cinquain — Quintil Un quintil est une strophe composée de cinq vers. Portail de la poésie Ce document provient de « Quintil ». Catégorie : Versification …   Wikipédia en Français

  • cinquain — /sing kayn , sing kayn/, n. 1. a group of five. 2. Pros. a. a short poem consisting of five, usually unrhymed lines containing, respectively, two, four, six, eight, and two syllables. b. any stanza of five lines. [1705 15; < F < LL cinque (see… …   Universalium

  • cinquain — noun /sɪn.ken/ a) A five line poetic form which consists of 2, 4, 6, 8 then 2 syllables. b) A five line poetic form which consists of 1 noun, 2 adjectives, 3 actions, 4 feeling words, then 1 noun that is the same as top noun …   Wiktionary

  • cinquain — cin·quain …   English syllables

  • cinquain — cin•quain [[t]sɪŋˈkeɪn, ˈsɪŋ keɪn[/t]] n. 1) a group of five 2) pro a stanza of five lines • Etymology: 1705–15; < F cinq five (« L quīnque). Cf. quatrain …   From formal English to slang

  • cinquain — /ˈsɪŋkeɪn/ (say singkayn), /sɪŋˈkeɪn/ (say sing kayn) noun Prosody a short poem consisting of five, usually unrhymed lines. {French, from Late Latin cinque five + French ain collective suffix. Compare quatrain} …   Australian English dictionary

  • cinquain —   n. group of five, especially five line stanza …   Dictionary of difficult words

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