Prosody. a poem, properly expressive of a single, complete thought, idea, or sentiment, of 14 lines, usually in iambic pentameter, with rhymes arranged according to one of certain definite schemes, being in the strict or Italian form divided into a major group of 8 lines (the octave) followed by a minor group of 6 lines (the sestet), and in a common English form into 3 quatrains followed by a couplet.

verb (used without object)

Archaic. to compose sonnets.

verb (used with object)

Older Use. to celebrate in a sonnet or sonnets.

Origin of sonnet

1550–60; < Italian sonnetto < Old Provençal sonet, equivalent to son poem (< Latin sonus sound1) + -et -et
Related formsson·net·like, adjectiveout·son·net, verb (used with object) Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for sonnet

Contemporary Examples of sonnet

Historical Examples of sonnet

  • I must needs try my new-fledged pinions in sonnet, elogy, and madrigal.

    Clarissa, Volume 1 (of 9)

    Samuel Richardson

  • Shakespeare told us the truth about himself when he wrote in sonnet 142, "Love is my sin."

  • Take any sonnet at haphazard, and you will hear the rage of his desire.

  • It contrasts "foe and friend," just as the sonnet contrasts "love and hate."

  • In Sonnet 136 he prays her to allow him to be one of her lovers.

British Dictionary definitions for sonnet



a verse form of Italian origin consisting of 14 lines in iambic pentameter with rhymes arranged according to a fixed scheme, usually divided either into octave and sestet or, in the English form, into three quatrains and a couplet


(intr) to compose sonnets
(tr) to celebrate in a sonnet

Word Origin for sonnet

C16: via Italian from Old Provençal sonet a little poem, from son song, from Latin sonus a sound
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for sonnet

1557 (in title of Surrey's poems), from Middle French sonnet (1540s) or directly from Italian sonetto, literally "little song," from Old Provençal sonet "song," diminutive of son "song, sound," from Latin sonus "sound" (see sound (n.1)).

Originally in English also "any short lyric poem;" precise meaning is from Italian, where Petrarch (14c.) developed a scheme of an eight-line stanza (rhymed abba abba) followed by a six-line stanza (cdecde, the Italian sestet, or cdcdcd, the Sicilian sestet). Shakespeare developed the English Sonnet for his rhyme-poor native tongue: three Sicilian quatrains followed by a heroic couplet (ababcdcdefefgg). The first stanza sets a situation or problem, and the second comments on it or resolves it.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Culture definitions for sonnet


A lyric poem of fourteen lines, often about love, that follows one of several strict conventional patterns of rhyme. Elizabeth Barrett Browning, John Keats, and William Shakespeare are poets known for their sonnets.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.