Origin of verse

before 900; Middle English vers(e), fers line of poetry, section of a psalm, Old English fers < Latin versus a row, line (of poetry), literally, a turning, equivalent to vert(ere) to turn (past participle versus) + -tus suffix of v. action, with dt > s; akin to -ward, worth2
Related formsun·der·verse, noun
Can be confusedverses versus

Synonyms for verse

1. Verse, stanza, strophe, stave are terms for a metrical grouping in poetic composition. Verse is often mistakenly used for stanza, but is properly only a single metrical line. A stanza is a succession of lines (verses) commonly bound together by a rhyme scheme, and usually forming one of a series of similar groups that constitute a poem: The four-line stanza is the one most frequently used in English. Strophe (originally the section of a Greek choral ode sung while the chorus was moving from right to left) is in English poetry practically equivalent to “section”; a strophe may be unrhymed or without strict form, but may be a stanza: Strophes are divisions of odes. Stave is a word (now seldom used) that means a stanza set to music or intended to be sung: a stave of a hymn; a stave of a drinking song. 4–6. See poetry.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for verse

poem, rhyme, poetry, stanza, lyric, jingle, epic, ballad, sonnet, ode, song, poesy, lay, rune

Examples from the Web for verse

Contemporary Examples of verse

Historical Examples of verse

  • She had completed the verse with the hint of a sneer in her tones.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • It was an express order for two hundred francs, in payment of a bit of verse.

    Ballads of a Bohemian

    Robert W. Service

  • And then Rico sang the verse and was pleased and said, "Sing some more."

    Rico and Wiseli

    Johanna Spyri

  • Then Rico fiddled and sung the verse with her, and said again, "Some more."

    Rico and Wiseli

    Johanna Spyri

  • Give me some more of the syrup, and then come and repeat the verse that I taught you the other day.

    Rico and Wiseli

    Johanna Spyri

British Dictionary definitions for verse



(not in technical usage) a stanza or other short subdivision of a poem
poetry as distinct from prose
  1. a series of metrical feet forming a rhythmic unit of one line
  2. (as modifier)verse line
a specified type of metre or metrical structureiambic verse
one of the series of short subsections into which most of the writings in the Bible are divided
a metrical composition; poem


a rare word for versify

Word Origin for verse

Old English vers, from Latin versus a furrow, literally: a turning (of the plough), from vertere to turn
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 verse

c.1050, "line or section of a psalm or canticle," later "line of poetry" (late 14c.), from Anglo-French and Old French vers, from Latin versus "verse, line of writing," from PIE root *wer- (3) "to turn, bend" (see versus). The metaphor is of plowing, of "turning" from one line to another (vertere = "to turn") as a plowman does.

Verse was invented as an aid to memory. Later it was preserved to increase pleasure by the spectacle of difficulty overcome. That it should still survive in dramatic art is a vestige of barbarism. [Stendhal "de l'Amour," 1822]

Old English had fers, an early West Germanic borrowing directly from Latin. Meaning "metrical composition" is recorded from c.1300; sense of "part of a modern pop song" (as distinguished from the chorus) is attested from 1927. The English New Testament first was divided fully into verses in the Geneva version (1550s).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

verse in Culture


A kind of language made intentionally different from ordinary speech or prose. It usually employs devices such as meter and rhyme, though not always. Free verse, for example, has neither meter nor rhyme. Verse is usually considered a broader category than poetry, with the latter being reserved to mean verse that is serious and genuinely artistic.

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.

Idioms and Phrases with verse


see chapter and verse.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.