1. Movement or variation characterized by the regular recurrence or alternation of different quantities or conditions: the rhythm of the tides.
2. The patterned, recurring alternations of contrasting elements of sound or speech.
a. The patterning of musical sound, as by differences in the timing, duration, or stress of consecutive notes.
b. A specific kind of such patterning: a waltz rhythm.
c. A group of instruments supplying the rhythm in a band.
a. The pattern or flow of sound created by the arrangement of stressed and unstressed syllables in accentual verse or of long and short syllables in quantitative verse.
b. The similar but less formal sequence of sounds in prose.
c. A specific kind of metrical pattern or flow: iambic rhythm.
a. The sense of temporal development created in a work of literature or a film by the arrangement of formal elements such as the length of scenes, the nature and amount of dialogue, or the repetition of motifs.
b. A regular or harmonious pattern created by lines, forms, and colors in painting, sculpture, and other visual arts.
6. The pattern of development produced in a literary or dramatic work by repetition of elements such as words, phrases, incidents, themes, images, and symbols.
7. Procedure or routine characterized by regularly recurring elements, activities, or factors: the rhythm of civilization; the rhythm of the lengthy negotiations.
[Latin rhythmus, from Greek rhuthmos; see sreu- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.