What is a Tercet?

Tercet Definition, Poem Examples

Definition of Tercet

A unit or group of three lines of verse which are rhymed together or have a rhyme scheme that interlaces with an adjoining tercet.


“A group of three lines of verse, often rhyming together or with another triplet”.

A poetic triplet is a tercet in which all three lines follow the same rhyme, a a a; triplets are rather rare. Haiku in English language poetry is also an example of unrhymed tercet poem however they are more customarily used sparingly in the verses of heroic couplets or other couplet verse to add extraordinary emphasis.

History and Origin

The tercet was introduced into English poetry by Sir Thomas Wyatt in the 16th century.

Tercet originates from Italian terzetto, from diminutive of terzo third, from Latin tertius  and is known to be first used in Circa, 1598.

Examples of Tercet Poems

O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being,

Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead

Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing

Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red.

Pestilence-stricken multitudes: O thou,

Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed

_Ode to the West Wind

Death is now the phoenix’ nest;

And the turtle’s loyal breast

To eternity doth rest,…

The Phoenix and the Turtle

The tercet poetry form has been  employed by Shelley and used by used by Byron in The Prophecy of Dante.