An iamb is a group of two syllables in a line of poetry. The first syllable is not stressed, and the second syllable is stressed.
There are different types of iambic poetry-depending on how many sets of iambs are in the line. For example, Shakespeare's sonnets are written in iambic pentameter-meaning there are five iambs in each line (or 10 syllables that alternate unstressed and then stressed).
To better show the iambs the syllables in each line that should be stressed are in bold, and the syllables are separated with dashes.
From Shakespeare's Sonnet 18
Shall I com-pare thee to a sum-mer's day?
Thou art more love-ly and more tem-per-ate.
Rough winds do shake the dar-ling buds of May, And sum-mer's lease hath all too short a date.
From Wordsworth's "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud"
I wan-dered lone-ly as a cloud
That floats on high o'er dale and hill
When, all at once, I saw a crowd
A host of gold-en daf-fo-dils.
From Roethke's "My Papa's Waltz"
We romped un-til the pans
Slid from the kitch-en shelf;
My moth-er's count-e-nance
Could not un-frown it-self.
Examples: Grammar and Science Examples for Kids