Etymology: Anacrusis

Anacrusis is a Latin term stemming from the Greek word ana, meaning “back” + krouein, meaning “to strike”, or anakrouein, meaning, to push back, stop short, check. The term leads us back to PIE-kreue, “to push” or “strike” in Russian, or Lithuanian, krusu, “to smash”, “to shatter”.

Often referred to as “the up-beat” or “pick-up note”, it refers to the last beat in a measure, which is therefore the weaker beat in a bar. To make up for this downbeat we must consider the last measure in the piece, which usually completes the measure.

It therefore comes to no surprise to consider that anakrouein (Greek), and hence krusu (Lithuanian), will lead us all the way back to the 10th century Indo-European term
, meaning “piece” or “bit of food”.

Interestingly, anakrouein or anacrusis is also found in Greek poetry,  where the first syllable is not accented. Being the sea-faring people as they were, starting a poem with anacrusis felt like pushing a ship back from the dock, signalling a start of a voyage.


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