Acrostic – What it is, concept, origin and famous examples

We explain what an acrostic is, the origin of the term and its function. Also, examples of the most famous acrostics.

Acrostics are a type of poem but also a hobby or play on words,

What is an acrostic?

An acrostic is a type of poem or poetic composition, written in verse or prose, whose initial, middle or final letters of each line, when read vertically, make up a word or expression. Its name comes from the Greek akros (“Limb”) and stikhos (“Verse”), that is, it is a verse found at the extremities of others.

Acrostics are a type of poem but also a hobby or play on words, offering the reader a clue in its title, so that they can recompose the word “hidden” between the lines. They can often be more than one, and in that sense this genus operates as a form of text “in code”.

One of the most famous acrostics in the Spanish language is found in the prologue of The matchmaker (1499), the work of Fernando de Rojas (c. 1470-1541), and whose verses in old Spanish make up the phrase “The bachelor Fernando de Rojas finished the comedy of Calisto and Melibea and was born in the town of Montalbán.” The first of these verses are:

ANDhe silently shields and tends to cover up
Lthe witlessness of clumsy tongues;
Blasón who is contrary publishes his ebb
TOHe who talks a lot without feeling much.
Clike the ant that stops going
Holgando by land with the provision,
Iact * his doom with wings:
LLeváronla high, does not know where to go.
ANDThe air enjoying, alien and strange,
Rapiña is already made of birds that fly;

* It should read “Jactose”, to boast. Let us remember that at that time, the grapheme ‹j› did not exist and ‹i› was used interchangeably for the sound of the vowel and the jot.

Acrostics, on the other hand, are common as love poems, which contain the name of the person to whom it is dedicated in the first letters of their verses, or also as a way to introduce humorous or ironic comments in a poetic text. , in a veiled and original way.