In a word: halcyon

July 15, 2013|By John E. McIntyre | The Baltimore Sun

Each week The Sun's John McIntyre presents a relatively obscure but evocative word with which you may not be familiar, another brick to add to the wall of your working vocabulary. This week's word:


It starts with a bird.

The ancients thought that there was a bird, the halcyon, probably a kind of kingfisher, that made its nest in the sea during the winter solstice, calming the wind and the waves. That period of calm was called the halcyon days, the fourteen days that the bird was supposedly brooding.

By extension, we have the adjective halcyon (pronounced HAL-see-un), meaning calm, peaceful, happy, golden, prosperous, most frequently modifying days to identify a period bearing those qualities.

Example: In The Birds, Aristophanes writes: "You Birds have a great deal to gain from a kindlier Olympus. ... A perpetual run, say, of halcyon days."

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