hal·​cy·​on | \ ˈhal-sē-ən How to pronounce halcyon (audio) \

Definition of halcyon

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : characterized by happiness, great success, and prosperity : golden often used to describe an idyllic time in the past that is remembered as better than today the halcyon days of youthClassics Illustrated have become pricey nostalgia items for those who grew up in the supposedly halcyon years after World War II.— Donna RichardsonIn those halcyon days of the free trade, the fixed price for carrying a box of tea or bale of tobacco from the coast of Galloway to Edinburgh was fifteen shillings …— Sir Walter Scott
b : calm, peaceful a halcyon atmosphere
2 : of or relating to the halcyon (see halcyon entry 2) or its nesting period



Definition of halcyon (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a bird identified with the kingfisher and held in ancient legend to nest at sea about the time of the winter solstice and to calm the waves during incubation

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Synonyms & Antonyms for halcyon

Synonyms: Adjective

Antonyms: Adjective

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Did You Know?


According to Greek mythology, Alkyone, the daughter of the god of the winds, became so distraught when she learned that her husband had been killed in a shipwreck that she threw herself into the sea and was changed into a kingfisher. As a result, ancient Greeks called such birds alkyon or halkyon. The legend also says that such birds built floating nests on the sea, where they so charmed the wind god that he created a period of unusual calm that lasted until the birds' eggs hatched. This legend prompted people to use halcyon both as a noun naming a genus of kingfisher and as an adjective meaning either "of or relating to the kingfisher or its nesting period" or calm.

Examples of halcyon in a Sentence

Adjective a halcyon era following the American Civil War during those early halcyon years the company's potential for growth seemed unlimited
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective And yet, Bach this week sketched a scenario of a halcyon and healthy Games, sending an unsubtle but important message to corporate sponsors to plan on being in Tokyo in July. Matthew Futterman, New York Times, "Despite Uncertainty, Tokyo Olympics Promoted as Light at End of Pandemic Tunnel," 19 Nov. 2020 That was in the 1880s, and even a century or so later, Gotha seemed to retain a certain identity as a halcyon, rural spot. Joy Wallace Dickinson, orlandosentinel.com, "Roadside signs heading into Gotha remind drivers of German colony in the pines," 15 Nov. 2020 The iPhone 12 harkens back to the iPhone 3G (with the 5G jump) or the iPhone 5 (with the aesthetic)—phones from the device's halcyon days, in many people's eyes. Samuel Axon, Ars Technica, "iPhone 12 and 12 Pro double review: Playing Apple’s greatest hits," 29 Oct. 2020 To be sure, this was hardly some halcyon moment of voting rights, the dream of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments gloriously fulfilled. David Daley, The New Republic, "Inside the Republican Plot for Permanent Minority Rule," 15 Oct. 2020 Its odd cylinder count lends it a characteristic warble that harkens back to the brand's halcyon rallying days of the 1980s. Jens Meiners, Car and Driver, "Audi's RS Q3 Remains a Forbidden Hot-Rod SUV," 19 Feb. 2020 Republicans would be out for revenge, and instead of a halcyon return to normalcy, our politics would be even more poisonous than before. Rich Lowry, National Review, "Removal Would Be Insane," 24 Jan. 2020 Carmen Policy, a high-ranking executive on the 49ers’ last four Super Bowl-winning teams, said Lynch and Shanahan had reconnected the team to its halcyon days. Ben Shpigel, New York Times, "A Rival’s Advice Put the 49ers on a Super Bowl Path," 17 Jan. 2020 That doesn’t take away from the reality of the situation: Some coaches and general managers are a long way from those initial halcyon days where every arrow is pointing up. Conor Orr, SI.com, "The NFL’s Seven Hottest Seats," 19 June 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The goal isn’t some halcyon, all-forgiving unity between MAGA World and everyone else; too much damage has been done for that. Whitney Phillips, Wired, "How to Have Productive Conversations About Election Misinformation," 24 Nov. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'halcyon.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of halcyon


1570, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for halcyon

Noun and Adjective

Middle English alceon, from Latin halcyon, from Greek alkyōn, halkyōn

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Time Traveler for halcyon

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The first known use of halcyon was in the 14th century

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Cite this Entry

“Halcyon.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/halcyon. Accessed 18 Apr. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of halcyon

literary : very happy and successful

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