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

Synonyms & Antonyms for halcyon

Synonyms: Adjective

Antonyms: Adjective

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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 alkyōn or halkyōn. 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 The fish trundled around in the Late Devonian, an enviously halcyon version of Earth in which the climate was pleasant and mild and the seas were full of fish. New York Times, 29 Apr. 2022 Over a Zoom call from his Cotswolds home with his wife and collaborator of 35 years Vanessa, Fairer reminisced about his halcyon days, discussed his new gig at Fendi, and wondered about the effect his photos might have in our new phygital era. Steff Yotka, Vogue, 15 Oct. 2021 Indeed, these changes haven’t always been easy, with industry professionals forced to adjust to a less halcyon version of Hollywood. New York Times, 6 June 2021 Anyway, these are halcyon days for me and the legions of big-building-photo-and-video-projection enthusiasts. Rex Huppke, chicagotribune.com, 7 May 2021 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, 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, 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, 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, 15 Oct. 2020 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, 24 Nov. 2020 See More

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.

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

Learn More About halcyon

Time Traveler for halcyon

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Listen to Our Podcast About halcyon

Dictionary Entries Near halcyon




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for halcyon

Last Updated

13 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Halcyon.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/halcyon. Accessed 19 May. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon


Test Your Vocabulary

Great Words for Scrabble

  • scrabble tiles that read scrabble quiz
  • Which of the following Q-without-U words means the number five in cards or dice?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!