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

calm, hushed, lown [dialect], peaceful, placid, quiet, serene, still, stilly, tranquil, untroubled

Antonyms: Adjective

agitated, angry, inclement, restless, rough, stormy, tempestuous, turbulent, unquiet, unsettled

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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


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

Meanwhile, Dan and Blair are working at W. Ah, the halcyon days of Condé Nast interns. Elizabeth Logan, Glamour, "Every Single Episode of Gossip Girl, Ranked," 19 Sep. 2018 The movie swears allegiance to that halcyon, carefree world, where humor is a matter of laughing with rather than at. A.o. Scott, New York Times, "Review: ‘Early Man’ Is a Very Funny Trip to the Past," 15 Feb. 2018 During its halcyon days in the 1920s and 1930s, modern architecture claimed to be astylar and universally applicable. Anthony Alofsin, The Atlantic, "A Defense of the Suburbs," 6 June 2018 One obvious problem in blaming social media for miserable young people is the supposition that there has ever been a halcyon time for teenagers. Fortune, "How Smartphones and Social Media Can Steal Childhood," 8 May 2018 The afternoon was a halcyon dream for liberal elites. Michael Hoinski, GQ, "Beto in the Outfield," 19 Apr. 2018 And yet for all the enthusiasm over the economy’s return to full employment, the pay increases of the halcyon 1990s are probably not coming back anytime soon. Eduardo Porter, New York Times, "Paychecks Are Getting Bigger. Don’t Get Too Used to It.," 27 Feb. 2018 The Dolphins are Shula and Marino and halcyon days ever-distant. Greg Cote, miamiherald, "It's Dolphins vs. Heat for South Florida's heart, and why one has earned your trust | Miami Herald," 13 Apr. 2018 Or worse, said former owner Peter Einstein, who lived in the eye-catching abode during its halcyon days. Janet Eastman, OregonLive.com, "Who will rescue the West Linn dome home from bankruptcy court? An artist, hobbit or developer? (photos)," 20 Mar. 2018

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


1601, in the meaning defined at sense 2


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

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

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English Language Learners Definition of halcyon

literary : very happy and successful

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having a desire to acquire more things

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