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 todaythe 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 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 Broomfield does a particularly good job of immersing viewers in Hydra’s halcyon pleasures, then gently exposing the community’s darker shadows. Ann Hornaday, Twin Cities, "Singer Leonard Cohen and his muse are the subjects of this absorbing documentary," 25 July 2019 Biden’s pitch to voters is moderation, electability and a callback to the halcyon days of the Obama Administration. Molly Ball, Time, "What Do the Democrats Stand For? Inside a Fight Over America's Future," 25 July 2019 That pattern produced thrills of novelty when Szeemann, like many brilliant artists of his halcyon moment, introduced it to pronounce an epochal abandonment of modernism’s mythology of progress. Peter Schjeldahl, The New Yorker, "Harald Szeemann’s Revolutionary Curating," 15 July 2019 But this halcyon period, before the campaigns become reduced to sound bites, is a great moment for Democratic oratory in the twenty-first century. Walter Shapiro, The New Republic, "On the Oratory Trail in Iowa," 11 June 2019

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

Time Traveler

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

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Last Updated

24 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Halcyon.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/halcyon. Accessed 26 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for halcyon


How to pronounce halcyon (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of halcyon

literary : very happy and successful

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