- A mythical bird said by ancient writers to breed in a nest floating at sea at the winter solstice, charming the wind and waves into calm.
- A tropical Asian and African kingfisher with brightly coloured plumage.
- Denoting a period of time in the past that was idyllically happy and peaceful.
“I miss the halcyon days of my childhood when I didn’t have to worry about the pressures of adult life.”
“Her halcyon stories may seem fanciful, but her glamorous lifestyle was earned through decades of sacrifice and hard work.”
“We saw a kingfisher from the boat, and my father told me that sailors often call them ‘halcyon birds.'”
Greek, late 16th century
Why this word?
As an adjective, “halcyon” is used in connection with an idealized version of the past. For example, remembering the halcyon days of yesteryear can bring about a nostalgia for better times. The noun form displays deep roots in Greek mythology. “Halcyon” comes from the story of the goddess Alcyone and her dear husband, who were turned into birds upon their deaths. These birds would only build nests in the sea on calm water, leading to the reputation of happy, peaceful days. The mythical birds were reportedly kingfishers, or halcyons, a real species of tropical bird.
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