Sunday, May 17, 2009

word: halcyon

I mentioned in a post that I've been toying with the idea of featuring interesting words that I encounter in my reading on the blog. I've decided that I'm going to give it a go, though it'll be a periodic rather than regular feature since I don't want to force myself to post when I haven't happened across a word about which I was truly interested in knowing more.

The first of my featured words appears in one of the books I'm currently reading (American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld) as a place name. My vague familiarity with the word intrigued me.

- as a noun halycon refers to the kingfisher (zoological), the name being taken from from the Greek myth of Alcyone.
- as an adjective it means both of the bird and, more usually, something along the lines of tranquil, happy, idyllic as in the nostalgic halcyon days.
- as a verb it means to calm, though it is rarely used as a verb (the OED lists it as rare, obscure).

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