Word of The Day for Friday, May 27, 2011


wel•kin (WEL-kin)  n

1. the vault of the sky; firmament
2. the celestial abode of God or the gods; heaven
3. the upper atmosphere


12c; from O.E. wolcen "cloud," from P.Gmc. *welk-

Synonyms: empyrean, sky, the blue, the skies, vault, firmament, heavens, stratosphere
Related Words: walk

Sentence Examples:
• Now that the gloomy shadow of the night,
  Longing to view Orion's drizzling look,
  Leaps from th' antartic world unto the sky,
  And dims the welkin with her pitchy breath,
  Faustus, begin thine incantations,
  And try if devils will obey thy hest,
  Seeing thou hast pray'd and sacrific'd to them.
- Dr. Faustus, by Christopher Marlowe

• Thus Beatrice: at whose feet inclin'd
  Devout, at her behest, my thought and eyes,
  I, as she bade, directed.  Never fire,
  With so swift motion, forth a stormy cloud
  Leap'd downward from the welkin's farthest bound,
  As I beheld the bird of Jove descending
  Pounce on the tree, and, as he rush'd, the rind,
  Disparting crush beneath him, buds much more
  And leaflets.  On the car with all his might
  He struck, whence, staggering like a ship, it reel'd,
  At random driv'n, to starboard now, o'ercome,
  And now to larboard, by the vaulting waves.
- Purgatory, Dante

• LO, praise of the prowess of people-kings of spear-armed Danes, in days long sped, we have heard, and what honor the athelings won! Oft Scyld the Scefing from squadroned foes, from many a tribe, the mead-bench tore, awing the earls. Since erst he lay friendless, a foundling, fate repaid him: for he waxed under welkin, in wealth he throve, till before him the folk, both far and near, who house by the whale-path, heard his mandate, gave him gifts:  a good king he! - Beowulf

• Nay, more than this, I have a garden plot,
  Wherein there wants nor hearbs, nor roots, nor flowers;
  Flowers to smell, roots to eate, hearbs for the pot,
  And dainty shelters when the welkin lowers:
  Sweet-smelling beds of lillies, and of roses,
  Which rosemary banks and lavender incloses.
- The Affectionate Shepherd, Richard Barnfield

• 'Tis the middle watch of a summer's night--
  The earth is dark, but the heavens are bright;
  Nought is seen in the vault on high
  But the moon, and the stars, and the cloudless sky,
  And the flood which rolls its milky hue,
  A river of light on the welkin blue.
- The Culprit Fay, Joseph Rodman Drake

World Wide Words:

We don’t use this much nowadays — dictionaries usually tag it as archaic or literary — except in the set phrase make the welkin ring, meaning to make a very loud sound. What supposedly rings in this situation is the vault of heaven, the bowl of the sky. In older cosmology this was thought to be one of a set of real crystal spheres that enclosed the Earth, to which the planets and stars were attached, so it would have been capable of ringing like a bell if you made enough noise. The word comes from the Old English wolcen, a cloud, related to the Dutch wolk and German Wolke. Very early on, for example in the epic poem Beowulf of about the eighth century AD, the phrase under wolcen meant under the sky or under heaven (the bard used the plural, wolcnum, but it’s the same word). Ever since, it has had a strong literary or poetic connection. It appears often in Shakespeare and also in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales: “This day in mirth and revel to dispend, / Till on the welkin shone the starres bright”. In 1739, a book with the title Hymns and Sacred Poems introduced one for Christmas written by Charles Wesley that began: “Hark! how all the welkin rings, / Glory to the King of kings”. If that seems a little familiar, it is because 15 years later it reappeared as “Hark! the herald-angels sing / Glory to the new born king”.

Sources: Merriam-WebsterOnline Etymology

Word-E: A Word-A-Day

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