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I'm looking for the correct term for the "end of an era", preferably a single word. Essentially I'm looking for the antonym of epoch.

Google's dictionary defines epoch as

The beginning of a distinctive period in the history of someone or something.

I'm looking for a word that means the following:

The end of a distinctive period in the history of someone or something.

None of my searches have turned up anything.

This is my first question here, please let me know if I'm doing it wrong.

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I'm almost tempted to say mass extinction event (they happen mostly at the end of eras) –  ratchet freak Sep 18 '13 at 9:25
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5 Answers

up vote 11 down vote accepted

I don't know if this is quite what you're looking for, but two words that came to mind were sunset and twilight. For example:

sunset of the British Empire

or

twilight of the British Empire

While I'd guess that the usage in that specific sense came about due to the "sun never sets..." quote regarding the Empire, it seems like it could fit in a more generic sense.

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There's a word that fits, but only if I amend your request a little.

Götterdämmerung is "the last in Richard Wagner's cycle of four operas titled Der Ring des Nibelungen" and means "the twilight of the gods." (Wikipedia). (Metaphorically speaking, the end of an epoch.)

It has come to mean "A turbulent ending of a regime or an institution." (The Free Dictionary).

The amendment is a slight reordering of "The end of a distinctive period in the history of someone or something" to "The distinctive end in the history of someone or something."

Of course, götterdämmerung only works if something ends with a bang, rather than a whimper. I rather like sunset if it ends quietly.

Author Margaret Mitchell has heroine Scarlett stumble over some German word in Gone with the Wind. (Rhett expresses surprise that Scarlett has even heard of the word.) And the article The American Gotterdammerung begins with

Throughout the book “Gone with the Wind” there is a recurring theme of the Gotterdammerung, a winnowing out of the weak and the strong coming through.

A handful will give you points for a literary reference, but unfortunately, many will think you're uttering a profanity.

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The French have an interesting phrase:

Fin de siècle (French pronunciation: ​[fɛ̃ də sjɛkl])

From Wikipedia's entry for the phrase: "Fin de siècle means literally 'end of the century.' The term typically encompasses not only the meaning of the similar English idiom 'turn of the century' but also both the closing and onset of an era, as the end of the 19th century was felt to be a period of degeneration, but at the same time a period of hope for a new beginning. The 'spirit" of fin de siècle often refers to the cultural hallmarks that were recognized as prominent in the 1880s and 1890s, including boredom, cynicism, pessimism, and a widespread belief that civilization leads to decadence."

I'm not suggesting fin de siècle is necessarily a good fit for what you are seeking, but it could describe the two phenomena you describe, which comprise both a rise and a fall (as in The History of the Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire, by Edward Gibbon, 1737–1794).

A few words that come to mind are decay/decadence, decline/declension, and denouement (see bib's list, above).

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Perhaps

  • culmination
  • denouement
  • climax
  • epilogue
  • coda
  • final curtain
  • finis
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  • finale
  • next millenium
  • new age
  • turn of the millenium
  • eclipse
  • close
  • closure
  • farewell
  • departure
  • expiration
  • death
  • retirement
  • revolution
  • period
  • epoch-pause
  • conclusion
  • end
  • tail
  • forerunner
  • Ragnarok
  • phase-out
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Thanks a lot, jerk. The poster might also want to use them to refer to the following time unit. It's a fool who plays it cool by making his world a little colder. –  Ace Frahm Sep 18 '13 at 14:44
    
You didn't do that to "help". You have an axe to grind. You invented a flimsy excuse to grant yourself permission to lash out. You are trolling me & this behavior is transparent, knock it off. –  Ace Frahm Sep 19 '13 at 7:16
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