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I grew up thinking this word was pronounced HALK-YON, having learned it from books and never hearing someone speak it. I recently heard somebody mention it for the first time, and they pronounced it HAL-SEE-ON.

Any insights? Wiktionary says maybe it is Latin for kingfisher.

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Related:… – Marthaª Apr 1 '11 at 20:07
I'm pretty much resigned to the softening of the Greek kappa to an s sound when it is replaced by c in English transliterations. Halcyon, Alcibiades, Bucephalos, etc. It's just too tiring to keep up the fight. – Robusto Apr 1 '11 at 20:07
@Robusto I understand your plight, but Alcibiades and Bucephalos are proper nouns and halcyon is not. Perhaps you could make a case for Alcyone. – HaL Apr 1 '11 at 20:16
@Robusto: But only before i, e, and y (which is equivalent to i)! – Cerberus Apr 2 '11 at 2:07
@Robusto -- how do you pronounce "cyanide"? When you take it, you turn κύανος, kyanos, dark blue. – Malvolio Apr 6 '11 at 20:41

3 Answers 3

up vote 11 down vote accepted


I've only ever heard it pronounced hal-see-uhn in English, and according to most dictionaries, it seems to be the only pronunciation option. It may have been anglicized from the Greek αλκυόνα, but it doesn't seem to have retained the 'k' pronunciation.

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Thanks, I figured as much the first time I heard was one of those 'duh!' moments! – Jared Smith Apr 1 '11 at 23:36

The IPA phonetic pronunciation is /ˈhælsiən/, which roughly translates to HAL-see-un or HAL-see-in, depending on your regional variation of schwa.

If IPA isn't your thing, Forvo is a great resource for audible pronunciation help.

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Thanks for input too HaL! – Jared Smith Apr 1 '11 at 23:37

Looks like I'm 2 years and 6 months late, but here you go: Halcyon is indeed "kingfisher," as per the other more learned respondents. Just found an interesting quote:

"This beautiful bird's floating nest was fabled to calm winds and seas while the bird sat. This occurring in winter gave rise to the expression 'halcyon days.' " -- Admiral William Smyth's Sailor's Word-book, 1867

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