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I'm looking for a word or phrase similar to "opus magnum" or "masterpiece", but refering instead to a period of time in which a scholar or artist made their greatest achievements.

For example:

Mozart held a variety of positions throughout his life, but many consider his time spent in Vienna to be his xxxxx.

Edit:

Thanks for all the great answers so far! To give a bit of context, I'm writing a thesis about atomic clocks and I want to make the following simile:

If timekeeping was born in Egypt 8000 years ago and 1955 was its coming of age, we may today be witnessing its xxxxx.

Initially I was thinking "renaissance" but it didn't quite work with the simile, hence this question. So far I think "prime" and "heyday" fit best.

  • So you are insinuating that today timekeeping is at it's best, and it will be done worse in another 200 years? If it does not get worse, it will not be in it's prime today. – Hans Janssen Oct 9 '17 at 15:32
  • @Geliormth No, doubtlessly 200 years later it'll be better yet. My point is that today is the point at which the useful contributions from timekeeping begin. Maybe it "comes into its prime". – CharlieB Oct 9 '17 at 15:34
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    I think the extra context you gave in your edit reveals a mismatch between what you're actually looking for and what you originally asked for. You originally asked for a term that would refer to a period of time in a person's life in the past. But what you're really asking for is a period of time in a technological/scientific field in the present/future. These distinctions are likely to affect the most suitable choice of word. – jkej Oct 9 '17 at 16:33
  • My answer, for instance, is quite suitable for the Mozart example, but I think golden age is the most suitable choice for the timekeeping example. I think heyday is mostly used for time periods in the past and prime is more suitable for a period in a persons life. – jkej Oct 9 '17 at 16:43
  • @Jkej The reason I gave the Mozart example originally instead of the real context is that the preceeding paragraphs in the thesis intentionally anthropomorphize time. So although I'd usually not use words like "childhood" or "prime" to refer to a scientific field, in this case I'm intentionally mis-using them as a literary device – CharlieB Oct 9 '17 at 22:01

18 Answers 18

98

You could consider prime:

From the Cambridge Dictionary: http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/prime

the period in your life when you are most active or successful

For example:

Great Expectations was the next-to-last novel of one of the greatest writers of the 19th century, Charles Dickens. It was published when Dickens was at his prime, and after all the experiences that developed his style and skills.

Mozart held a variety of positions throughout his life, but many consider his time spent in Vienna to be his prime.

You could also use the phrase 'prime period'

  • Also good! I've added an edit to my question to clarify exactly why I need the word, but this is a great suggestion – CharlieB Oct 9 '17 at 12:07
  • "Prime" is the best choice if you are speaking about a person's life/career. (If you haven't, you must see the wonderful 1969 film adaptation of "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie," for which one of Britain's greatest living actors, Maggie Smith, won an Oscar. The character goes on and on about how she is in her "prime" in the film.) If, instead, you are speaking about a practice (such as timekeeping), one of the other suggested choices would be more appropriate. – Shosht Oct 10 '17 at 4:11
  • It is a logical extension of the metaphor: 'If timekeeping was born in Egypt 8000 years ago and 1955 was its coming of age, we may today be witnessing its prime.' – Lee Leon Oct 10 '17 at 6:15
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    time spent in Vienna to be his prime does not sound idiomatic. It is not the time spent that is prime - HE was in his prime - it was his prime period – mplungjan Oct 10 '17 at 7:32
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    The meaning is exactly right, but this word choice may require rephrasing. The Mozart quote is pretty awkward. Usually people are "in their prime". Also you can't say "his prime time", because "prime time" has a very different meaning nowadays (TV audience). – alexis Oct 10 '17 at 12:31
60

Oxford Living Dictionaries defines heyday as:

The period of a person's or thing's greatest success, popularity, activity, or vigour.

Some examples from Google provide evidence that heyday fits well in the sentence in question:

  • That's an incredible outpouring of important music, and it corresponds precisely to Mozart's heyday as a performer.

  • Conductorless concerts were actually the standard practice in the Baroque period as well as in Mozart's heyday in the late 18th Century.

  • The four late sonatas, completed in Vienna between 1784 and 1789, correspond to Mozart's heyday as a performer.

  • Mozart's heyday was about the same time as the American Revolution.

  • Could JUST have been used in that manner - etymology online says 1751 - I just do not like the word used about people. More about fads – mplungjan Oct 9 '17 at 11:42
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    I do like heyday but, to me at least, it always sounds a little negative. As if it draws attention to the fact that it's now over. Or maybe that's just me – CharlieB Oct 9 '17 at 12:00
  • I agree - it sounds like it declined and he was forgotten – mplungjan Oct 9 '17 at 12:11
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    I don't get a strong sense of the negativity of the word from the numerous authentic examples of the phrase "Mozart's heyday" on Google: google.de/… – Shoe Oct 9 '17 at 13:16
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    @CharlieB - don't you need the period to be over, a decline to have started, in order to correctly identify that a period was the "maximum" rather than just being part of an upslope? I.e. is it not presumptive to apply any of the suggestions to a period that includes the current day? – Damien_The_Unbeliever Oct 10 '17 at 8:17
49

It doesn't fit with your initial explanation, but golden age would work with your edited context.

OED defines it thus:

The first and best age of the world, in which, according to the Greek and Roman poets, mankind lived in a state of ideal prosperity and happiness, free from all trouble or crime. (Cf. Hesiod Wks. & Days 108, Ovid Met. 1. 89.) Hence, the period in which a nation, etc., is at its highest state of prosperity, or in which some department of human activity is at its acme of excellence.

And provides this example:

The thirteenth century is the golden age of English churchmanship.

  • I like that too! This is going to be a difficult decision – CharlieB Oct 9 '17 at 13:34
  • I agree that "The golden age of X" is a suitable way to describe the time period during which X had the most progress or popularity, i.e. "the best period" by some measure. It does more often apply on a larger scale (A nation, an art style, a branch of science) rather than to individuals, but I think "The golden age of Mozart" would be understood. – Kamil Drakari Oct 9 '17 at 14:45
  • @KamilDrakari yeah, I think "The golden age of Mozart" would be a little strange, but I think "the golden age of timekeeping" as suggested in the more specific problem at hand would work fine. – Muzer Oct 9 '17 at 14:46
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    @Muzer I would agree. To me the natural phrase when applied to a person is "Mozart's golden years" – niemiro Oct 9 '17 at 16:15
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    Be aware that the phrase "Golden years" refers to retirement or old age of a person: merriam-webster.com/dictionary/golden%20years – user1359 Oct 10 '17 at 15:23
29

Pinnacle

The most successful point; the culmination. [The Oxford Dictionary of English]

If timekeeping was born in Egypt 8000 years ago and 1955 was its coming of age, we may today be witnessing its pinnacle.

"Written at the pinnacle of Shakespeare’s career and featuring his most soaring poetic idiom, Antony and Cleopatra is both a love story and a political drama played out on a global scale."

Shakespeare

28

Mozart held a variety of positions throughout his life, but many consider his time spent in Vienna to be the zenith of his career

This word choice does not apply to the modified question about clocks

  • 1
    Hmm yeah, "zenith" or even just "peak" could work. Ideally I was looking for a stage in someone's life rather than career (i.e. childhood, coming of age, xxx) but that quite a nit-picky detail – CharlieB Oct 9 '17 at 12:06
21

I would suggest glory days.

Cambridge dictionary gives this definition:

Someone's glory days are a period of time when they were very successful: Her popularity as a singer has waned since the glory days of the 1980s.

Your Mozart example would become:

Mozart held a variety of positions throughout his life, but many consider his time spent in Vienna to be his glory days.

11

You could also consider 'annus mirabilis' (miracle year).

10

Apotheosis

The highest point in the development of something. The Oxford Dictionary of English 2nd Edition 2006

If timekeeping was born in Egypt 8000 years ago and 1955 was its coming of age, we may today be witnessing its apotheosis.

8

Apotheosis is the word. It means "At the top of its form, the best it could ever be." It does not refer only to people.

6

You might consider:

Apex

the highest point of achievement; pinnacle, culmination, climax

Climax

a sequence of propositions or ideas in order of increasing importance, force, or effectiveness of expression.

6

Since 'born' is mentioned and 'coming of age' is mentioned, then the next stage in its progress would, logically, be maturity.

If timekeeping was born in Egypt 8000 years ago and 1955 was its coming of age, we may today be witnessing its maturity.

  • Thank you Nigel! That doesn't fit the original question as asked (my fault), but could be exactly what I'm looking for. – CharlieB Oct 10 '17 at 11:37
  • @CharlieB It took me a while to catch on to that one. – Nigel J Oct 10 '17 at 11:38
4

Culmination

The highest or climactic point of something : The Oxford Dictionary of English 2nd Edition 2006

If timekeeping was born in Egypt 8000 years ago and 1955 was its coming of age, we may today be witnessing its culmination.

4

Possibly just a British thing but I like Purple Patch

  • 1
    @CharlieB I take tablets for that – Nigel J Oct 13 '17 at 8:39
2

When talking about a writer or a person with a creative career, you can say that the period where they did their best work was the period where they flourished.

Although Kant had a lifelong interest in philosophy, he didn't flourish as a writer until he was in his early 40s.

From: https://www.thefreedictionary.com/flourish

Flourish

  1. To be in a period of highest productivity, excellence, or influence: a poet who flourished in the tenth century.
1

"golden age" has been suggested, but I think for the given examples, "golden years" would be better since it doesn't imply as sharp a delineation.

  • 1
    The phrase "Golden Years" has a specific meaning, the final years of a person's life, usually associated with retirement and relaxation, not productivity. – barbecue Oct 10 '17 at 17:47
1

I would consider epoch. This may also fit in nicely within the context of timekeeping, or maybe not...

From Mirriam-Webster:

Definition of epoch 1 a :an event or a time marked by an event that begins a new period or development b :a memorable event or date 2 a :an extended period of time usually characterized by a distinctive development or by a memorable series of events b :a division of geologic time less than a period and greater than an age 3 :an instant of time or a date

  • 1
    I'm not sure this really answers the question. CharlieB is specifically looking for a word to describe a time period where there is great work or progress. Epoch is a neutral word that only defines a distinct period and does not address whether great advancement or progress is made during that period. – KumaAra Oct 10 '17 at 0:20
  • I have seen it defined as a noteworthy or memorable period of time, but agree that does not necessarily infer advancement. It doesn't fit well with CharlieB's first example, but may very well fit the second example, the simile about timekeeping. – swanky Oct 10 '17 at 0:34
  • The question asked was for a word to describe "a period of time in which a scholar or artist made their greatest achievements." If a word fits into an example sentence but does not have the right meaning, then it is not truly an answer. – KumaAra Oct 10 '17 at 0:39
  • Looking through the comments under the question, I'm not sure the question is exactly as you define. An epoch may very well encapsulate the "dawn of new era" or suchlike. Just teasing out requirements, trying to figure out what is meant, which is not necessarily always what is said... – swanky Oct 10 '17 at 1:02
1

You could call this a peak:

the point of highest activity, quality, or achievement.

"anyone who saw Jones at his peak looked upon genius"

synonyms: height, high point/spot, pinnacle, summit, top, climax, culmination, apex, zenith, crowning point, acme, capstone, apogee, prime, heyday

"the peak of his career"

Mozart held a variety of positions throughout his life, but many consider his time spent in Vienna to be his peak.

If timekeeping was born in Egypt 8000 years ago and 1955 was its coming of age, we may today be witnessing its peak.

You can also use peak as an adjective:

greatest; maximum.

"he did not expect to be anywhere near peak fitness until Christmas"

synonyms: maximum, top, greatest, highest; ultimate, best, optimum

"peak loads"

characterized by maximum activity or demand.

"at peak hours, traffic speeds are reduced considerably"

-1

My suggestion is "heyday." It refers to the period in someone's or something's existence when he/it was most successful, influential, or at its prime.

  • 7
    Welcome to the English SE. FYI it's usually best practice here to quote a citation with a definition. Also, this answer was already provided 5h ago. It's usually best practice to refrain from giving the exact same answer unless you feel yours is a significant enough improvement over the existing one. – Denis de Bernardy Oct 9 '17 at 16:46

protected by tchrist Oct 10 '17 at 2:18

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