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A Word A Day — welkin

July 23, 2012

Word of the Day

  • welkin
  • audio pronunciation
  • \WEL-kin\


a : the vault of the sky : firmament b : heaven
: the upper atmosphere

The pink sky at sunset brought to mind a quote from Shakespeare's King John: “The sun of heaven, methought, was loath to set / But stay'd and made the western welkin blush.”

“Murray won the first set 6-4…. The welkin shook with British joy. The last Brit to win the Wimbledon title had been Fred Perry, in 1936.” — From a blog post by Calvin Tomkins at The New Yorker (online), July 9, 2012


When it comes to “welkin,” the sky's the limit. This heavenly word has been used in English to refer to the vault of the sky since at least the 12th century, and it derives from an earlier word from Old English that meant “cloud.” In current English, “welkin” is still flying high, and it is often teamed with the verb “ring” to suggest a loud noise or an exuberant expression of emotion, as in “the welkin rang with the sound of the orchestra” or “her hearty laugh made the welkin ring.” These contemporary phrases echo an older use—the original words of a carol that once began “Hark, how all the welkin ring,” which we now know as “Hark! The herald angels sing.”

From Merriam-Webster Online at

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