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Definition: sky

Pronunciation: WEL-ken


Dating all the way back to the 12th century, welkin originated in the Old English word for cloud- wolcen. This, in turn, stems from the German wolkan meaning the same.

Why this word?

As an English Literature student, you learn to notice words that seem to repeat at some times and then completely disappear. Welkin is one such word.

Its earliest account is in the epic poem of Beowulf, but later you can find it with Chauser’s Canterbury Tales and even later- with Shakespeare. Following Beowulf’s 8th century AD example, where the words under the welkin meant under heaven, or under the sky, in the sense of godly supervision, Shakespeare and Chaucer followed the lead.

Nowadays this word is mainly known as part of a phrase- make the welkin ring, which, as you may notice, doesn’t make too much sense as is; for this we have an entire story…

In ancient cosmology, the bowl of the sky or the vault of heaven was considered to be one of a set of crystal spheres that enclosed the earth. The planets and stars were attached to this crystal sphere and it supposedly rang like a bell when a considerable amount of noise was made, for positive or negative reasons. The birth of Jesus, for example, made the welkin ring.

How to use the word welkin in a sentence?

Well, you can use it in the simple way and just replace the word sky with it, as in “Have you seen the welkin blue today?”

Or you can also find creative ways of using the phrase- “Did you hear what Laura said to the boss today? The look on his face made me expect the welkin ring!”


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Written by Victoria Sheinkin

Victoria Sheinkin is a writer, content editor, translator and chief editor for Speaking three and a half languages, she holds two BAs from the Tel Aviv university- Communication and jounalism, English literature and linguistics.


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