From Middle English welken, welkne, wolkne (clouds, heavens), from Old English wolcnu (clouds), plural of wolcen (cloud), from Proto-Germanic *wulkaną, *wulkō, *wulkô (cloud).


  • IPA(key): /ˈwɛl.kən/
    • (file)


welkin (plural welkins)

  1. (archaic, poetic, literary) The sky, the region of clouds; the upper air; aether; the heavens.
    Synonyms: (dialectal) lift, firmament
    • c. 1388, Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales:
      This day in mirth and revel to dispend / Till on the welkin shone the starres bright
    • c. 1610-11, William Shakespeare, The Tempest, Act I scene ii[1]:
      Miranda: [] The sky, it seems, would pour down stinking pitch, / But that the sea, mounting to th' welkin's cheek, / Dashes the fire out.
    • c. 1620, anonymous, “Tom o’ Bedlam’s Song” in Giles Earle his Booke (British Museum, Additional MSS. 24, 665):
      I knowe more then Apollo,
      for oft when hee ly’s sleeping
      I see yͤ starrs att bloudie warres
      in yͤ wounded welkin weeping
    • 1739, Charles Wesley, Hymns and Sacred Poems, Bristol, Hymns for Christmas Day:
      Hark! How all the welkin rings!
    • 1802, Joanna Baillie, Ethwald Part 2, Act V., (T. Cadell Jun. and W. Davies)
      I've seen the moving stars
      Shoot rapidly athwart the sombre sky,
      Red fiery meteors in the welkin blaze,
      And sheeted lightnings gleam, but ne'er before
      Saw I a sight like this.
    • 1924, Herman Melville, Billy Budd, London: Constable & Co., Chapter 11[2]:
      To him, the spirit lodged within Billy, and looking out from his welkin eyes as from windows, that ineffability it was which made the dimple in his dyed cheek, suppled his joints, and dancing in his yellow curls made him preeminently the Handsome Sailor.
    • 1951, Bosley Crowther, “Great Caruso Makes Its Debut”, in The New York Times[3]:
      Miss Kirsten and Miss Thebom are ladies who can rock the welkin, too, and their contributions to the concert maintain it at a musical high.

Derived termsEdit


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Further readingEdit