Sunday, September 6, 2020

An M-W Word of the Day: heyday

I’ve been meaning to write about the word heyday for months now. Too late: Merriam-Webster has done the work for me. Heyday, “the period of one’s greatest popularity, vigor, or prosperity,” was yesterday’s M-W Word of the Day:

In its earliest appearances in English, in the 16th century, heyday was used as an interjection that expressed elation or wonder (similar to our word hey, from which it derives). Within a few decades, heyday was seeing use as a noun meaning “high spirits.” This sense can be seen in Act III, scene 4 of Hamlet, when the Prince of Denmark tells his mother, “You cannot call it love; for at your age / The heyday in the blood is tame. . . .” The word’s second syllable is not thought to be borne of the modern word day (or any of its ancestors), but in the 18th century the syllable’s resemblance to that word likely influenced the development of the now-familiar use referring to the period when one’s achievement or popularity has reached its zenith.
My hopeful guess was that heyday had something to do with reaping: “Yay, it’s hay day, what a big deal, everybody’s out there going full force!” Nope.

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