Printable Version
Pronunciation: kai-ros Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: The perfect time, an opportune or propitious moment for decisive action, the moment of truth.

Notes: This extremely rare word is, perhaps, not even an English word, yet. It appears in only three dictionaries, but two of them are the prestigious Oxford English Dictionary and Merriam-Webster. The plural is the Greek kairoi. All the examples I could find deal with the definition of the word. It is surely a lexical orphan, but I will try to imagine examples of its use in the next section.

In Play: There is a Roman Catholic retreat program named Kairos, reflecting the sense that Jesus appeared on Earth at just the right time: "The appearance of Jesus came at a kairos, when the Roman Empire had reached and conquered Judea." However, this word is used today in various contexts, primarily philosophical, but not exclusively: "This is the kairos for undertaking a massive reconstruction of the infrastructure."

Word History: I could find little etymology of today's Good Word. It was very popular in ancient Greece, though, appearing 16,650 times in the surviving ancient Greek manuscripts. It remains in Modern Greek meaning "weather, time". This word was not a lexical orphan in ancient Greek; it had an adjective, kairikos "timely, in a timely fashion". It also participated in many compound words, like kairophilos "lover or observer of propitious times", i.e. an astrologer. It seems to have originated in the language of weaving, for kairosseon meant "tightly knit", and even kairos had an alternative sense of a row of thrums, the hooks to which the warp is attached in weaving. The relation between the two definitions remains cloudy and no evidence of its ancestor appears in any other Indo-European language. (Now is the kairos to thank Curtis Simple who suggested today's mysterious and unusual Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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