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Greek word of the Day: Kairos; a Fleeting Moment, Gone in the Blink of an Eye


A spiral clock represents the god of infinitely expanding time, Kairos or Caerus
A spiral clock represents the god of infinitely expanding time, Kairos or Caerus

Many people, including the Greeks themselves, think the words ‘Kairos’ or ‘Caerus’ and the word ‘Chronos’ have the same meaning, well, in a way, they do.

Invariably, when asking a Greek the English meaning of these two words, their answer will be ‘time’, and yes, it is, but, nothing is ever straight forward is it?

There’s time, and then, there’s time!

Time waits for no man
Time waits for no man
To confuse you even further, there’s ‘Chronos’ and then there’s ‘Kronus’, the first, ‘chronos’, ‘time’, not to be mixed up with, ‘Kronus, the Titian God who ate his children, who is also depicted with a scythe, like old father time, or the grim reaper, coming to tell you, “Your time is up!”

Father Time by Ros Kovac.
Father Time by Ros Kovac.
‘Chronos’ ( Χρόνος), means measured time, a quantity, measured in minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and years.

Time's running out!
Time's running out!
‘Kairos’ (καιρός) on the other hand, an ancient Greek word, means; the perfect moment or timing, the opportune moment, the moment of truth, the defining moment, that fleeting moment, that comes and goes in in the blink of an eye, which must be seized and not let go.

Perfect Timing
Perfect Timing
‘Kairos’ is quality, not quantity, it’s getting the timing right; to know when the time has come, and that everything has its time.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

"To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, a time to reap that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace."


‘Kairos’ is that “light bulb moment”, a moment of enlightenment or the turning point, the moment when Archimedes, the ancient Greek scholar sitting in his bath tub, exclaimed 'Eureka' .

Archimedes and his Eureka Moment
Archimedes and his Eureka Moment
 Archimedes reportedly proclaimed "Eureka ! Eureka!" after he noted that water was displaced when his body sank into the bath, and particularly that the volume of water displaced equaled the volume of his body immersed in the water. 

The word ‘Kairos’ is also used for the weather, “How’s the kairos?”  a Greek will ask, meaning; how is the time of day, week, etc, right now, is it sunny, is it cold?

How's the 'Kairos'?
How's the 'Kairos'?
The word ‘Kairos’ has its roots in archery, where it signifies a “penetrable opening, an aperture” through which Greek archers aimed, simulating the forest of shields and armor through which an arrow must pass to reach its target.

‘Kairos’ (καιρός), an ancient Greek word, means; the perfect moment, the opportune moment, the moment of truth, the defining moment, that fleeting moment, that comes and goes in a fraction of a second, which must be seized and not let go.
‘Kairos’ (καιρός), an ancient Greek word, means; the perfect moment, the opportune moment, the moment of truth, the defining moment, that fleeting moment, that comes and goes in a fraction of a second, which must be seized and not let go.

The story of Caerus or Kairos, the Greek God of opportunity, luck and favourable moments, (Roman equivalent Tempus or Occasio) goes far, to help understand perfectly, the meaning of the word ‘Kairos’.

Caerus young and beautiful, is depicted standing on tip toe, always running, with wings on his heels, (Like the God Hermes), he holds a pair of scales or a razor, balanced on a sharp edge, ready to run after, and catch, the opportunity before it disappears.

In  the Museum of Turin in northern Italy, there is the statue of Caerus, God of opportunity.
In  the Museum of Turin in northern Italy, there is the statue of Caerus, God of opportunity.

 Caerus is the youngest son of the God Zeus, he makes things happen at the right time, he brings that fleeting instant, that is to be seized and made the most of, before it has chance to get away.

To make that fleeting instant easier to seize, Caerus has only one lock of hair, falling over his forehead, convenient to grab hold of , but, you must be quick about it, don’t hesitate, once he passes, you have lost your chance, the back of his head is as bald as a billiard ball, nothing to grab hold of at all!

Caerus with his one lock of hair
Caerus with his one lock of hair
‘Tempus Fugit’ -  time flies, don’t let it pass you by!

If you love Greek, and want to know more about languages in general;
More Glorious Greek Words


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