Monday, 17 March 2014

Celerity - Speed & Grace

A Peregrine Falcon against a clear blue sky
Photo by Mike Baird


Noun. Late 15th century.
[Old & modern French célérité from Latin celeritas, from celer swift.]

1 Swiftness, speed. (Now chiefly of the action of living being.) L15

2 obsolete. A particular speed. M-L18

Celerity is a reasonably well-known literary word to describe swiftness of motion and even thought, and although none of the main dictionaries suggest that it also carries a sense of grace and effortlessness, the sweepingly smooth syllables of celerity always suggest exactly that to me. To illustrate such graceful speed, I've chosen a photograph of a Peregrine Falcon, which is not only the fastest bird on the planet, but indeed the fastest animal, with a breathtakingly celeritous diving speed of over 300 kilometres per hour.

Please leave any comments in the box below.


  1. What a lovely word! That photo immediately made me think of one of my favorite travel-related words: peregrination. Also less known than many (it's a little bit more common in Spanish, peregrenacion, which is how I first came across it). It's a long journey, particularly on foot. Possibly less celerity involved, but delightful nonetheless.

    1. D'ya know - while I was writing this, I was thinking: "I must look up why Peregrine Falcons are called Peregrine Falcons." And then I forgot. And then you reminded me. So thank you! According to the OED, it's from Latin and was originally literally "pilgrim falcon", so called because it was caught by falconers when fully grown on its migration, rather than being taken from the next.

      Which is jolly interesting. Thank you Katie.

  2. My twitter is faster than blogger... CeleBrity was yesterday's (I was still replying to the previous and being Twit...) today is Celerity.
    Definetly something nicer... ;). More natural, too.
    Curiously I believe people tend to remove grace and effortlessness from the noun when using it... it was nice to learn with you that they go together and not just for lirical purposes.
    Birds - never watched a Falcon (live) - definetly won't. In any size, they certainly don't use speed without grace. And the fastest are also the most graceful...

    1. Well, that's what *I* think, Teresa. The dictionaries don't mention anything about grace in its definition; it just sounds a particularly graceful word to me.

      And yes, I saw that tweet suggesting I had dropped a 'B' in spelling 'celerity', but I thought you were joking : o )

    2. Peregrines are indeed beautiful birds, Eddie. I'm sure you know they only go that fast when they're headed downwards.
      I feel there must be a moral there, somewhere, but I don't know what it is.

    3. Of course, Sally - whenever my wife complains that I've taken her to yet another dive, I muse: "Ah, yes! But consider the peregrine falcon ..."

    4. "Whenever my wife complains that I've taken her to yet another dive, I muse: "Ah, yes! But consider the peregrine falcon ..."
      I am lifting that phrase straight off the page and plan to use it in my own everyday... Actually laughing aloud at this!
      I feel I have found my webpage home! A blog full of intelligent wit and lots and lots of beautiful sounding words!!
      Love it
      -Ms. Juxtaprose

    5. Do indeed make yourself at home here, Ms. Juxtapose : o )

  3. is the source image where you will find full resolution and related images of this Peregrine Falcon

    1. Thank you Michael - I've changed the credit on the photo itself.