AskDefine | Define empyrean

Dictionary Definition

empyrean adj
1 of or relating to the sky or heavens; "the empyrean sphere" [syn: empyreal]
2 inspiring awe; "well-meaning ineptitude that rises to empyreal absurdity"- M.S.Dworkin; "empyrean aplomb"- Hamilton Basso; "the sublime beauty of the night" [syn: empyreal, sublime] n : the apparent surface of the imaginary sphere on which celestial bodies appear to be projected [syn: celestial sphere, sphere, firmament, heavens, vault of heaven, welkin]

User Contributed Dictionary



From Latin empyrius, from Greek (empyrios), from (em) + (pyr), which means "in fire, fiery."


  1. the region of pure light and fire; the highest heaven, where the pure element of fire was supposed by the ancients to exist: the same as the ether, the ninth heaven according to ancient astronomy
    • - So sung they, and the Empyrean rung, / With Halleluiahs:
    • 1863: Alfred Tennyson, Experiments in Quantity - the deep-domed empyrean / Rings to the roar of an angel onset
    • - The very empyrean seemed to be a secret.

Alternative spellings


  1. empyreal; of the sky or the heavens; celestially refined
    • 1667: John Dryden, Annus Mirabilis - In thempyrean heaven, the bless'd abode, / The Thrones and the Dominions prostrate lie, / Not daring to behold their angry God.
    • 1700: Matthew Prior, Carmen Saeculare - Yet upward she [the goddess] incessant flies; / Resolv'd to reach the high empyrean Sphere.
    • 1818: John Keats, Endymion - Lispings empyrean will ii sometimes teach / Thine honeyed tongue.

Alternative spellings


Extensive Definition

Empyrean, from the Medieval Latin empyreus, an adaptation of the Ancient Greek, "in or on the fire (pyr)", properly Empyrean Heaven, is the place in the highest heaven, which in ancient cosmologies was supposed to be occupied by the element of fire (or aether in Aristotle's natural philosophy).

Use in literature

The Empyrean was thus used as a name for the firmament, and in Christian literature, notably the Divine Comedy, for the dwelling-place of God and the blessed, and as the source of light. The word is used both as a substantive and as an adjective. Having the same Greek origin are the scientific words empyreuma and empyreumatic, applied to the characteristic smell of burning or charring vegetable or animal matter.
There is a reference to the Empyrean in John Robert Christianson's "On Tycho's Island," indicating how it was regarded at the time of Tycho Brahe's study of astronomy in the 16th century.
empyrean in German: Empyrion
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