- The quality of being happy; an especially strong happiness
- An origin or source of happiness
- A laudable refinement of technique in art or speaking.
- A fortunately inspired or aptly chosen phrase or turn of speech
Felicity is the sort of word that we all want to use. It's such a happy word, in all of its various meanings, that if you have cause to utilize it something must be going right! However, felicity doesn't refer to just any kind of happiness. Usually, felicity is used today to indicate an exceptionally powerful experience of happiness. The satisfaction you derive from eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, for instance, would not be described as felicity unless you were speaking facetiously or you just really like peanut butter and jelly. Instead, you should save the word for more poignant moments, such as describing your affection for a lover: "Every moment with you grants me pure felicity." Since felicity can also refer to a source of exceptional happiness, your lover just might lean back and coo: "You are my felicity."
But maybe you're more into rhetoric than romance. If so, felicity might still be your word. Felicity can refer to a particularly apt or well crafted phrase in speech or discourse. Thus, if you thought that "my felicity" was the perfect phrase for the above conversation, you could compliment your lover on the felicities of his speech. What is more, felicity can also refer to a quality of aptness and effectiveness in someone's abilities in art or speech as a whole. So if you were completely blown away by the technical effectiveness of your lover's sweet nothings, you could praise him for the felicity of his language. More commonly, however, you might apply this usage of felicity to formal kinds of speech, such as public addresses or political speeches.
And no matter how you use felicity, if knowing neat words is something you enjoy, then hopefully that experience will bring you happiness and, perhaps, even felicity.
Example: Because she was surrounded by her loving friends and family, Aunt Marjorie wore a look of felicity despite the sickness that kept her bedridden.
Example: The adoring new parents thought their tiny baby was the crowning felicity of their lives.
Example: Although his presentation was last minute, Mordecai impressed the board with his felicity of speech, which enabled him to clearly communicate complex ideas.
Example: The experienced orator peppered his speech with felicities which captured the hearts and minds of his audience.
Felicity entered English in the late 14th century meaning "happiness or a source of happiness." It derives from the Old French word for happiness, felicite, which in turn derives from the Latin felicitas, meaning "happiness or fertility." The idea of fertility comes from the Latin root "fe-" which is a relic of Rome's agrarian roots when the capacity of a piece of land to produce crops was closely tied to happiness and prosperity.
Felicitous: Felicitous is an adjective referring to the characteristic of being happy, fortunate, or admirably apt.
Example: The comfort-loving Sharon was grateful for the felicitous flat tire which prevented her family from going on their camping trip.
Example: Although some of us had been worried that Uncle Roy would say something inappropriate at the funeral, we were all pleasantly surprised by the meaningful and felicitous remarks that he shared during the ceremony.
Felicitously: This adverb refers to the characteristic of performing an action happily or with a striking aptness.
Example: The king ruled over his kingdom wisely and felicitously.
Felicitate: In contemporary usage, this verb form refers to the act of offering congratulations.
Example: Each of the sycophantic courtiers were eager to felicitate the Grand Duke for his victory in battle.
From William Shakespeare's Hamlet:
If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart,
Absent thee from felicity awhile,
And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain,
To tell my story.
In this poignant scene, the dying Hamlet uses felicity to describe the happiness of death which he begs his friend, Horatio, to forestall for a while in order to tell the world how Hamlet died.
If you enjoy the simple things in life,
Then life's simplicity
Can bring you felicity.
Bring out the linguist in you! What is your own interpretation of felicity. Did you use felicity in a game? Provide an example sentence or a literary quote.