golden age an idyllic, often imaginary past time of peace, prosperity, and happiness; originally, the Greek and Roman poets' name for the first period of history, when the human race lived in an ideal state, and which was succeeded by the silver, brazen, and iron ages.
golden apple in Greek mythology, a fruit from the apples of the Hesperides, the apple of discord, or one of the apples thrown down to distract Atalanta.
The Golden Ass a prose narrative (Metamorphoses) of the 2nd century by Apuleius, a picaresque novel which recounts the adventures of a man who is transformed into an ass, and which depicts in particular the practices of ancient religious mysteries.
The Golden Bough the title of a book (1890–1915) by the Scottish anthropologist James George Frazer, proposing an evolutionary theory of the development of human thought, from the magical and religious to the scientific, and focusing particularly on the figure of the sacrificial king who dies and is reborn. The title came from Virgil's Aeneid, ‘the double tree that bears the golden bough’ in Dryden's translation (1697); Aeneas is told by the Sibyl that he must find and pick the branch before he can safely journey to the underworld.
the golden bowl is broken a biblical metaphor for death, deriving from Ecclesiastes, ‘Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern.’
golden calf in the Bible, an image of gold in the shape of a calf, made by Aaron in response to the Israelites' plea for a god while they awaited Moses' return from Mount Sinai, where he was receiving the Ten Commandments (Exodus 32), and which Moses destroyed; in extended usage, a false god, especially wealth as an object of worship.
Golden Fleece in Greek mythology, the fleece of the golden-fleeced ram which rescued Helle and her brother (see Hellespont), which was guarded by an unsleeping dragon, and sought and won by Jason with the help of Medea.
The Order of the Golden Fleece was an order of knighthood instituted at Bruges in 1430 by Philip the Good, duke of Burgundy. The right of investiture in the order of the Golden Fleece belonged (after 1700) to the sovereigns of Austria and Spain.
Golden Gate a deep channel connecting San Francisco Bay with the Pacific Ocean, spanned by the Golden Gate suspension bridge (completed 1937).
golden goal in some soccer and hockey competitions, the first goal scored during extra time which ends the match and gives victory to the scoring side.
golden goose in a traditional fairytale, a goose which laid golden eggs; it was killed in an attempt to possess the source of this wealth, which as a result was lost. The phrase is now used for a continuing source of wealth or profit that may be exhausted if it is misused.
golden handshake a substantial payment given to someone who is made redundant or retires early.
Golden Horde the Tartar and Mongol army, led by descendants of Genghis Khan, that overran Asia and parts of eastern Europe in the 13th century and maintained an empire until around 1500 (so called from the richness of the leader's camp).
Golden Horn a curved inlet of the Bosporus forming the harbour of Istanbul.
golden hour in medical usage, the first hour after the occurrence of a traumatic injury, considered the most critical for successful emergency treatment.
golden jubilee the fiftieth anniversary of a significant event, in particular, a sovereign's accession.
a golden key can open any door any access is guaranteed if enough money is offered; saying recorded from the late 16th century.
Golden Legend a medieval collection of saints' lives and similar stories, written in the 13th century by Jacobus de Voragine (1230–98), Archbishop of Genoa; an English version was published by Caxton in 1483. The title is a translation of Latin Legenda Aurea.
golden mean the ideal moderate position between two extremes; originally as a translation of Latin aurea mediocritas, from Horace's Odes.
golden number the number showing a year's place in the Metonic cycle and used to fix the date of Easter for that year; the golden number for any year ad is found by adding 1 to the number of the year and dividing the result by 19; the remainder is the golden number for that year (if there is no remainder, the golden number is 19). The term is a translation of medieval Latin aureus numerus, so called from its importance in calculating the date of Easter, and not as sometimes suggested because it appeared in calendars in letters of gold.
golden rose an ornament of wrought gold, blessed by the pope on the fourth Sunday in Lent, and usually sent as a mark of favour to some notable Roman Catholic personage, city, or church. The ornament has been of various forms; the design finally adopted is a thorny branch with several leaves and flowers, surmounted by a principal rose—all of pure gold. The Golden Rose is also an award presented at the International Television Festival at Montreux for successful light entertainment programmes.
golden rule a basic principle which should always be followed to ensure success in general or in a particular activity; the term is sometimes specifically used of the injunction given by Jesus in Matthew 7:12, ‘whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.’
golden section the division of a line so that the whole is to the greater part as that part is to the smaller part (i.e. in a ratio of 1 to 1/2 (√5 + 1)), a proportion which is considered to be particularly pleasing to the eye. Although the proportion has been known since the 4th century bc, and occurs in Euclid, the name golden section (now the usual term) is not recorded before the 19th century.
Golden State an informal name for California.
Golden Temple the Sikh temple at Amritsar in the Punjab, the holiest of the Sikh faith and an important pilgrimage site, which in 1919 was the scene of a riot in which 400 people were killed by British troops. In 1984 the building was occupied by a group of Sikh extremists, and sustained some damage when they were forcibly removed by Indian troops.
golden wedding the fiftieth anniversary of a wedding.
three golden balls the traditional sign of a pawnbroker, sometimes said to be derived from the coat of arms of the Medici family, or from the three bags of gold given to three girls for dowries by St Nicholas of Myra.
See also kill the goose that lays the golden eggs, silence is golden.
gold·en / ˈgōldən/ • adj. 1. colored or shining like gold: curls of glossy golden hair bake until golden. 2. made or consisting of gold: a golden crown. 3. rare and precious, in particular: ∎ (of a period) very happy and prosperous: those golden days before World War I. ∎ (of an opportunity) very favorable: a golden opportunity to boost foreign trade. ∎ (of a person) popular, talented, and successful: Einstein was the golden boy of the “Second Scientific Revolution.” 4. (of a voice) rich and smooth: a choir of young golden voices. 5. denoting the fiftieth year of something: the American Ballet Theater's golden anniversary extravaganza. DERIVATIVES: gold·en·ly adv.