clarion call

clarion call
also, clarion’s call

Meaning

  • A clarion is a high-pitch bugle.
  • A strong and clear request for people to do something.
  • In a literal sense, the call to battle is issued by such an instrument. 
  • Used in the figurative sense, a call to take up a task or pursue a project.
  • The idiom metaphorically ascribes the characteristics of a bugle to a spoken command or statement, indicating that it was issued loudly and clearly. 
  • A statement, command, or other assertion that is unambiguous in its meaning and application. 

Example Sentences

  1. All of the citizens heard the clarion call and prepared themselves to defend their city. 
  2. None of the board members could ignore the clarion-call of the chairman’s directive. 
  3. When I heard that my mother had decided not to go to the party, I issued a clarion call to my brothers and sisters; subsequently, they convinced her to attend.
  4. The clarion call for additional donations from social leaders has elicited a swift reaction.

Origin

The term ‘clarion’ comes from the Latin term ‘clario’, which denotes a trumpet (this, in turn, is related to the Latin ‘clarus’, which means clear and bright). In the mediaeval period, clarions were distinctly smaller and higher-pitched instruments than trumpets. In The Canterbury Tales (c. 1387–1400), Geoffrey Chaucer references a clarion in a list of instruments used to initiate battle (see the first tale, titled, The Knight’s Tale).

The idiomatic expression is often said to have arisen early in the 19th century. However, it can be traced to at least as early as 1787. In a lyrical poem published that year, titled, ‘Ode for the New Year,’ Warton and Parsons wrote:

In rough magnificence array’d
When ancient Chivalry display’d
The pomp of her heroic games;
And crested chiefs, and tissued dames,
Assembles, at the clarion’s call
In some proud castle’s high-arch’d hall…

See The Gentleman’s Magazine, January 1787, p. 68.

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