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From Old French celeritee (compare French célérité), from Latin celeritas, from celer (fast, swift).


  • IPA(key): /sɪˈlɛɹɪti/
  • (US)
  • Rhymes: -ɛɹɪti


celerity (usually uncountable, plural celerities)

  1. Speed, swiftness.
    • c. 1603–1604 (date written), William Shakespeare, “Measure for Measure”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act V, (please specify the scene number in lowercase Roman numerals)]:
      O most kind maid, / It was the swift celerity of his death, / Which I did think with slower foot came on, / That brain'd my purpose.
    • 1842, [anonymous collaborator of Letitia Elizabeth Landon], chapter XXXV, in Lady Anne Granard; or, Keeping up Appearances. [], volume II, London: Henry Colburn, [], →OCLC, page 153:
      ...when a new medium for attraction was started in the bazaar to which we have alluded, and her letter was dispatched with all possible celerity, insisting that her daughters "should work day and night"—so ran the document—for three weeks,...
    • 1851, Herman Melville, chapter 48, in Moby-Dick:
      The phantoms, for so they then seemed, were flitting on the other side of the deck, and, with a noiseless celerity, were casting loose the tackles and bands of the boat which swung there.
    • 1937, Dorothy L. Sayers, chapter 11, in Busman’s Honeymoon:

      “My parsnip wine is really extra good this year. Dr Jellyfield always takes a glass when he comes—which isn’t very often, I’m pleased to say, because my health is always remarkably good.”

      “That will not prevent me from drinking to it,” said Peter, disposing of the parsnip wine with a celerity which might have been due to eagerness but, to Harriet, rather suggested a reluctance to let the draught linger on the palate.

    • 1960 March, “Talking of Trains: The Slough Derailment”, in Trains Illustrated, page 132:
      Warning messages were relayed to the signalmen at Slough East and Dolphin Junction boxes with such celerity that the up main signals were replaced to danger in front of the express before it finally stopped. The signalman at Dolphin Junction just had time to replace the down main signals and pull the emergency lever to lay detonators in front of the fast approaching 7 p.m. Paddington-Reading train.
    • 1998, Hugo Adam Bedau, The Death Penalty in America: Current Controversies:
      The celerity of executions is a generally neglected issue in the empirical literature on deterrence and capital punishment.
    • 2007, Rudolph Joseph Gerber, John M. Johnson, The Top Ten Death Penalty Myths: The Politics of Crime Control:
      As of 2006, celerity has disappeared entirely from the deterrence equation among both high- and low-volume executing jurisdictions.
    • 2018 January 2, Adam Gopnik, “Never Mind Churchill, Clement Attlee Is a Model for These Times”, in The New Yorker[1]:
      When Churchill and Roosevelt were considering their declaration of the Atlantic Charter, it was Attlee, acting with a celerity and a clarity of purpose that belied his reputation for caution, who insisted on including “freedom from want” as one of its aims, making economic rights and, with them, a decent life for all, one of the official aims of the war.
  2. (oceanography, meteorology) The speed of an individual wave (as opposed to the speed of groups of waves); often denoted c.
    1. (hydrology) The speed with which a perturbation to the flow propagates through the flow domain.
  3. (telecommunications, dated) The speed of symbol transmission, now called baud rate.
    • 1867, Taliaferro Preston Shaffner, The Telegraph Manual:
      Celerity of dispatching the Chappe telegraph [section title]
    • 1885, The Wonders of the Universe, Cassell Publishing Company:
      ...and many endeavours have been made, not only to transmit signals with celerity, but also to transmit more than one communication at the same time along the same wire.

Related terms[edit]