Kairos ( _gr. καιρός) is an ancient Greek word meaning the right or opportune moment. The ancient Greeks had two words for time, chronos and kairos. While the former refers to chronological or sequential time, the latter signifies a time in between, a moment of undetermined period of time in which something special happens. What the special something is depends on who is using the word. While chronos is quantitative, kairos has a qualitative nature. [ [http://www.whatifenterprises.com/whatif/whatiskairos.pdf Mark Freier (2006) "Time Measured by Kairos and Kronos"] ]

In rhetoric

Kairos was central to the Sophists, who stressed the rhetor's ability to adapt to and take advantage of changing, contingent circumstances. In "Panathenaicus", Isocrates writes that educated people are those “who manage well the circumstances which they encounter day by day, and who possess a judgment which is accurate in meeting occasions as they arise and rarely misses the expedient course of action”.

Kairos is also very important in Aristotle's scheme of rhetoric. Kairos is, for Aristotle, the time and space context in which the proof will be delivered. Kairos stands alongside other contextual elements of rhetoric: "The Audience" which is the psychological and emotional makeup of those who will receive the proof; and, "To Prepon" which is the style with which the orator clothes their proof.

In theology

The term "kairos" is used in theology to describe the qualitative form of time. In rhetoric kairos is "a passing instant when an opening appears which must be driven through with force if success is to be achieved." [E. C. White, "Kaironomia" p. 13] In the New Testament kairos means "the appointed time in the purpose of God", the time when God acts (e.g. Mark 1.15, the kairos is fulfilled). It differs from the more usual word for time which is chronos (kronos).

In the Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches, before the Divine Liturgy begins, the Deacon exclaims to the Priest, "Kairos tou poiesai to Kyrio" ("It is time ["kairos"] for the Lord to act"); indicating that the time of the Liturgy is an intersection with Eternity.

In "The Interpretation of History", neo-orthodox Lutheran theologian Paul Tillich made prominent use of the term. For him, the "kairoi" are those crises in history (see Christian existentialism) which create an opportunity for, and indeed demand, an existential decision by the human subject - the coming of Christ being the prime example (compare Barth's use of "geschichte" as opposed to "historie"). In the Kairos Document, an example of liberation theology in South Africa under Apartheid, the term "kairos" is used to denote "the appointed time", "the crucial time" into which the document / text is spoken.


Kairos is also a Christian retreat program for high school and college students. Here "kairos" is adapted to mean "God's time". These "Kairos Spiritual Retreats" began at the Jesuit Retreat House in Cleveland, Ohio, [ [http://www.jrh-cleveland.org/ The Jesuit Retreat House of Cleveland - home page ] ] and now take place around the world.


KAIROS: Kairos Corporation is a non-profit organization who believes in the personal growth and in the development of harmonious relations which aim to personal and collective commitments with the society., represented in the individuals and the public and deprived sector, like the key in the construction of a project of country. Kairós provides services of continuous improvement of the human talent and the quality of life, through design of pedagogical strategies that are focused to facilitate the importance of the being, by means of the taking of brings back to consciousness of its individuality and its social responsibility before the reality of the Country. The website is corporacionkairos.org

KAIROS: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology and Pedagogy [http://kairos.technorhetoric.net/] is a refereed online journal exploring the intersections of rhetoric, technology, and pedagogy. The journal publishes "webtexts," which are texts authored specifically for publication on the World Wide Web. These webtexts include scholarly examinations of large-scale issues related to special topics, individual and collaborative reviews of books and media, news and announcements of interest, interactive exchanges about previous Kairos publications, and extended interviews with leading scholars.

Kairos Journal is an online Christian publication which seeks to "embolden, educate, equip, and support pastors and church leaders as they strive to transform the moral conscience of the culture and restore the prophetic voice of the Church."

"Kairos" is also the name of an international Christian prison ministry, which brings the Cursillo method into correctional facilities. Kairos Prison Ministry is an independent and highly ecumenical organization that draws its members and leadership from Cursillo groups and from such Cursillo-derived groups as Via de Cristo, Walk To Emmaus, Great Banquet, and Tres Dias.

KAIROS is a Christian organization for college students at Saint Paul University Philippines. Here "Kairos" is adapted to mean "IN GOD'S APPOINTED TIME." This group has the responsibility for managing spiritual activities in or out of the university.This organization is under of the office of the Christian formation / Christian Ministry of Saint Paul University Philippines.

KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives is a coalition of the Anglican Church of CanadaBoard Representatives, Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, Canadian Religious Conference,Christian Reformed Church in North America (Canada Corporation),Mennonite Central Committee of Canada, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, The Presbyterian Church in Canada, The Primate's World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF), Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), and the United Church of Canada. KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives is a social justice coalition which united 10 former social justice coalitions and is based in Toronto, Canada.

There is also a Kairos Foundation, a non-profit educational organization that sponsors the More To Life program, a 25-year old self-development program with over 150,000 students from all over the world and centers in various cities in the USA, New Zealand, England, Scotland, South Africa. The program was created by two former Episcopal priests Brad Brown and Roy Whitten.

"KAIROS" is also an intergenerational dance company based in Minneapolis, part of the Creative Aging Movement."

Kairos Literary Society is also the name of a writers association located in Hamilton, Ontario. Kairos offers support to local writers, organizes community literary programs, and gives writers an umbrella under which they may share resources.

"C.A.I.R.O.S" is also the logo of Clifford Algebras International Research Open Studies - chosen in reference to Kairos, one of the three Greek gods of time.

Kairos Group Ministries is an Orillia, Ontario based multi-church Christian organization which organizes and produces outreach type events for the purpose of uniting various church families in the great commission.


Kairos time is usually perceived as a time of crisis. The Chinese character for “crisis” is often claimed to be a combination of the characters for “danger” and “opportunity”, although this is not actually true. [ [http://www.pinyin.info/chinese/crisis.html danger + opportunity ≠ crisis ] ] With this in mind, one has a possibility of participating in a “new creation.”† One has the choice of danger or opportunity, a chance to build something new out of the old. Kairos time bridges the tearing down of the “old way” with the building of a “new way.”

In Trogir (the ancient Roman Tragurium), Croatia, in the Convent of the Benedictine Nuns, was displayed a marble bas-relief of Kairos from the 3rd century B.C., a naked young man, running.The bas-relief is now kept at the Municipal Museum of Trogir. According to ancient Greeks, Kairos was the god of the “fleeting moment,” “a favorable opportunity opposing the fate of man.” The moment must be grasped (by the tuft of hair on the forehead of the fleeing figure); otherwise the moment is gone and can not be re-captured (shown by the back of head being bald.) A bronze statue known in literature and made by the famous Greek sculptor Lysippos from Sikyon was probably the model for the bas relief. Kairos is described in the verses of the poet Poseidippos. The original bronze allegoric statue made by Lysippos stood at his home, in the Agora of Hellenistic Sikyon, and the following epigram by Poseidippos was carved on the statue of Kairos:

:"Who and whence was the sculptor? From Sikyon.:And his name? Lysippos.:And who are you? Time who subdues all things.:Why do you stand on tip-toe? I am ever running.:And why you have a pair of wings on your feet? I fly with the wind.:And why do you hold a razor in your right hand? As a sign to men that I am sharper than any sharp edge.:And why does your hair hang over your face? For him who meets me to take me by the forelock.:And why, in Heaven's name, is the back of your head bald? Because none whom I have once raced by on my winged feet will now, though he wishes it sore, take hold of me from behind.:Why did the artist fashion you? For your sake, stranger, and he set me up in the porch as a lesson".

This statue was the original model for the various representations of Kairos made in ancient times and Middle Ages as well. John Tzetzes wrote about it, as well as Himerius. The image of hair hanging on the forehead and a bald nucha was associated in Roman times to the goddess Fortuna, the personification of good and bad luck. Several authors referred to this. For instance Disticha Catonis II, 26 refer to the Latin concept of Occasio (a female word which can be considered as a literal translation of the Greek Kairos; see also Caerus) in these terms: "Rem tibi quam scieris aptam dimittere noli: fronte capillata, post haec occasio calva", which means "Don't let that what you consider good for you escapes by; chance has hair over her forehead, but behind she's bald". Phaedrus (V,8) has a similar writing and he himself admits that the theme was not his own but more ancient. Callistratus (Descriptions, 6) has a long text describing the statue by Lysippos.

The theme of Kairos was felt as extremely important during the Middle Ages. Carmina Burana 16, a famous poem about Fortune, mentions Kairos in this way: "verum est quod legitur, fronte capillata, sed plerumque sequitur occasio calvata"; which means "it is true what is read, that Occasio has the forehead with hair, but that almost always she passes being bald". Several representations of Kairos survive; a relief (about 160 C.E.) is kept at the Museum of Antiquities of Turin (Italy); another relief was kept (now lost) at Palazzo Medici in Florence; an onyx gem (originally from the collection of the Duc de Blacas, I-II century C.E.) with an incision of the god Tempus (see Caerus) with attributes of Kairos is kept now at the British Museum; a marble relief showing Kairos, Bios (the Life), and Metanoia (Afterthought, the female Latin Paenitentia) is in the cathedral of Torcello (XI century C.E.); a monochrome fresco by Mantegna at Palazzo Ducale in Mantua (about 1510 C.E.) shows a female Kairos (most probably Occasio) with a young man trying to catch her and a woman representing Paenitentia.

A concept similar to Kairos is that behind the famous motto "Carpe Diem" and a sort of recurrence in the idea of Kairos is linked with the theme of The Wheel of Fortune which continuously rotates; in fact the Greek words used by Poseidippos to describe the Kairos (in the verse "I am ever running") are "aeì trochào" which literally mean "I always rotate", and the verb itself is the same used by the poet and astronomer Aratus (Phaenomena, 227, 309) to pinpoint the eternal motion of the celestial spheres. It is not by chance that in Carmina Burana 17 the Fortune is associated to an ever-rotating wheel (Tibullus himself described the Fortune with a wheel: "Versatur celeri Fors levis orbe rotae", I, 5, 70).


*R. B. Onians, "The Origins of European Thought" (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1951), pp 343-49
*E. C. White "Kaironomia: on the will to invent" (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1987)
*Leonard Sweet "Missed Moments" (Rev. Magazine Jan/Feb 2005), pp. 36
*Paolo Moreno, "L'attimo fuggente" in Archeo magazine (XXII, 10, 260), October 2006, pp 114-117.
*Mick Doherty " [http://english.ttu.edu/kairos/layers/start.html Kairos: Layers of Meaning] " (Dept of English, Texas Tech University)

ee also

*Kāla (time)

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