Beacon - Encyclopedia


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BEACON (from the O. Eng. beacn, a sign, cf. "beckon," another form of the same word), a signal, especially a fire lit on a high hill, structure or building for the purpose of sending a message of alarm or of important news over long distances. Such was the courier-fire (i yyapos 74) that brought the news of the fall of Troy to Argos (Aeschylus, Agamemnon), or the chain of signals that told of the approach of the Spanish Armada, or which circled the British Isles in the jubilee years of 1887 and 1897. The word occurs in many names for lofty and conspicuous hills, such as Dunkery Beacon in Somerset, the highest point on Exmoor. On many such hills the remains of old beacon towers and cressets are still found. The word is used generally of a lighthouse, but technically it means either a small unattended light, a superstructure on a floating buoy, such as a staff and cage, or staff and globe, or an unlighted structure, forming a conspicuous object at sea, used in each case to guide or warn sailors. (See LIGHTHOUSE and Buoy.)

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