1. a long journey during which many things happen
2. a person’s progress from one stage of life or set of beliefs to another
Origin of the word
Deriving from the epic 8th century BC poem, The Odyssey, an odyssey now refers to any significant literal or figurative journey.
The noun odyssey denotes an important intellectual or physical journey, one which is filled with excitement and different experiences. An extended trip around a foreign country, where plenty of adventurous and eventful things happen, is an odyssey. Also, an odyssey is a metaphorical voyage of self-discovery, like a spiritual awakening, which is marked by changes of heart and opinion.
Ascribed to the Greek poet, Homer, The Odyssey is thought to have been written in the 8th century BC. The manuscript was eventually translated into English by George Chapman in 1615. Describing the adventures of Odysseus, the story takes place over ten years, as he travels back home following the Trojan war and final fall of Troy. Along the way he encounters many strange lands, including those of the Cyclops, the Sirens and the Lotus-eaters. After a decade spent wandering on his odyssey, and presumed long dead, he arrives home to Ithaca, and is reunited with his wife Penelope and his son, Telemachus.
I was never idle long enough to do much thinking, but I felt somehow that some of us were making real progress, that we had taken an honest road, and that the best of us would inevitably make it over the top. At the same time, I shared a dark suspicion that the life we were leading was a lost cause, that we were all actors, kidding ourselves along on a senseless odyssey.”
(Hunter S. Thompson, The Rum Diary)
“The trip was to be an odyssey in the fullest sense of the word, an epic journey that would change everything.”
(Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild)
adventure, expedition, quest, progression