Sunday, November 29, 2009

Winter Words

November is almost gone, so in my backyard, winter is about to make an appearance. Let’s look at some words that involve that season.

Brumal means of or pertaining to winter. It’s a great little word, but it’s not frequently used. It is a contraction of the Latin word brevima, the shortest day. That’s the winter equinox. Occasionally, it appears as brumous, but that can also mean foggy.

Chimoanthus is a shrub native to China. The word is a combination of the Greek cheimon, winter, and anthos, flower. An isocheim was a line (on a map, etc.) connecting places at which the mean winter temperature is the same.

The Latin hibernus meant wintry, and that brought us several words. Hibernaculum meant winter quarters, and while it was usually applied to a military encampment, it was also used in reference to animals and plants. We’re quite familiar with the words hibernate and hibernation, which refer to a retreat to an inactive state in the winter.

Hiemal is now rare, but it once meant of or belonging to winter. The verb form, hiemate, was a synonym for hibernate. Both words came from the Latin hiems, winter.

Now available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition

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