The Vocabulary of Winter – 8 Unusual Wintry Words
Having a wide vocabulary is always a good thing. In this article we’ve pulled together some of the more unusual words that the English language has to offer us that relate to wintertime … enjoy 😀
Come colder climes, bears, snakes and other torpor-prone critters retreat to their hibernaculums, or winter quarters, to conserve energy. This term, which comes from the Latin hibernare meaning “to winter,” can also refer to an animal or plant bud’s protective winter covering.
If descriptors such as chilly and brisk don’t quite capture the degree of frigidity frosting your bones then gelid might be just the word you’re looking for. This adjective with Latin roots means “very cold, icy, or frosty.”
This term meaning “calm” or “peaceful” comes from Greek mythology: As the legend goes, Alcyone, daughter of Aeolus, god of the winds, was turned into a kingfisher with her husband, Ceyx. For 14 days around the winter solstice, she laid her eggs in a nest on seas made calm by her father. The word halcyon is thought to be derived from Alycone, and is often paired with days (halcyon days) to refer to calm winter weather. Halcyon can also refer to a kingfisher, mythical or otherwise.
The adjective meaning “of or characteristic to winter” comes from the Latin bruma meaning “winter.” Brumal shares roots with the French loanword brume meaning “mist” or “fog.”
If your winter vocabulary feels too modern and accessible, infuse it with this literary archaism: frore means “frozen” or “frosty.” Even if nobody knows what you’re talking about, you’ll have the cool satisfaction of knowing you’re in good company as John Milton, John Keats, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning worked the word into their poems.
This word might not come in handy if you’re a city mouse, but if you are a mountain-dweller, you’ll want to have névé in your vocabulary. The term means “granular snow accumulated on high mountains and subsequently compacted into glacial ice” or “a field of such snow.” It shares a root with the word nival meaning “of or growing in snow.”
This adjective meaning “of or pertaining to winter; wintry” comes from the Latin hiems meaning “winter.” Though Thomas Heywood’s 1635 The Hierarchy of the Blessed Angels uses the phrase hiemal line to refer to the the tropic of Capricorn, this winter word has not gotten much traction over the last few hundred years.
This underutilized adjective comes from the Latin algidus meaning “cold.” It has been used to mean “chilly” since as early as the 17th century, but it is sometimes used in medicine to describe states of abnormally low body temperature or shock resulting in clamminess. We hope your winter does not include the medical sense of this useful word.