Fun Etymology Tuesday – Climate

It’s another Tuesday! Today, we’re doing something on a suggestion. The climate has been a hot topic lately and I was recently asked where this word comes from. So, to answer that question: today’s word is climate!

A borrowed word from Middle French climat, from Latin clima, meaning region or slope of the earth. The Latin word itself derives from Greek klima, meaning region, zone or, more literally, “an inclination, slope”. In the end, we get something like “slope of the earth from equator to pole”. This comes from a suffixed form of PIE *klei-, meaning to lean.

It came to English around the late 14th century. Back then it meant “horizontal zone of the earth’s surface measured by lines parallel to the equator”.

You see, ancient geographers divided the earth into zones (which we still do). The zones were based on the angle of the sun on the slope of the earth and the length of daylight.

Some counted as many as 24 to 30 climates, others 7 and still others 12 climates around the world. (Today, we usually say that there are 3 main climate zones: tropical, temperate, and polar. These can, of course, be further divided into smaller zones.)

Anyway, change of temperature gradually came to be considered more and more important. By the late 14th century, the word referred to a distinct region, considered with respects to its weather. Eventually, the sense shifted to what we find today: the combined results of weather associated with a particular region. This includes the characteristic condition of a country or region with reference to the variation of heat, cold, rainfall, etc. This is a sense that has been in evidence since around the 1600s.

And that’s our story! Of course, today, we talk more about climate change than about climate itself but now you know! Isn’t that something to mention at the next strike?

Until Thursday, when we meet again for a new Early Germanic Dialects post, my dear followers, I hope you enjoyed this week’s FunEty!

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