Real Spellers

English Makes Sense!

Article Index


Study this entry from Etymonline on the story of the word <climate>:

climate (n.)

late 14c., "horizontal zone of the earth's surface measured by lines parallel to the equator," from Old French climat "region, part of the earth," from Latin clima (genitive climatis) "region; slope of the earth," from Greek klima "region, zone," literally "an inclination, slope," thus "slope of the earth from equator to pole," from a suffixed form of PIE root *klei- "to lean."

Ancient geographers divided the earth into zones based on the angle of sun on the slope of the earth's surface and the length of daylight. Some reckoned 24 or 30 climates between Meroe on the upper Nile in Sudan and the mythical Riphaean Mountains which were supposed to bound the Arctic; a change of climate took place, going north, at a place where the day was a half hour longer or shorter, according to season, than the starting point. Others counted 7 (each dominated by a particular planet) or 12 (dominated by zodiac signs).

Change of temperature gradually came to be considered more important, and by late 14c. the word was being used in the sense "a distinct region of the earth's surface considered with respect to weather." The sense shift to "combined results of weather associated with a region, characteristic condition of a country or region with reference to the variation of heat, cold, rainfall, wind, etc.," is attested by c. 1600. Figuratively, of mental or moral atmosphere, from 1660s.

Some semantic interpretations:

Notice how the word “climate” was originally more connected to the idea of a ‘region’ and over time the connotation shifted to refer to the weather in a given region.

Are there ways this semantic shift in the connotation of this word can be referenced with respect to the current climate crisis?

Some orthographic investigations may include:

The following words come up when you search the Latin clima in Etymonline.

climate change

Consider how you might address these words with reference to Greta’s speech and climate change in general.

Keep an eye out for these orthographic observations:

  • • Phonological shifts of the bound base <clime> across these words
  • • Announcing ‘replace the <e>’ when writing-out-loud word sums for these words
  • • Look for evidence of  <-o-> connecting vowel letters in this word bank. This connecting vowel letter is a sign of Greek origin. The <-i->, <-u-> and <-e-> connecting vowel letters are a sign of Latin origin. 

Comments (0)

There are no comments posted here yet