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Brrr! Break The Ice With These 14 Words For Winter

A blizzard of words for winter

The winter months can be long, dark, and cold. After a few weeks, it starts to feel repetitive—but the language you use to talk about winter doesn’t have to be. There are some lush, complex vocabulary words used to describe the winter season and its frosty weather. Mix it up with some of our favorite winter words.

hibernal

hibernal

Our first winter word is hibernal [ hahy-bur-nl ], which means “of or relating to winter; wintry.” Hibernal comes from the Latin hībernus, meaning “wintery.” In Latin, hiems means “winter.” There is another word that traces back to this root: hibernate, like bears do during the winter.

apricity

apricity

A particularly rare and obscure winter word is apricity, which means “the warmth of the sun in the winter.” The word comes from the Latin aprīcāri, “to bask in the sun.” The word largely fell out of use by the end of the 19th century, but it has seen an uptick in recent years in branding and marketing.

brume

brume

One kind of weather you might get during the winter is brume, a noun meaning “mist; fog.” In fact, the word brume comes from the Latin for winter, brūma. If you have ever walked through a brume, you know how damp and chilly it is.

 

Take shelter in more weather words that describe the untamed nature of the elements.

brumal

brumal

Confusingly, the word brumal does not mean “misty” or “foggy,” as you might expect from the meaning of brume. Brumal goes back to that same Latin root, brūma, for its meaning. Therefore, brumal means “wintry.”

hoarfrost

hoarfrost

In addition to brume, another kind of weather you get in the winter is hoarfrost [ hawr-frawst ], also known more generally as simply frost. The hoar- part of the word literally means “white-haired with age” or … old. However, it is also used to refer to a white coating or veneer. In other words, hoarfrost is a layer of white frost.

rime

rime

Another form of frozen wintry weather is rime. Rime is “an opaque coating of tiny, white, granular ice particles, caused by the rapid freezing of supercooled water droplets on impact with an object.” If you have ever seen frost that makes the trees look like they are covered in spikes, that is likely rime.

névé

névé

Yet another form of winter weather is névé [ ney-vey ], “granular snow accumulated on high mountains and subsequently compacted into glacial ice.” Another word for this kind of snow is firn, from Swiss German for “last year’s [snow],” or simply old snow. Névé ultimately comes from the Latin nivātus, meaning “snow-cooled.”

 

Want to show gratitude for these resplendent winter words? Find the right word with these gratitude synonyms.

gelation

gelation

One thing all of these forms of winter weather have in common—hoarfrost, rime, and névé—is that they all involve some sort of gelation, or “solidification by cold; freezing.” The word gelation ultimately comes from the Latin gelātus. If this Latin word looks familiar, that may be because it is also at the root of the word gelatin.

cauldrife

cauldrife

A term from Scots that helpfully describes how you might feel in the winter is cauldrife [ cahl-drhyf ], meaning “susceptible to cold; chilly.” It can also mean “lifeless,” as in a corpse. The cauld- part of the word simply means “cold” in Scots, while the -rife part of the word means “abundantly, copiously,” from the same root as the English rife.

wintertide

wintertide

A word for winter that you may have come across in literary texts is wintertide, also known as wintertime. You may have come across other examples of words that end in -tide, including noontide, eventide, and yuletide. In all of these examples, -tide means “time,” from the Old English tīd, meaning “time” or “hour.”

isocheim

isocheim

Not every part of the world experiences winter at the same time. In 19th-century climatology, one way winter weather was analyzed referred to the isocheim [ ahysuh-kahym ], “a line on a map connecting points that have the same mean weather temperature.” Iso- is a combining form meaning “equal,” and -cheim comes from the Greek for “winter.” Isocheim literally means, then, “equal winter.”

 

What’s the difference between weather and climate?

latibulize

latibulize

We have already learned that the word hibernate is tied to winter. But, did you know there is an obscure near-synonym of hibernate? The word is latibulize [ lah-tih-byoo-lahyz ], meaning “to retire into a den and lie dormant.” The word latibulize comes from the Latin latibulum, meaning “a hiding place.”

arctic

arctic

A term you have likely come across is arctic. Literally, arctic means “of or relating to the North Pole.” However, the word arctic (without a capital letter) is used more generally to mean “characteristic of the extremely cold, snowy, windy weather; frigid; bleak.” In other words, even if you aren’t literally at the North Pole, it can sometimes feel that way.

 

Speaking of the North Pole, do you know the different names for Santa Claus around the world?

Samhain

Samhain

You may associate the winter season with Christmas, Hanukkah, or another holiday, but for the ancient Celts, the beginning of winter was marked with the festival of Samhain [ sah-win ]. You may be familiar with some elements of Samhain, because many of the traditions associated with Halloween are thought to have originated with this holiday. However, unlike Halloween, Samhain is typically observed on November 1. For more information about Samhain and this spooky wintry holiday, read our article about it at our entry for the word here.

Shake off the snow with a quiz!

How many of these wintry words did you already know? You can review all of them at our winter word list here. If you feel confident you can already tell rime from hoarfrost, challenge yourself with our short winter word quiz here.

❄️Embrace the wonder of winter in all its most recognizable colors by learning these vivid words for the color blue.

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