Word: hiemal

Pronunciation: HY-ə-məl

Part of Speech: adjective

Definition: of, characteristic of, or occurring in winter

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


Here’s a word I’ve had sitting in my vocabulary queue for a while. I first learned today’s Word of the Week about five months ago while watching my boyfriend play No Man’s Sky, where it appeared in a scan description for a planet that turned out to be covered in snow. Though I made a note of it right away, I decided to save the word for a time when it would be more relevant. Think of January and you probably picture snow and ice everywhere (at least if you live in the Northern Hemisphere), right? It’s the most “hiemal” time of year!

“Hiemal” refers to winter or anything characteristic of the season. The word arose in the mid 16th century and comes from the Latin adjective hiemalis, meaning “pertaining to winter”. This adjective derives from the noun hiems, which means “winter”.

It’s worth noting that Oxford Dictionaries characterizes the word “hiemal” as rare; it’s so obscure, in fact, that the spell check on my computer (which uses American English) doesn’t even recognize it as a word! In my opinion, “hiemal” probably works best in poetry about winter, though it likely still works well in prose as a poetic synonym for “wintry”. If you like writing stories or poetry with a winter theme, “hiemal” may be a good word to include in your vocabulary!

What are your thoughts on this word? Any suggestions for future “Word of the Week” featured words?

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