AskDefine | Define winter

The Collaborative Dictionary

Winter \Win"ter\, n. [AS. winter; akin to OFries. & D. winter, OS. & OHG. wintar, G. winter, D. & Sw. vinter, Icel. vetr, Goth. wintrus; of uncertain origin; cf. Old Gallic vindo- white (in comp.), OIr. find white. ????.] [1913 Webster]
The season of the year in which the sun shines most obliquely upon any region; the coldest season of the year. "Of thirty winter he was old." --Chaucer. [1913 Webster] And after summer evermore succeeds Barren winter, with his wrathful nipping cold. --Shak. [1913 Webster] Winter lingering chills the lap of May. --Goldsmith. [1913 Webster] Note: North of the equator, winter is popularly taken to include the months of December, January, and February (see Season). Astronomically, it may be considered to begin with the winter solstice, about December 21st, and to end with the vernal equinox, about March 21st. [1913 Webster]
The period of decay, old age, death, or the like. [1913 Webster] Life's autumn past, I stand on winter's verge. --Wordsworth. [1913 Webster] Winter apple, an apple that keeps well in winter, or that does not ripen until winter. Winter barley, a kind of barley that is sown in autumn. Winter berry (Bot.), the name of several American shrubs (Ilex verticillata, Ilex laevigata, etc.) of the Holly family, having bright red berries conspicuous in winter. Winter bloom. (Bot.) (a) A plant of the genus Azalea. (b) A plant of the genus Hamamelis (Hamamelis Viginica); witch-hazel; -- so called from its flowers appearing late in autumn, while the leaves are falling. Winter bud (Zool.), a statoblast. Winter cherry (Bot.), a plant (Physalis Alkekengi) of the Nightshade family, which has, a red berry inclosed in the inflated and persistent calyx. See Alkekengi. Winter cough (Med.), a form of chronic bronchitis marked by a cough recurring each winter. Winter cress (Bot.), a yellow-flowered cruciferous plant (Barbarea vulgaris). Winter crop, a crop which will bear the winter, or which may be converted into fodder during the winter. Winter duck. (Zool.) (a) The pintail. (b) The old squaw. Winter egg (Zool.), an egg produced in the autumn by many invertebrates, and destined to survive the winter. Such eggs usually differ from the summer eggs in having a thicker shell, and often in being enveloped in a protective case. They sometimes develop in a manner different from that of the summer eggs. Winter fallow, ground that is fallowed in winter. Winter fat. (Bot.) Same as White sage, under White. Winter fever (Med.), pneumonia. [Colloq.] Winter flounder. (Zool.) See the Note under Flounder. Winter gull (Zool.), the common European gull; -- called also winter mew. [Prov. Eng.] Winter itch. (Med.) See Prarie itch, under Prairie. Winter lodge, or Winter lodgment. (Bot.) Same as Hibernaculum. Winter mew. (Zool.) Same as Winter gull, above. [Prov. Eng.] Winter moth (Zool.), any one of several species of geometrid moths which come forth in winter, as the European species (Cheimatobia brumata). These moths have rudimentary mouth organs, and eat no food in the imago state. The female of some of the species is wingless. Winter oil, oil prepared so as not to solidify in moderately cold weather. Winter pear, a kind of pear that keeps well in winter, or that does not ripen until winter. Winter quarters, the quarters of troops during the winter; a winter residence or station. Winter rye, a kind of rye that is sown in autumn. Winter shad (Zool.), the gizzard shad. Winter sheldrake (Zool.), the goosander. [Local, U. S.] Winter sleep (Zool.), hibernation. Winter snipe (Zool.), the dunlin. Winter solstice. (Astron.) See Solstice,
Winter teal (Zool.), the green-winged teal. Winter wagtail (Zool.), the gray wagtail (Motacilla melanope). [Prov. Eng.] Winter wheat, wheat sown in autumn, which lives during the winter, and ripens in the following summer. Winter wren (Zool.), a small American wren (Troglodytes hiemalis) closely resembling the common wren. [1913 Webster]
Winter \Win"ter\, v. i. To keep, feed or manage, during the winter; as, to winter young cattle on straw. [1913 Webster]
Winter \Win"ter\, v. i. [imp. & p. p. Wintered; p. pr. & vb. n. Wintering.] To pass the winter; to hibernate; as, to winter in Florida. [1913 Webster] Because the haven was not commodious to winter in, the more part advised to depart thence. --Acts xxvii.
[1913 Webster]

Word Net

winter n : the coldest season of the year; in the northern hemisphere it extends from the winter solstice to the vernal equinox [syn: wintertime] v : spend the winter; "We wintered on the Riviera"

Moby Thesaurus

Christmastide, Christmastime, Yule, Yuletide, aestival, arctic, autumn, autumnal, bitter weather, bleak weather, boreal, brumal, buy time, canicular, cold snap, cold wave, cold weather, consume time, depth of winter, equinoctial, freeze, freezing weather, frost, hard winter, hibernal, hiemal, keep time, kill time, look for time, measure time, midsummer, midwinter, occupy time, out of season, pass time, put in time, race against time, raw weather, seasonal, snap, solstitial, spend time, spring, springlike, subzero weather, summer, summerlike, summerly, summery, take time, take up time, use time, vernal, weekend, winterlike, wintertide, wintertime, wintery, wintry, wintry weather, wintry wind, work against time, zero weather
see Winter





  • a UK /'wɪntə/, /wInt@/
  • a US , /'wɪntɚ/, /wInt@`/
  • Rhymes with: -ɪntə(r)


  1. Traditionally the fourth of the four seasons, typically regarded as being from December 21 to March 20 in Northern Hemisphere regions and from June 21 to September 20 in Southern Hemisphere regions. Usually marked by the applicable hemisphere of the planet being at its minimum angle of exposure to the Sun, resulting in short days and typically the time period with the lowest atmospheric temperatures for the region.


fourth season, marked by short days and lowest temperatures


  1. To spend the winter (in a particular place).
    ''When they retired, they hoped to winter in Florida.



  • /ˈʋɪn.tɘr/


(plural -s /-s/)

Old English


From , probably representing a nasalised variant of ( > English water, wet). Cognate with Old Frisian winter, Old Saxon |winter (Dutch winter), Old High German wintar (German Winter), Old Norse vetr (Swedish vinter) and Gothic 𐍅𐌹𐌽𐍄𐍂𐌿𐍃; and, outside the Germanic languages, with Latin unda and Lithuanian vanduo.




  1. winter italbrac the season
Winter is one of the four seasons of temperate zones. Calculated meteorologically, it begins on the equinox and ends on the solstice. It is the season with the shortest days and the lowest average temperatures. It has colder weather and, especially in the higher latitudes or altitudes, snow and ice. The coldest average temperatures of the season are typically experienced in January in the Northern Hemisphere and in July in the Southern Hemisphere.



Meteorological winter is the season having the shortest days and the lowest temperatures. Night-time predominates the winter season, and in some regions it has the highest rate of precipitation as well as prolonged dampness because of permanent snow cover or high precipitation rates coupled with low temperatures, precluding evaporation. Blizzards often develop and cause many transportation delays. A rare meteorological phenomenon encountered during winter is ice fog, which is composed of ice crystals suspended in the air and happening only at very low temperatures, below about −30 °C
Accumulations of snow and ice are mostly associated with winter in the Northern Hemisphere, due to the large land masses there. In the Southern Hemisphere, the more maritime climate and the relative lack of land south of 40 degrees South makes the winters more mild, and thus snow and ice are less common in inhabited regions of the Southern Hemisphere. In the Southern Hemisphere, snow occurs every year in elevated regions such as the Andes, the Great Dividing Range in Australia, and the mountains of New Zealand, and also occurs in the southerly Patagonia region of South America. Snow occurs year-round in Antarctica.


It is often said that, astronomically, winter starts with the winter solstice and ends with the vernal equinox. In meteorology, it is by convention counted instead as the whole months of June, July and August in the Southern Hemisphere and December, January and February in the Northern Hemisphere. While in actuality, the most accurate start and end point is simply defined by when the first major wave of cold fronts and warm fronts hit a particular area, having no universally predetermined dates.
In Celtic nations such as Ireland using the Irish calendar, the winter solstice is traditionally considered as midwinter, with the winter season beginning November 1 on All Hallows or Samhain. Winter ends and spring begins on Imbolc or Candlemas, which is February 1 or February 2. This system of seasons is based on the length of days exclusively. The three-month period of the shortest days and weakest solar radiation occurs during November, December and January in the Northern Hemisphere and May-July in the Southern Hemisphere.
Also many mainland European countries tend to recognize Martinmas, St. Martin's day (November 11) as the first calendar day of winter. The day falls at midpoint between the old Julian equinox and solstice dates. Also, Valentines Day (February 14) is recognized by some countries as heralding the first rites of Spring (season), such as flower blooming.
In Chinese astronomy (and other East Asian calendars), winter is taken to commence on or around November 7, with the Jiéqì known as (立冬 lì dōng, literally "establishment of winter".)
The three-month period associated with the coldest average temperatures typically begins somewhere in late November or early December in the Northern Hemisphere. If "winter" is defined as the statistically coldest quarter of the year, then the astronomical definition is too late by almost all local climate standards, and the traditional English/Irish definition of November 1 (May 1 in the Southern Hemisphere) is usually too early to fit this standard. No matter the reckoning, winter is the only season that spans two calendar years in the northern hemisphere. (In other words, there are very few temperate climates in which the vernal equinox is on average colder than the winter solstice, and very few temperate climates in which Samhain is colder than Imbolc).


seealso Effect of sun angle on climate The tilt of the Earth's axis relative to its orbital plane has a dramatic effect on the weather. The Earth is tilted at an angle of 23.44° to the plane of its orbit, and this causes different latitudes on the Earth to directly face the Sun as the Earth moves through its orbit. It is this variation that primarily brings about the seasons. When it is winter in the Northern Hemisphere, the Southern Hemisphere faces the Sun more directly and thus experiences warmer temperatures than the Northern Hemisphere. Conversely, winter in the Southern Hemisphere occurs when the Northern hemisphere is tilted more toward the Sun. From the perspective of an observer on the Earth, the winter Sun has a lower maximum altitude in the sky than the summer Sun.
During winter in either hemisphere, the lower altitude of the Sun in winter causes the sunlight to hit that hemisphere at an oblique angle. In regions experiencing winter, the same amount of solar radiation is spread out over a larger area. This effect is compounded by the larger distance that the light must travel through the atmosphere, allowing the atmosphere to dissipate more heat.

Exceptional cases


To survive the harshness of winter, many animals have developed different behavioral and morphological adaptations for Overwintering:
  • Migration is a common effect of winter upon animals, notably birds. However the majority of birds do not migrate, the cardinal or European Robin for example. Some butterflies also migrate seasonally.
  • Hibernation is a state of reduced metabolic activity during the winter. Some animals "sleep" during winter and only come out as warm weather returns. For example, gophers, bears, frogs, snakes and bats hibernate.
  • Some animals store food for the winter and live upon it instead of hibernating completely. This is the case of squirrels, beavers, skunks, badgers and raccoons.
  • Resistance is observed when an animal endures winter but changes in ways such as color and musculature. The color of the fur or plumage are changed to white in order to be confused with snow and thus, to retain their cryptic coloration year round. Examples are the ptarmigan, the arctic fox, the weasel, the white-tailed jack rabbit or the mountain hare.
  • Some fur-coated mammals grow a heavier fur coat during the winter. This improves the heat-retention qualities of the fur. The coat is then shed following the winter season to allow better cooling. The heavier winter coat made this season a favorite for trappers who sought more profitable skins.
  • Snow also affects the ways animals behave; many take advantage of the insulating properties of snow by burrowing in it. Mice and voles typically live under the snow layer.
Annual plants never survive the winter. As for perennial plants, many small ones profit from the insulating effects of snow by being buried in it. Larger plants, particularly deciduous trees, usually let their upper part go dormant, but their roots are still protected by the snow layer. Few plants bloom in the winter, with exceptions including the flowering plum (which flowers in time for Chinese New Year).


Snow activities

Many winter activities involve the use of snow in some form (which sometimes may still be manmade, via snow cannons):
  • Bobsledding - a winter sport in which teams make timed runs down narrow, twisting, banked purpose-built iced tracks in a gravity-powered, steerable sled.
  • Skiing - the activity of gliding over snow using fiberglass planks called skis that are strapped to the skiers' feet with ski bindings.
  • Sledding - a downhill activity using a sled to glide downhill.
  • Snowball fight - a physical game in which snowballs are thrown with the intention of hitting someone else.
  • Snowboarding - an increasingly common sport where participants strap a composite board to their feet and slide down a snow-covered mountain.
  • Snowshoeing - a means of travel on top of the snow by increasing the surface area of the feet.
  • Snowman building - creating a man-like model out of snow.
  • Snow castle building - for example constructions such as the SnowCastle of Kemi, the largest in the world.

Ice activities

Many other winter activities and sports focus on ice, which may be contained in an ice rink.
  • Ice skating - a means of traveling on ice with skates, narrow (and sometimes parabolic) blade-like devices molded into special boots.
  • Ice boating - a means of travel in a specialized boat similar in appearance to a sailboat but fitted with skis or runners (skates) and designed to run over ice instead of (liquid) water.
  • Ice biking - The continuation of regular cycling activities in the winter and cold weather.
  • Ice fishing - the sport of catching fish with lines and hooks through an opening in the ice on a frozen body of water.
  • Ice diving - a type of penetration diving where the dive takes place under ice.
  • Ice sculpture - elaborate sculptures are carved out of blocks of ice.
  • Ice Hockey - A team sport played on the ice with skates, sticks and a puck. The goal is to send the puck in the adversary team's net.
  • Curling - A team sport using brooms and stones. The object of the game is to slide your stones in a bullseye and get your opponent's stones out of it.
  • Ice climbing - The recreational activity of climbing ice formations such as icefalls and frozen waterfalls.


See also


Further reading

  • Rosenthal, Norman E. (1998). Winter Blues. New York: The Guilford Press. ISBN 1-57230-395-6

External links

winter in Arabic: شتاء
winter in Asturian: Iviernu
winter in Aymara: Autipacha
winter in Belarusian: Зіма
winter in Belarusian (Tarashkevitsa): Зіма
winter in Bosnian: Zima
winter in Bulgarian: Зима
winter in Catalan: Hivern
winter in Czech: Zima
winter in Welsh: Gaeaf
winter in Danish: Vinter
winter in German: Winter
winter in Estonian: Talv
winter in Modern Greek (1453-): Χειμώνας
winter in Erzya: Теле
winter in Spanish: Invierno
winter in Esperanto: Vintro
winter in Basque: Negu
winter in Persian: زمستان
winter in French: Hiver
winter in Friulian: Unvier
winter in Galician: Inverno
winter in Classical Chinese: 冬
winter in Korean: 겨울
winter in Hindi: शीत ऋतु
winter in Croatian: Zima
winter in Indonesian: Musim dingin
winter in Icelandic: Vetur
winter in Italian: Inverno
winter in Hebrew: חורף
winter in Georgian: ზამთარი
winter in Haitian: Livè
winter in Kurdish: Zivistan
winter in Latin: Hiems
winter in Latvian: Ziema
winter in Luxembourgish: Wanter
winter in Lithuanian: Žiema
winter in Hungarian: Tél
winter in Marathi: हिवाळा
winter in Malay (macrolanguage): Musim sejuk
winter in Dutch: Winter
winter in Dutch Low Saxon: Wienter
winter in Japanese: 冬
winter in Norwegian: Vinter
winter in Norwegian Nynorsk: Vinter
winter in Narom: Hivé
winter in Uzbek: Qish
winter in Polish: Zima
winter in Portuguese: Inverno
winter in Romanian: Iarnă
winter in Russian: Зима
winter in Southern Sotho: Mariha
winter in Albanian: Dimri
winter in Sicilian: Mmirnata
winter in Simple English: Winter
winter in Slovak: Zima
winter in Slovenian: Zima
winter in Serbian: Зима
winter in Serbo-Croatian: Zima
winter in Finnish: Talvi
winter in Swedish: Vinter
winter in Thai: ฤดูหนาว
winter in Vietnamese: Mùa đông
winter in Tajik: Зимистон
winter in Turkish: Kış
winter in Ukrainian: Зима
winter in Urdu: موسم سرما
winter in Võro: Talv
winter in Walloon: Ivier
winter in Vlaams: Winter
winter in Yiddish: ווינטער
winter in Contenese: 冬天
winter in Dimli: Zımıstan
winter in Samogitian: Žėima
winter in Chinese: 冬季
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