An Introduction to the Word Climate

Definitions and Examples in a Sentence

   1. (noun) a region of the earth having specific climatic conditions

I have lived in an arid climate my entire life, so when I visited the rainforest, I was shocked at how green the landscape was.

   2. a. (noun) the average course or condition of the weather at a place usually over a period of years as exhibited by temperature, wind velocity and precipitation

Florida’s warm, sunny and humid climate attracts visitors all year-round, especially those from northern U.S. states and Canada who are trying to escape the cold and snow of the winter months.

       b. (noun) the prevailing set of conditions (as of temperature and humidity) indoors

Normally I preferred to have the windows open with fresh air blowing through, but on especially hot days in the middle of summer, I was grateful for the cool, dry air conditioning of my climate-controlled office.

   3. (noun) the prevailing influence or environmental conditions characterizing a group or period

After a particularly divisive and close election, the political climate of the country was tense. 

The professor always tried to foster a positive climate in her classroom where students felt safe to express themselves and share their ideas.

Origin and Usage Through Time

Relative frequency of the usage of the word climate between the years 1500 and 2019 (from Google Books Ngram Viewer).

  • The word “climate” has its roots in Greek, originally stemming from the word “klinein,” meaning to lean. Ancient geographers believed that the world could be divided into seven distinct zones (sometimes simplified to five zones; below) based on the slope or inclination of the northern celestial pole as one moved north from the equator. The Greek word “klima” refers to inclination, slope or latitude, so these zones were called “klimata.”

The simplified system of five climate zones devised by Aristotle: two frigid zones near each of the poles, two temperate zones at the mid-latitudes, and one torrid zone around the equator (from Means, 2019).

  • The Greek “klima” lent itself to the Late Latin “clima,” which Middle French took and turned into “klimat.” “Klimat” became “climate” in Middle English, which has been carried in this form into Modern English. 
  • “Climate” was used for over 100 years to refer to latitudinal zones (map below) before it started to be associated with weather conditions by 1600 CE. Once the word was applied to weather, it quickly also took on different meanings, such as being a synonym for atmosphere in the non-literal sense, as in mental or moral atmosphere.
    • One of the earliest examples of such use of the word is from 1646 when John Clarke wrote in Leaven, Corrupting the Children’s Bread, “….the Meridian of those Primitive-Church times; yet may, doth, without much observable difference, serve generally for great Britain, and the Climate of our English Church and State….”

Map of the world showing the latitudinal distribution of the current main climate zones (from RStudio Community, 2020).


  • Physical Climate
    • Air (noun) – the mixture of invisible odorless tasteless gases that surrounds the earth or the equivalent mix of gases on another planet 
    • Atmosphere (noun) – the gaseous envelope of a celestial body; the air of a locality
  • Mental/Moral Climate
    • Air (noun) – a surrounding or pervading influence 
    • Ambience (noun) – a feeling or mood associated with a particular place, person or thing 
    • Aroma (noun) – a distinctive quality or atmosphere 
    • Atmosphere (noun) – a surrounding influence or environment 
    • Aura (noun) – a distinctive atmosphere surrounding a given source 
    • Mood (noun) – a conscious state of mind or predominant emotion; a prevailing attitude 
    • Patina (noun) – an appearance or aura that is derived from association, habit or established character
    • Tone (noun) – a general character, quality or trend; a frame of mind

Words Related to or Including Climate

  • Acclimate (verb) – to adapt (someone) to a new temperature, altitude, climate, environment or situation 
  • Climate change (noun) – a change in the climate of the Earth 
    • Modern use of the word climate is often paired with the word change, specifically global warming
    • The term climate change has been used since the 1850s but has only become popular in recent decades 
  • Climate-controlled (adjective) – having or providing artificial control of air temperature, humidity and movement 
  • Climate denial (noun) – rejection of the idea that changes in the Earth’s climate or weather patterns are caused by human activity  
  • Climatize (verb) – to acclimate 
  • Climatograph/climograph (noun) – a graphic representation of the relation of two climatic elements (as temperature and humidity) plotted at monthly intervals throughout the year
  • Climatology (noun) – the science that deals with climates and their phenomena 
  • Climature (noun) – region; climatic conditions
    • This word has become obsolete  
  • Climatype (noun) – a population of a species that survives as a distinct group in a climate different from the rest of the species and that is comparable to a taxonomic subspecies 
  • Climax (noun) – the point of highest dramatic tension or a major turning point in the action of a play, story or other literary composition
    • Also comes from the Greek “klinein”
  • Clime (noun) – synonym for climate
  • Microclimate (noun) – the essentially uniform local climate of a usually small site or habitat

Climactic vs. Climatic 

  • Climactic (adjective) – of or relating to something that forms a climax
  • Climatic (adjective) – of or relating to climate

Examples of Translation Into Various World Languages

Language Translation Pronunciation
Germanic Languages:

  • Danish
  • German 
  • Norwegian

Slavic Languages:

  • Bosnian
  • Croatian
  • Serbian
klima klee-ma 
Romance Languages: 

  • Italian 
  • Latin 
  • Portuguese 
  • Spanish
clima klee-ma
Slavic Languages:

  • Bulgarian 
  • Russian
Климат klee-mut 
Arabic  مناخ mun-agh
Chinese 气候 chee-ho
Czech podnebí pod-neh-bee
Dutch klimaat klee-mat
Finnish ilmasto il-mas-to
French climat klee-ma
Greek κλίμα klee-ma
Hebrew אקלים a-kleem
Hindi आबोहवा abu-hva
Hungarian éghajlat ee-khi-dat
Japanese 気候 ch-go
Korean 기후 ki-vhu
Polish klimat klee-mat
Romanian climă klee-ma
Slovakian klíma klee-ma
Swedish klimat klee-mot
Turkish iklim ee-kleem
Ukrainian Клімат klee-mut
Vietnamese khí-hậu hee-how

References and additional resources