solstice

[ sol-stis, sohl- ]
/ ˈsɒl stɪs, ˈsoʊl- /

noun

Astronomy.
  1. either of the two times a year when the sun is at its greatest distance from the celestial equator: about June 21, when the sun reaches its northernmost point on the celestial sphere, or about December 22, when it reaches its southernmost point.Compare summer solstice, winter solstice.
  2. either of the two points in the ecliptic farthest from the equator.
a furthest or culminating point; a turning point.

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Origin of solstice

1200–50; < Middle English < Old French < Latin sōlstitium, equivalent to sōl sun + -stit-, combining form of stat-, variant stem of sistere to make stand (see stand) + -ium -ium; see -ice)
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

VOCAB BUILDER

What does solstice mean?

A solstice is one of the two times of the year when the positioning and tilt of Earth relative to the sun results in the most amount of daylight time or the least amount of daylight time in a single day.

There are two solstices during the year: one that occurs around June 20–22 (usually June 20 or 21) and one that occurs around December 20–23 (usually December 21 or 22).

The solstices are traditionally considered to mark the start of summer and winter. But which season begins with each solstice depends on which hemisphere you’re in. In the Northern Hemisphere, the summer solstice occurs in June and the winter solstice occurs in December. In the Southern Hemisphere, it’s the opposite.

The summer solstice results in the longest day of the year, meaning it has the most time of daylight, and the winter solstice results in the shortest day of the year, meaning it has the longest period of darkness.

In contrast, an equinox is one of the two times of the year when the amount of daylight and nighttime hours are just about of equal length. The two equinoxes occur around March 20–21 and September 22–23. In the Northern Hemisphere, the vernal equinox (or spring equinox) occurs in March and the autumnal equinox occurs in September. In the Southern Hemisphere, it’s the opposite.

Example: Many ancient cultures recognized and observed the solstices as times that marked the change of the seasons.

Where does solstice come from?

The first records of the word solstice come from the 1200s. It ultimately derives from the Latin sōlstitium, which comes from the parts sōl, “sun,” and sistere, “to stand still.” This means that sōlstitium literally translates to something like “the standing still of the sun.”

During a solstice, it looks like the sun stands still. Of course, the sun doesn’t actually move in the way it appears to move when it rises, sets, or moves across the sky during the day—this is all due to the motion of Earth. A solstice is really the moment when Earth is tilted as far away from or as close to the sun as it will be all year. This makes the sun appear to be at its farthest northern or southern position relative to Earth—appearing to be directly above either the tropic of Cancer or the tropic of Capricorn.

During the summer solstice, Earth is tilted toward the sun and receives sunlight for the longest time, resulting in the longest day of the year. During the winter solstice, Earth is tilted away from the sun and receives sunlight for the shortest time, resulting in the shortest day of the year. After the winter solstice, the days start getting longer (receiving more daylight hours). After the summer solstice, the days start getting shorter (receiving less daylight hours).

Technically speaking, a solstice is a moment, not an entire day. Since Earth is in motion, the exact positioning considered a solstice only happens for a moment. However, the word is most commonly used to refer to the day on which this happens. On most calendars, these days are used to mark the beginning of summer and winter similar to how the days of the two equinoxes are used to mark the beginning of spring and fall.

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How is solstice used in real life?

Solstices are most commonly discussed and observed as the longest and shortest days of the year and a way to mark the changing of spring to summer and fall to winter.

 

 

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The solstices are typically used to mark the beginning of spring and fall.

Example sentences from the Web for solstice

British Dictionary definitions for solstice

solstice
/ (ˈsɒlstɪs) /

noun

either the shortest day of the year (winter solstice) or the longest day of the year (summer solstice)
either of the two points on the ecliptic at which the sun is overhead at the tropic of Cancer or Capricorn at the summer and winter solstices

Derived forms of solstice

solstitial (sɒlˈstɪʃəl), adjective

Word Origin for solstice

C13: via Old French from Latin sōlstitium, literally: the (apparent) standing still of the sun, from sōl sun + sistere to stand still
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Scientific definitions for solstice

solstice
[ sŏlstĭs, sōl- ]

Either of the two points on the celestial sphere where the ecliptic (the apparent path of the Sun) reaches its greatest distance north or south of the celestial equator.♦ The northernmost point of the Sun's path, called the summer solstice, lies on the Tropic of Cancer at 23°27′ north latitude.♦ The southernmost point of the Sun's path, called the winter solstice, lies on the Tropic of Capricorn at 23°27′ south latitude.
Either of the two corresponding moments of the year when the Sun is directly above either the Tropic of Cancer or the Tropic of Capricorn. The summer solstice occurs on June 20 or 21 and the winter solstice on December 21 or 22, marking the beginning of summer and winter in the Northern Hemisphere (and the reverse in the Southern Hemisphere). The days on which a solstice falls have the greatest difference of the year between the hours of daylight and darkness, with the most daylight hours at the beginning of summer and the most darkness at the beginning of winter. Compare equinox.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Cultural definitions for solstice

solstice
[ (sol-stuhs, sohl-stuhs) ]

The two occasions each year when the position of the sun at a given time of day does not seem to change direction. In the Northern Hemisphere, the summer solstice occurs around June 21 and is the longest day of the year. The sun stops getting higher in the sky, and the days begin to grow shorter. The winter solstice, which occurs around December 21, is the shortest day. The sun stops getting lower in the sky, and the days begin to grow longer.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.