- 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.
- either of the two points in the ecliptic farthest from the equator.
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Words nearby solstice
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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What are some other forms related to solstice?
- solstitial (adjective)
- solstitially (adverb)
What are some words that share a root or word element with solstice?
What are some words that often get used in discussing solstice?
What are some words solstice may be commonly confused with?
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.
Summer solstice at Stonehenge to be broadcast live https://t.co/rOnmxRiWvo
— Stonehenge U.K (@ST0NEHENGE) June 2, 2020
What a beautiful solstice here in the Bahamas… a gentle way to watch the seasons turn. xoxoxo
— Amy Brenneman (@AmyBrenneman) December 22, 2016
Reminder today is the Autumnal equinox (for us southerners) and vernal equinox for those north of the wall.
Autumn/Spring starts today (by some definitions)
We reach the equinox at 2:49PM AEDT (Sydney time) this afternoon and then we head for winter solstice! https://t.co/w4UzVfhPHf
— Rami Mandow 🏳️🌈 (@CosmicRami) March 19, 2020
Try using solstice!
True or False?
The solstices are typically used to mark the beginning of spring and fall.
Example sentences from the Web for solstice
Next, Murillo opens a bottle of their Special Edition, which they distill every six months on the solstice.
As the winter solstice brought the start of the longest night of the year, it also seemed the darkest along West 60th Street.Dmitriy Kanarikov Kills Himself, Son in Fall From New York City Tower|Michael Daly|December 23, 2013|DAILY BEAST
So there we have it—pregnant virgins galore on this happy winter solstice celebration.
Mars enters Gemini, on the Solstice, Tuesday, inspiring lust in/for someone who might be considered too close for comfort.
Jupiter in Taurus makes magical links to Neptune and the Sun on the Summer Solstice, Tuesday.
The death and resurrection of the Solar Hero at or about the vernal equinox is as wide-spread as his birth at the winter solstice.Esoteric Christianity, or The Lesser Mysteries|Annie Besant
More recent research, however, has thrown the gravest doubts upon the existence of any Teutonic festival at the winter solstice.Christmas in Ritual and Tradition, Christian and Pagan|Clement A. Miles
His great festivals were the winter solstice and the Spring equinox (Christmas and Easter).Pagan & Christian Creeds|Edward Carpenter
The Persians used to celebrate a festival of fire called Sada or Saza at the winter solstice.Balder The Beautiful, Vol. I.|Sir James George Frazer
He adds that the stone clearly shows the dates of the vernal and autumnal equinoxes, summer and winter solstice.Mexico|Susan Hale
British Dictionary definitions for solstice
Derived forms of solsticesolstitial (sɒlˈstɪʃəl), adjective
Word Origin for solstice
Scientific definitions for solstice
Cultural definitions for solstice
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.