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vernal equinox

[ vur-nl ee-kwuh-noks, ek-wuh-noks ]
/ ˈvɜr nl ˈi kwəˌnɒks, ˈɛk wəˌnɒks /
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noun
See under equinox (def. 1).
Also called ver·nal point . the position of the sun at the time of the vernal equinox.
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Origin of vernal equinox

First recorded in 1525–35
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022

MORE ABOUT VERNAL EQUINOX

What and when is the vernal equinox?

The vernal equinox (also called the spring equinox) is one of the two equinoxes—the 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.

The equinoxes occur on these days, but an equinox is not the whole day—it is the moment when the sun is directly above Earth’s equator. The term equinox can also refer to the position of the sun at this moment, and the term vernal equinox can refer to the position of the sun at the moment considered the vernal equinox. This can also be called the vernal point.

The vernal equinox is traditionally considered to mark the start of spring, while the autumnal equinox is considered to mark the start of fall. In the Northern Hemisphere, the vernal equinox occurs in March and the autumnal equinox occurs in September. In the Southern Hemisphere, it’s the reverse.

In contrast, 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). In the Northern Hemisphere, the summer solstice occurs in June and the winter solstice occurs in December. In the Southern Hemisphere, it’s the reverse.

Example: Many ancient cultures marked the vernal equinox with festivals, some of which continue to be observed today.

Where does vernal equinox come from?

The first records of the term vernal equinox come from around 1530. The word vernal means “of or relating to spring.” The word equinox comes from the Latin aequinoctium, meaning “the time of equal days and nights,” from equi-, meaning “equal,” and nocti-, meaning “night.”

An equinox is a moment, not an entire day. Since Earth is in motion, the exact positioning considered an equinox 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 spring and fall similar to how the days of the two solstices are used to mark the beginning of summer and winter.

While the day of an equinox has equal amounts of daylight and darkness, the days on which the solstices occur are known for being the longest and shortest days of the year in terms of daylight. 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 time), reaching an equal amount on the day of the vernal equinox. After the summer solstice, the days start getting shorter (receiving less daylight time), reaching an equal amount again on the autumnal equinox.

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What are some synonyms for vernal equinox?

  • spring equinox

What are some words that share a root or word element with vernal equinox

What are some words that often get used in discussing vernal equinox?

How is vernal equinox used in real life?

The vernal equinox is popularly associated with the first day of spring. It is commonly called the spring equinox.

 

 

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The vernal equinox occurs on the longest day of the year.

How to use vernal equinox in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for vernal equinox

vernal equinox

noun
the time at which the sun crosses the plane of the equator towards the relevant hemisphere, making day and night of equal length. It occurs about March 21 in the N hemisphere (Sept 23 in the S hemisphere)
  1. astronomy the point, lying in the constellation Pisces, at which the sun's ecliptic intersects the celestial equator
  2. the time at which this occurs as the sun travels south to north (March 21)
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 vernal equinox

vernal equinox
[ vûrnəl ]

See under equinox.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
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