“Climactic” vs. “Climatic”

There’s nothing worse than getting ensconced in a book that’s building up to a big moment … only to be interrupted and have to put it down before the most exciting part.

Are you missing out on the climatic moment? Or was it the climactic scene that got disturbed before you could read it through?

Although they look and sound alike, these two adjectives are distinctly different. And that extra C is more important than many realize.

What does climactic mean?

The word climactic is the winner in the above situation, as it’s defined as “pertaining to or coming to a climax.” In general, it describes the highest or most intense point in the development or resolution of something.

But when talking about literary or dramatic work specifically, climactic refers to “the crucial and most intense scene, typically that becomes a major turning point in the plot.”

First recorded in 1747 to illustrate the forming of a climax, climactic is thought to follow the model of syntax and syntactic. Syntax, which means “the study of patterns or rules for the formation of grammatical sentences in a language,” is a noun. However the adjective, syntacticwhich first originated around 1570, isn’t just formed by adding a suffix to the root word like many others. Instead, the ending –ctic creates this new adjective. Climactic follows this same pattern.

What does climatic mean?

Climatic on the other hand packs a less exciting punch. Instead of describing a powerful scene or orgasmic moment, this adjective relates to climate. First originating sometime between 1820–30 to “describe a location’s weather over a period of time,” this term can also be used to distinguish that “an ecological phenomena occurred due to climate rather than because of soil or topography.”

How to use each word

Given that these adjectives are completely unrelated and greatly differ in meaning, they can’t be used interchangeably.

If you’re referring to a movie’s climactic scene that nobody saw coming, we bet it was much more exciting than the climatic changes in Florida over the past week.

An actor’s performance during a TV show’s cliffhanger can enhance the climactic twist but it’s the climatic changes across the world that have environmentalists concerned.

Greta Thunberg likely cares more about the climatic impact of global warming than whether or not Harry Potter has a climactic face-off with Lord Voldemort.

Climatic is the perfect choice for something related to weather but remember to swap it for climactic when talking about any big climax—whether personal or literary.

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