What does ‘estival’ mean?

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

Increase your vocabulary and you’ll make your writing much more precise. That’s why I provide a word of the week. Today’s word: estival…

To me the word estival looks like a typo. Didn’t they mean festival and just forget the F?

But, no, it’s a word in itself as I learned from reading the novel The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon. Here is how Kwon used it in her text:

In the estival heat, he set his back against the cold stone of a tomb.

From context, I could discern it was an adjective. But what did it mean? Sweltering? Brutal? Overwhelming? I didn’t have a clue!

Turns out it’s far less specific than any of my guesses. Estival simply means “of or relating to summer.”

The word is Latin in origin tracing back to aestas, which means “summer,” or more literally, “the hot season.”  This root is also the source of the verb estivate, meaning to spend the summer in a torpid state.

Festival also comes from Latin, but it has a different and unrelated root. It comes from festivus, a term meaning “festive” or “merry.” As you might guess, festivus is also the ancestor of “festive” and “festivity.”

An earlier version of this post first appeared on my blog on Feb. 20/19.

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