Happy Summer Solstice, NoHem!

Today is the summer solstice for the northern hemisphere — a consequence of the geometry of the sphere-with-a-tilted-axis that we call home in our solar system.  Today the sun will reach its highest point in the sky at (solar) noon, marking the longest day of the year for us northerners.  (And just the opposite for those in the southern hemisphere.)

In northern latitudes above the Tropic of Cancer, the sun is always a little to the south of directly overhead, even at high noon.  Not surprisingly, there is a possible connection between the Germanic base form *sunnan (sun) and words in the various Germanic languages that mean south, e.g., Old English suð, Old Norse suðr, Icelandic suthor, Swedish soeder.   Old English suð meant ‘southward, in the direction of the south’,  or perhaps ‘in the region of the sun’.

During the long, dark winters of New England, experiencing serious photon deprivation, I find myself tracking the sun’s movements through the short days.  It seems quite natural to associate south with sun during those frigid months.  🙂

The summer solstice is also referred to as midsummer’s eve — the calendar date for observance of this ancient holiday varies by a few days across cultures, falling somewhere between June 21 and June 24.  Weather-wise, late June does feel as though summer has been underway for a while, i.e., it seems like ‘the middle of summer’.  However, the summer solstice marks the beginning of astronomical summer (which ends on the autumnal equinox).

Whatever name you choose to refer to this time by, if you’re in the north, enjoy the lingering light this evening!

This entry was posted in etymology, word meaning, Word Usage and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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