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cli·​mac·​ter·​ic klī-ˈmak-t(ə-)rik How to pronounce climacteric (audio)
: constituting or relating to a climacteric


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: a major turning point or critical stage
: the marked and sudden rise in the respiratory rate of fruit just prior to full ripening

Did you know?

Climacteric comes from the Greek word klimaktēr, meaning "critical point" or, literally, "rung of a ladder." English speakers have long used climacteric for those inevitable big moments encountered on the metaphorical ladder of life. The major climacterics in a person’s life were once thought to happen in years denoted by multiples of 7 or 9 or only in the odd multiples of 7 (7, 21, 35, etc.). The grand (or great) climacteric was held to occur in the 63rd (7 x 9) or the 81st (9 x 9) year of life. Today, climacteric can refer to male or female menopause, which typically occurs between the ages of 45 and 55, but the general "turning point" sense is not usually tied to a specific age.

Examples of climacteric in a Sentence

Adjective as the war reached its climacteric phase, the atrocities dramatically increased, both in number and brutality Noun historians attempting to pinpoint the Roman Empire's climacteric, that precise moment when it began its long downhill slide
Recent Examples on the Web
For this reader, roughly the same age as Sam Raymond, there is uncommon pleasure in the paradoxes of this climacteric tale. Claire Messud, Harper's Magazine, 22 June 2021 Macerating unripe climacteric fruit in sugar, however, isn’t a substitute for ripening them; that just takes time in your kitchen counter’s fruit basket. Bill St. John, The Denver Post, 8 May 2017
These are called climacteric, and will respond to the presence of ethylene by producing more ethylene. Becky Krystal, Washington Post, 31 May 2022

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'climacteric.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



Latin climactericus, from Greek klimaktērikos, from klimaktēr critical point, literally, rung of a ladder, from klimak-, klimax ladder

First Known Use


1582, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1633, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of climacteric was in 1582


Dictionary Entries Near climacteric

Cite this Entry

“Climacteric.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Oct. 2023.

Medical Definition


1 of 2 adjective
: constituting or characterized by the climacteric
the climacteric state


2 of 2 noun
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