sol·​stice | \ ˈsäl-stəs How to pronounce solstice (audio) , ˈsōl-, ˈsȯl- \

Definition of solstice

1 : either of the two points on the ecliptic at which its distance from the celestial equator is greatest and which is reached by the sun each year about June 21 and December 21
2 : the time of the sun's passing a solstice which occurs about June 21 to begin summer in the northern hemisphere and about December 21 to begin winter in the northern hemisphere

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Did You Know?

In the Northern Hemisphere, the summer solstice occurs on June 21 or 22 and the winter solstice on December 21 or 22. In the Southern Hemisphere, where the seasons are reversed, the solstices are exactly the opposite. For several days around the time of the solstices, the sun's appearance on the horizon at sunrise and sunset seems to occur at the same spot, before it starts drifting to the north or south again. Solstice gets its shine from sol, the Latin word for "sun." The ancients added sol to -stit- ("standing") and came up with solstitium. Middle English speakers shortened solstitium to solstice in the 13th century.

Examples of solstice in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The winter solstice, which marks the first day of winter and the day with the shortest period of daylight each year, takes place at 11:19 p.m. Saturday., "As winter officially begins, no snow is in the forecast in Boston area - The Boston Globe," 21 Dec. 2019 The official first day of winter, the winter solstice, isn’t until Saturday — and the traditional wettest periods of the season remain ahead. Tom Stienstra,, "High water levels promise banner year for lake-based recreation," 16 Dec. 2019 The winter solstice, which officially marks the beginning of winter, will occur at 9:19 p.m. on Dec. 21. John Meyer, The Know, "The weather’s perfect for gazing at the last full moon of the decade tonight," 11 Dec. 2019 The weather forecast had warned of snow and temperatures as low as 30 degrees Fahrenheit on the summer solstice, the unofficial first day of summer. Douglas Main, National Geographic, "It’s snowing in Yellowstone—on the first day of summer.," 21 June 2019 While the customs vary between Asian cultures, the holiday marks the beginning of a new year on the second new moon after the winter solstice. Kristin Lam, USA TODAY, "Lunar New Year 2020: What are the traditions, and which Asian cultures celebrate it?," 26 Jan. 2020 For those of you who aren’t familiar with the annual holiday, the Lunar New Year, also known as the Chinese New Year or the Spring Festival, spans the 15-day period of the second new moon after the winter solstice. Eliza Huber,, "The Lunar New Year Is Fashion’s Favorite Holiday," 24 Jan. 2020 Saturday is the winter solstice — or, in other words, the first day of winter. oregonlive, "Winter officially begins Saturday. It’s also the shortest day of the year.," 20 Dec. 2019 On a December afternoon, 13 days before the winter solstice, six men and women checked into the Surrey Clinical Research Facility, part of the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom. Jon Cohen, Science | AAAS, "Why do dozens of diseases wax and wane with the seasons—and will COVID-19?," 13 Mar. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'solstice.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of solstice

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for solstice

Middle English, from Latin solstitium, from sol sun + -stit-, -stes standing; akin to Latin stare to stand — more at solar, stand

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The first known use of solstice was in the 14th century

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Last Updated

23 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Solstice.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 May. 2020.

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More Definitions for solstice


How to pronounce solstice (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of solstice

: one of the two times during the year when the sun is farthest north or south of the equator


sol·​stice | \ ˈsäl-stəs How to pronounce solstice (audio) , ˈsōl-, ˈsȯl- \

Kids Definition of solstice

: the time of the year when the sun passes overhead the farthest north ( summer solstice , about June 22) or south ( winter solstice , about December 22) of the equator

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More from Merriam-Webster on solstice

Spanish Central: Translation of solstice

Nglish: Translation of solstice for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of solstice for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about solstice

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