Words at Play

A Trick for Dealing with Summer Heat: Estivate

The Summer Equivalent of Hibernate

We all know what hibernate means: to spend the winter sleeping or resting. Bears famously hibernate and wake up hungry in the spring. At a certain point in the winter, many of us may wish we could do the same. And this summer, with the Western part of the U.S. , much of Europe, and India baking under record heat, residents of those locales might wish there was a "summer hibernation." Turns out there is an equivalent term for animals spending the hot summer in a period of rest: estivate.

estivate how animals deal with summer heat

Hibernate comes from the Latin verb hībernāre, which means "to pass the winter." Similarly, estivate is derived from the Latin verb aestīvāre, meaning "to spend the summer." The Latin verbs ultimately come from the words that mean "of winter" or "wintry" and "of the summer," respectively.

Other related words are hibernal ("of or relating to, or occurring in winter") and estival ("of or relating to the summer"); the summer solstice can be referred to as the estival solstice. The place an animal chooses to spend the winter is called a hibernaculum ("a shelter occupied during the winter by a dormant animal").

Hibernation and estivation are similar in that the animal's metabolism slows down and the dormant animal breathes so slowly that it may appear to be dead.

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