Word Traveler: January/Winter words

This feature is for all word lovers as well as those studying for the SAT and seeking to learn new vocabulary.

January is named for Janus, the Roman god of gates and doors and beginnings, who had two faces -- one looking forward to the future and one looking backward at the past. When one is described has being Janus-faced, it means one is "two-faced" or "deliberately deceptive." Janus green is a dye used as a stain in biology experiments.

Brumal is an adjective meaning "belonging to winter; winterlike." Its origin is Latin brumalis from bruma "winter," which is a contraction of brevima "shortest (day), winter." But if something is brumous, it is "foggy, misty," as that adjective derives from French brume "fog" and brume is a synonym for "mist; fog."

Dormant comes from the Latin word dormire "to sleep," and its original meaning was sleeping, literally or figuratively. Dormant and dormancy later were used to describe plants and seeds as well as animals, especially during the winter season.

A hibernacle is a winter retreat or the winter home of a hibernating animal. The word hibernate derives from the Latin terms hibernare "to winter," from hiberna "winter quarters" and hibernus "wintry." Erasmus Darwin, grandfather of Charles Darwin, first used the word in 1802, according to Noah Webster. The word winter comes from an old Germanic word that means "time of water" and refers to the rain and snow - as well as low temperatures - of the season in middle and high latitudes. A winter storm warning indicates that a severe winter storm has started or is about to begin; a winter storm watch means there is a possibility of a winter storm.

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