Word of the Day: Climacteric
cli-mac-ter-ic / klī-măk-tər-ĭk, klī-măk-tĕr-ĭk
1. critical; extremely important
It is no cliché to argue that the terrorist attack that befell the United States in September 2001 was a climacteric event, a watershed in the post–Cold War world.
Myron A. Greenberg, “Book Review – A New Disorder”, ‘Naval War College Review’, Volume 56, Number 1: Winter, Article 14
2. able to continue ripening after harvest, due to the production of ethylene
Fruits such as pears and peaches are climacteric, so you don’t have to worry about buying a hard peach because it will ripen given enough time.
Corina Abell, “Ripening 101: Climacteric vs. Non-Climacteric Fruits”, ‘Food & Nutrition’, www.foodandnutrition.org/blogs/student-scoop/ripening-101-climacteric-vs-non-climacteric-fruits, April 6, 2017
1. a critical period or happening
Higher education in the United States is entering a great climacteric–a period of uncertainty, of conflict, of confusion, of potential change.
“Destiny – Not So Manifest”, Address prepared for the National Conference on Higher Education, Clark Kerr, 1911 – 2003
2. in some philosophies, a year in a person’s life when a great change is thought to occur with their health, finances, etc., often occurring in multiples of 7 years
A month from this day, if I live to see the completion of it, will place me on the wrong (perhaps it would be better to say, on the advanced) side of my grand climacteric; and altho’ I have no cause to complain of the want of health, I can religiously aver that no man was ever more tired of public life, or more devoutly wished for retirement, than I do.
Letter from George Washington to Edmund Pendleton, January 22, 1795
3. menopause, the period when a woman’s menstruation ends naturally and permanently, usually between the ages of 45 and 55
The menopause, also called the climacteric, and in common language “change of life,” is the period at which woman ceases to menstruate. “Woman” by William J. Robinson, 1867 – 1936
4. a period in a man’s life that corresponds to menopause, marked by decreased reproductive capacity; andropause
The male climacteric is that transitional phase of adult life, usually appearing in the middle and late forties.
Robert J. Douglas, “The Male Climacteric: Its Diagnosis and Treatment”, ‘Journal of Urology’, March 1941
5. the period when certain fruit ripens, marked by an increased rate of respiration
Apples intended for storage will be harvested at the beginning of the climacteric but before full ripeness develops.
Terence Bradshaw, “Tree Fruit: Horticulture – Harvest and Postharvest Considerations in Vermont Apple Orchards”, www.uvm.edu/~orchard/fruit/treefruit/tf_horticulture/AppleHortBasics/harvestpostharvest.html, accessed July 26, 2021
As a noun and adjective, through the Latin adjective climactericus, climacterica, climactericum (pertaining to a crisis, critical), a transliteration of the Greek adjective klimakterikos, klimakterika, kimakterikon of the same meaning, which is a combination of the stem of the Greek masculine noun klimakter, klimakteros (rung of a ladder, critical point) and the Greek adjectival suffix -ikos, -ika, -ikon (belonging to, related to, pertaining to).
Thank you to Allen Ward for providing this etymology.