). Literally “a slope” or
“inclination”; a term used in the mathematical geography of the Greeks
with reference to the inclination of various parts of the earth's surface to the plane of the
equator. Before the globular figure of the earth was known, it was supposed that there was a
general slope of its surface from south to north, and this was called κλίμα
. But as the science of mathematical geography advanced, the word was
applied to different belts of the earth's surface, which were determined by the different
lengths of the longest day at their lines of demarcation. This division into climates was
applied only to the northern hemisphere, as the geographers had no practical knowledge of the
earth south of the equator. The term κλίμα
applied to the temperature of these belts; hence the meaning of the modern word climate.
Hipparchus (about B.C. 160) seems to have been the first who made use of this division; his
system is explained at length by Strabo (ii. p. 132).
The word clima
is found only in the later Latin, the pure Latin term
being inclinatio, declinatio
, or devergentia.