Arctic - artic

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Don't confuse Arctic and artic, a word rarely used in academic writing.

  • Arctic is an adjective to describe the area around the North Pole of the earth. The Arctic Circle is the geographers' line drawn on maps to indicate latitude 66° 33′ 44″ N, which is the boundary of the area in which the sun stays above the horizon for whole days, up to six months ('the midnight sun'), at a time in the northern summer, and does not rise at all during the winter (the 'polar night'). (It is similar to the Antarctic, or 'opposite the Arctic', which is the equivalent round the South Pole - but with precisely opposite months of the year; the antarctic winter coincides with the arctic summer.) Careful speakers, particularly of American English, enunciate the '-k-' sound in the middle of Arctic and Antarctic; but it is now becoming standard in British English to omit it, realizing the word as 'artic', IPA: /ˈɑːr tɪk/. This can lead to confusion with artic (below). (Antarctic has a similar double pronunciation.)
    • The usual noun construction for the polar circle in the north is the Arctic, whereas in the south it is Antarctica. (There is no 'Arctica' recorded in OED; the Antarctic certainly is used.) This may be related to the fact that Antarctica is a continent, like Australia, Africa, Asia and America: it is a mass of land, with mountains and valleys, under the mass of snow that has accumulated. The Arctic has no land: it is a body of water with a frozen surface on which snow accumulates - the Arctic Ocean.
Etymological note: the root of Arctic is the Latin arcticus representing the classical Greek ἄρκτικός‚ 'of the Bear'. This refers to the astronomical constellation of the Great Bear (or Plough, or Charles's Wain), the northern ἄρκτός‚ ('bear') known in Latin as Ursa Major. Antarctic simply means 'the opposite of the Arctic'
  • An artic is, colloquially and informally, a common name for an articulated lorry.
Arctic is one of the 117 mis-spellings listed as 'Common difficulties' in the section on 'Spelling' within 'Writing' in UEfAP. Antarctic goes with it.