Entries linking to sub-arctic
word-forming element meaning "under, beneath; behind; from under; resulting from further division," from Latin preposition sub "under, below, beneath, at the foot of," also "close to, up to, towards;" of time, "within, during;" figuratively "subject to, in the power of;" also "a little, somewhat" (as in sub-horridus "somewhat rough"), from PIE *(s)up- (perhaps representing *ex-upo-), a variant form of the root *upo "under," also "up from under." The Latin word also was used as a prefix and in various combinations.
In Latin assimilated to following -c-, -f-, -g-, -p-, and often -r- and -m-. In Old French the prefix appears in the full Latin form only "in learned adoptions of old Latin compounds" [OED], and in popular use it was represented by sous-, sou-; as in French souvenir from Latin subvenire, souscrire (Old French souzescrire) from subscribere, etc.
The original meaning is now obscured in many words from Latin (suggest, suspect, subject, etc.). The prefix is active in Modern English, sometimes meaning "subordinate" (as in subcontractor); "inferior" (17c., as in subhuman); "smaller" (18c.); "a part or division of" (c. 1800, as in subcontinent).
late 14c., artik, "of or pertaining to the north pole of the heavens," from Old French artique and directly from Medieval Latin articus, from Latin arcticus, from Greek arktikos "of the north," literally "of the (constellation) Bear," from arktos "bear;" also "Ursa Major; the region of the north," the Bear being the best-known northern circumpolar constellation.
This is from *rkto-, the usual Indo-European root for "bear" (source also of Avestan aresho, Armenian arj, Albanian ari, Latin ursus, Welsh arth). For speculation on why Germanic lost the word, see bear (n.). The -c- was restored from 1550s.
It is attested from early 15c. as "northern;" from 1660s as "cold, frigid." As a noun, with capital A-, "the northern polar regions," from 1560s.
updated on October 10, 2017