The weather-related adjective meaning stormy or tempestuous is inclement. If you have been confused about how to pronounce and spell this word, or have seen it spelled as inclimate and thought that was correct, you aren’t alone.
This is a commonly misspelled word that isn’t different enough to cause a lot of confusion, which is why it is often seen spelled wrong (even in major publications!).
But if you want to know the actual difference between inclement vs. inclimate, read on to see how it should be used.
Is it Inclement or Inclimate?
Use inclement, not inclimate. Inclimate is a misspelling of the word inclement. Inclement is an adjective used to help describe poor or bad weather, which is why many people misspell it using the word climate with the prefix -in, which means no, or not.
Origin and Definition of Inclement
Like most words, we can trace the origin back to Latin roots, later adapted into either Middle English or French. The original Latin forms, inclementia and inclemens, means rigor, harshness, or roughness, and harsh or unmerciful, respectfully.
In the 17th century, the French began using inclémence taken directly from Latin to mean state or character of being harsh or unmerciful. The English version, inclements, has changed very little from the original and is usually used to help describe weather that is less than ideal.
In fact, to use the word inclement concerning severe weather is to suggest one might wish to avoid being outside.
Inclements can also be used to describe other situations or people that are unkind or unmerciful. For example, one might describe a person as having inclement behaviors.
The opposite of inclement is the much rarer clement, meaning mild or gentle, which comes from a Latin word with the same meaning.
Considering the use of the prefix -in, then, inclement could mean not mild or not gentle. Incidentally, clement is also the root of clemency, meaning mildness or leniency.
Inclement can be easily interchanged with the following synonyms, which can come in handy when you want to be more specific about the type of adverse weather you are describing or how a person is behaving.
Brutal, harsh, and violent are all words that can be used for both weather and people, while hard, raw, rough, stormy, or wintery are more specific to adding detail to poor outside conditions.
Why Inclement is Misspelled
The first use of inclimate as a misspelling of inclement shows up in the early 1800s. The addition of the prefix in- is one of several prefixes we attach to adjectives to make their opposites.
For example, decent becomes indecent, articulate becomes inarticulate, and credible becomes incredible. But climate is not an adjective and doesn’t have an opposite, so inclimate would have no logical meaning.
Although many people misspell the word as inclimate, making it a well-recognized and understood current usage, it is not considered an acceptable form, nor is it recognized within any dictionaries.
Examples of Inclimate and Inclement in a Sentence
In these sentences, the questionable inclimate would bear replacement with the standard and long-established inclement.
With inclimate weather and Spring Break altering the schedules, many teams, including Tecumseh, had less than five days of practice. [Adrian Daily Telegram]
Wind and other inclimate weather conditions will also make the gym a better venue for the event. [Marion County Record]
[A]t times they received a bad wrap due to bizarrely inclimate weather and an unfortunate piece of judgment regarding a ticketing snafu that impacted a few hundred fans. [Forbes]
(That disastrous Forbes sentence also uses bad wrap in place of bad rap.)
And these writers use inclement properly:
She climbed Horseshoe Ridge in distinctly inclement conditions. [Telegraph]
We’ll be back to dreary rain in no time, so don’t pack away your inclement weather gear just yet. [Washington Post]
Anticipating inclement weather, GOP officials in Maine’s Washington County postponed their Saturday caucus for a week. [Wall Street Journal]
Inclement generally refers to unpleasant weather, although it can also be used to describe less than ideal behaviors in a person. To use the misspelling, inclimate, is incorrect and should be avoided.