It refers to the blasting of plants by the sun during high summer. Etymologically, it’s the result of being struck by a star, as it comes from the Greek astron (as in astronomy and many other words), plus bolis, a missile (which is also the source of bolide).
The star is Sirius, the dog star; because it rises and sets with the sun during summer in the northern hemisphere, it has lent its name to dog days for the hottest part of the year in places north of the equator. The dog days are those from about the middle of July to the middle of August (though the exact dates vary depending on where you live).
The thought behind astrobolism is connected to the old idea that this period of summer is under a malign influence, in which dogs run mad, the air is unwholesome, sunstroke is common, and all useful works stagnate for want of effort.
It was first recorded in Nathaniel Bailey’s Dictionary, dated 1721. Apart from very occasional appearances in other reference works, it has had almost no circulation at all.
Search World Wide Words
Recently added pieces
Boot and trunk; Zoilism; Fish-faced; Poach; Immensikoff; Habiliments; The Sense of Style by Steven Pinker; Agister; The Word at War; Not so green as you’re cabbage-looking; Peely-wally; Draw a line in the sand; Porphyrogeniture; Set one’s cap at; Epicaricacy; Furthest and farthest; Hide one’s light under a bushel; Jentacular.
Support World Wide Words!
Donate via PayPal. Select your currency from the list and click Donate.
Buy from Amazon and get me a small commission at no cost to you. Select your preferred site and click Go!