One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1Designating the uppermost mountain zone in which regular plant growth is still possible, immediately below the permanent snow line.
2Existing, living, or carried out underneath snow; = subnivean.
Mid 19th century; earliest use found in Hewett Watson (1804–1881), botanist and phrenologist. From sub- + nival, after German subnival, itself after post-classical Latin subnivalis.
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