The season we call fall was once referred to simply as “harvest” to reflect the time when farmers gathered their crops for winter storage, roughly between August and November. Astronomically, the season lasts from the end of the September until December, between the autumnal equinox and the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. (Want to learn more about the difference between a solstice and an equinox? Find out here.) The word harvest comes from the Old Norse word haust meaning “to gather or pluck.” In the early 1600s as more people started moving into cities, the word harvest fell out of use. Instead, city dwellers began to use the phrase “fall of the leaf” to refer to the third season of the year when trees lose their leaves. The word “fall” comes from the Old English word feallan which means “to fall or to die.” Over time, the phrase was shortened to fall. “Fall of the leaf” is a little clunky to use in common parlance.
Surprisingly, we don’t really know where the word “autumn” comes from. It was used as far back at the 1300s (by Chaucer), and Shakespeare often used the word, as in Midsummer Night’s Dream when one character describes the cycle of the year, “The spring, the summer, the childing autumn, angry winter.” However, etymologists have not determined its precise origin.
As English spread to the New World, the common season names split as well. The use of the word “fall” fell out of favor in England. Today, American English uses the word “fall” while British English uses “autumn” almost exclusively. Fall provides a nice foil to its opposite season, spring, and gives us the helpful reminder, “Spring ahead, fall back,” when we get confused about our clocks on daylight savings. (Want to learn more about daylight savings? Read here!)
Hurray for Fall/Autumn!
Interesting information, gentlemen. Fall is upon us indeed! Then before we know it we will be entering Holiday 2011.
Haha ! very interesting! way 2 go shakespear…….
Amazing!!!! Do we still use the word, autumn?
weird but cool…
No matter what you call it, fall/autumn is my favorite season!
Autumn is a much better word to use than Fall, what teh heck is fall.
Autumn is a much better word to use than Fall, what the heck is fall.
i just got 5 new funfacts
Daylight is non-physical and evanescent. It is impossible to store it in any manner or container. Savings is a noun which refers to a quantifiable amount, something which daylight can never be. Saving is a gerund referring to an action, in this case, the retaining of more time with daylight in it, by changing the clocks. The correct spelling and usage of the word is without the S. It is Daylight Saving Time!
Autumn, -tumn, -tumn, -tumn, -tumn!
Here we call it autumn since I live in Australia.
Besides, since I’m Australian it’s spring at the moment…
hm… I am European and of course, we say “autumn”. I think it is a lot more romantic. “Fall” is short and ugly. Sorry. It smacks of negativity.
But thanks all the same for your articles, I read them every day,
.Autumn sounds a little nicer and fall can sound av little depressing if you think about it but I still like fall because falling of the leaves make sense.
A) The article says autumn is astronomically the time between the solstices. Actually it’s the time between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice.
B) Kentucky farm folks often use the phrases “fall of the year” and “spring of the year” but they don’t do that with summer and winter. As in: “It was in the fall of the year when that last flood came.”
I like Fall because Fall reflects what’s actually going on in nature – in temperate climates – leaves falling. Autumn sound like someone trying to sound high-falutin’ (wherever that phrase came from…).
“Astronomically, the season lasts from the end of the September until December, between the solstices”
Only in the Northern Hemisphere as Melody pointed out.
Autumnal every time.
I like Fall best of all! There are three things I like about fall: the orange leaves, football and pumpkin pie! May favorite thing is coming home from work in the fall. I order my wife to turn on the dining room chandelier which gives off a cozy incandescent warm glow, and I force her to light fragrant pumpkin spice candles. That way, when I drive up to the house, I can see the warm glow, and come inside and smell the happy smell! Pumpkin pie keeps me fat, tho. My wife still thinks I’m good looking because I look like a bird. All the “hott” guys nowadays look like a bird. My wife also says I look like terminator 2, except with a gutt, of course LOL
[...] goes before the Fall” As does Summer, Spring and so on — When the Autumn Leaves are falling — We hear the [...]
Ahhh, Autumn!!! I love the season because of colour (and aroma of abundant fruits and vegs). And not forgetting John Keat’s “Ode to Autuman.” (For all the above reason it’s my favourite season too Jo Ann.)
It is possible that the term Autumn is from French: autompne Old French while Modern French is automne, though the original root is autumnus, Latin according to Wikipedia.com, as understood)
Thank you as usual bringing up a very intersting subject.
That’s interesting frockney, and it makes perfect sense. It’s a completely different word to you. One’s associations with a word color our perception of the sounds of the word itself. For you the word “fall” is ugly and short, while to me it’s beautiful and elegant.
We have so many homonyms with the same spelling in our language, we’re almost unaware of them. We have totally different associations for each word. When we hear “to bear a burden” or “bear children”, the big scary animal in the woods never comes into our minds at all (no offense to anyone out there worried about Bear Children right now.) For Americans, “fall” is like the word “bear” or “train”. When using it in context, the other words never come to mind. For the Brits, however, “fall” as a season is not a word in their dialect, so the brain may associate it with the “fall” they know.
Oh come on Frockney. Of course it’s not romantic. America is not one of those countries known for its romance, its known for being rustic. And you gotta admit, “fall” is much more rustic.
interesting….it is my favorite season and i believe i like autumn better than fall..
Autumn/Fall is between the autumnal *equinox* and the winter solstice *NOT* between the two solstices.
Well, ‘autumn’ is so much more romantic and beautiful, even the sound of the word is elegant. On the other hand, ‘fall’ is much more practical and sort of utilitarian. I can undestand why Europe would choose ‘autumn’ and America would go for ‘fall’. How about this: ‘Spring forward, autumn back.’ It just would not do the trick, would it?
Luckily there will be no more idiotic daylight savings for us in Russia! Yeay!
Autumn, my favourite time of year… I don’t really use the term ‘Fall’ I think Autumn sounds much more eerie and romantic…
America is not one of those countries known for its romance? Are you kidding? Wow, that’s probably one of the silliest things I’ve heard….well…ever.
@Paul (Picky Astronomer) and Geobie
“Astronomically, the season lasts from the end of the September until December, between the autumnal equinox and the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere.”
What are you reading?
I <3 fall/autumn
I’ve always wondered why autumn was called autumn…Fall,because of the meaning of the word,makes sense…But why is autumn called autumn?When will we find out,if we do?
Thank you. Really really interesting and fitting the time of the year.
@Lenny: the article has been edited since the previous comments about equinox, solstices, etc…
In America, Autumn is a fairly popular name. Wouldn’t it be weird if we used “Autumn” more than “Fall?” Imagine those poor confused little girls…
I prefer the word “Autumn”; it seems more mysterious and inclusive than the more literal word “Fall”. I think the season is as much about the leaves changing colour as it is about them falling to the ground.
Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter each consist of six letters, which, in some small way, gives them a sense of unity.
I thought Autumn was a French word coming to English via the Normans? What do the French call fall?
Weird! I ALWAYS say Autumn. I hate the name “Fall” for Autumn. Autumn just sounds so much more elegant, regal, and graceful. It fits the description of autumn for me.
already knew that
Awesome this is perfect weather for some nice hot hot chilli the more spicy the better!! Also my other favorite is Tamales this is the time of year to start making them!!
I like the way autumn sounds, so smooth and somewhat seeming to glide. Autumn always reminds of fresh air and beautiful fall colors.
I like fall too. To me, just because it’s short and simple doesn’t mean it’s a pleasant word. Fall fits in the description of the season, with leaves always falling to the ground. Fall is a word full of autumn symbolism
Perfect time of year to cook some Hot Spicy Texas Chilli and some Tamales my favorite comfort food!!
However, spring is my favorite season. It has a little bit of every season: the winter snow at the beginning of spring, the autumn fresh air throughout this season, and the summer flowers and sun at the end.
I wonder if spring has another name and what the origin is? I’m pretty sure they already have an article about that, or will create one. Furthermore, why is a season called a season? Why is there something called seasoning; does that relate to seasons some way?
@Lenny: I think the Dictionary article writers modified that, that’s why so many people are saying something about “between solstices”.
I thank Dictionary for the “Spring forward, fall backward” quote. I am always so confused about Daylight Savings Time. Thank you very much, Dictionary.com people. [;
the word “autumn” came from Old French autumpne, from Latin (Etruscan) autumnus
This is interesting and all, but your own website disagrees with you. From the dictionary.com entry on “autumn” (under Word Origin & History):
late 14c., from O.Fr. autumpne, from L. autumnus (also auctumnus, perhaps infl. by auctus “increase”), a word probably of Etruscan origin. But Tucker suggests a meaning “drying-up season” and a root in *auq- (which would suggest the form in -c- was the original) and compares archaic Eng. sere-month “August.”
Harvest was the Eng. name for the season until autumn began to displace it 16c. In Britain, the season is popularly August through October; in U.S., September through November. Cf. It. autunno, Sp. otoño, Port. outono, all from the Latin word. Unlike the other three seasons, its names across the IE languages leave no evidence that there ever was a common word for it. Many “autumn words mean “end, end of summer,” or “harvest.” Cf. also Lith. ruduo “autumn,” from rudas “reddish,” in ref. to leaves; O.Ir. fogamar, lit. “under-winter.”
I don’t really think fall is ‘ugly’, as many of you Europeans are saying. I think it describes the season much better and sounds better, but that’s probably just because I’m American and have come to relate the word ‘fall’ with red, yellow, and gold leaves and football (American, not Soccer).
Didn’t Autumn come from Latin?
i say Autumn coz i live in Australia and i like saying autumn coz fall does sound depressing and its too short and it sounds plain BORING! no offence americans but i love saying autumn!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (fall sux)
I’m Chinese, as I remember it was autumn that we learned in Junior high school, so it is British English which is taught and learnt in China, but actually I like American English more because of the accent.
Thank you for the information. I always wondered why do they call fall and autumn and now I know the reason, all the thanks goes to you.
P/S: Autumn sounds better than Fall.
The word Autumn probably comes from the Latin word autumnu(m).
In Italian it’s called Autunno, very similar.
Just like most of our English words used today, they have latin roots.
As a Brit, I use Autumn exclusively. I like the practicality of ‘Fall’ but does it have an derivitive adjective as does Autumn? Autumnal is a beautiful word and evocative of orange, red and golden leaves.
Autumn comes from Latin autumnus (also auctumnus), auctus and annus (increase and year) with roots from Etruscan and Greek.
As an Englishman, I never heard the word FALL for the third season until American telly introduced it to me. I have to say I like it, because it conjures up idyllic images of a New England autumn full of colourful leaves that I’ve never actually seen except in my imagination!
As for the word autumn, I prefer it because of its mellow sound. It sounds exactly like autumn should be: quiet, peaceful, fading light, ripening fruit and leaves turning a thousand shades of gold, red and brown.
Of course, where I live in Cornwall, right on the Atlantic coast, autumn is very rarely quiet. We have some terrific storms blasting out the farthest toe of my island with gale force winds that shake the very trees around us.
I always assumed that ‘fall’ was an American invention, and ‘autumn’ was the older word. But this seems to be saying that Americans kept saying ‘fall’ while Britain changed to ‘autumn’.
Actually, the Latin word for fall is Autumnus, Autumni, I think. I took Latin for a few years in high school, and that’s one of the only words I remember.
Fall back? End daylight savings, please. It doesn’t save anything. The day is what it is, the daylight period shortens equally at the start and end in the winter and noon should be when the sun is directly over head not an hour sooner or later. It costs billions of man hours to change all the electronic clocks we have. This would be my first act in Congress if elected.
How can you say the origin of autumn is not known?
In Latin, it’s autumnus (I think). In French it’s automne, in Spanish it’s otoño and and in Italian it’s autunno. It’s clearly taken from Latin family of languages.
I am British and almost exclusively use Autumn. However, I much prefer the American usage Fall. I think it is in fact more romantic and evocative. And another thing, I prefer it because it is an Anglo-Saxon word not a meaningless borrowing from French (where Autumn is believed to originate) – we have far too many French words in Modern English, more than the Old English wordstock! So, I wholeheartily back the American usage – Fall all the way!
Just to be clear, the word “harvest” in English is NOT derived from an Old Norse word as you claim. It came directly into Old English via Proto-Germanic (via Indo-European). It’s etymology is quite clear, and it is not a borrowing (though Old Norse, as well as the modern Germanic languages all have cognates): IE *kerp- > PG *χarbistaz (later *harbistaz)/*χarbustan > OE hærfest > harvest. Old Norse “haust(r)” is simply another cognate, like Old Saxon “hervist”, OHG “herbist” (modern “Herbst”), Dutch “herfst”.
I always teach my students Autumn rather than Fall, simply because it’s a part of the more universal system of English. The same goes for Petrol rather than Gas. Or nappies rather than diapers.
I’m not against American-English, it’s a valid facet of the language. Each to their own.
But when I ask my students if they want British English or American English, they’re usually quite quick to swear fealty to HRH the queen.
I honestly think that fall isn’t an ugly name, but still, autumn is prettier.
When I think fall, though, I think of beautiful colorful trees, and the same thing comes to mind with autumn.
I like to use both “Fall” and “Autumn” but whenever I say “Autumn” people act like they never even heard it before.
Fall is by far the Best season!
As far as the autumn/fall debate goes however I think that while autumn is more romantic and whimsical, fall is what we here in America have all grown up with. when your parents and grandparents, friends and family say fall, it becomes more homey and less about what sounds more refined but about what makes you feel happier and warmer inside.
Do Americans ever use the word ‘Autumn’? Brits never use the word ‘fall’.
I thought it was Spring back (from a snake)
and Fall forward (when drunk)
or does that confuses matters.
As far as daylight saving goes, I think the old Indian said it best when he remarked that only the government would cut off the bottom of a blanket and sew it to the top of the same blanket thinking it will make a bigger blanket.
In my alternative history/universe ‘fall of the leaf’ became ‘falleaf’ in England and, eventually Websterized, ‘faleaf’ in America. In England it was pronounced ‘FA-luf’ and in America ‘FAWL-eef’.
late 14c., autumpne (modern form from 16c.), from O.Fr. autumpne, automne (13c.), from L. autumnus (also auctumnus, perhaps influenced by auctus “increase”), of unknown origin. Perhaps from Etruscan, but Tucker suggests a meaning “drying-up season” and a root in *auq- (which would suggest the form in -c- was the original) and compares archaic English sere-month “August.” Harvest was the English name for the season until autumn began to displace it 16c. In Britain, the season is popularly August through October; in U.S., September through November. Cf. It. autunno, Sp. otoño, Port. outono, all from the Latin word. Unlike the other three seasons, its names across the IE languages leave no evidence that there ever was a common word for it. Many “autumn” words mean “end, end of summer,” or “harvest.” Cf. also Lith. ruduo “autumn,” from rudas “reddish,” in reference to leaves; O.Ir. fogamar, lit. “under-winter.”
I wonder if ‘autumn’ is related to the word ‘eighth’. In Spanish autumn is otoño and eighth is octavo, similar to octave and octopus in its relation to the number eight. In the old calendar October was the eighth month as is refelected in the word, and, along with September is considered to be the month when autumn begins. Spanish has often shed a consonant when there are two together, making it easy to imagine that otoño was originally octoño, which could have been related to octavo. Just a hypothesis. Though, I suppose by the same logic you could argue that hypothesis originally meant ‘horse’s idea’ – ‘hipótesis’ in Spanish.
I like ‘autumn’ and I like ‘the fall’. I’m English and when I was in America hearing ‘the fall’ or ‘fall’ really gave me a sense of being in a different place, and as Jennie says, it quickly loses any other connotations when you hear it routinely. And talking of romantic, I can’t imagine anything more autumnally romantic than the beauty of autumn in New England – colours that you simply don’t get in England. A rose by any other name…..
be glad that you experience FALL, same as FALLing INLOVE lol XD
I frequently use the word “autumn,” though I generally use “fall.” I especially like referring to the autumnal equinox and the vernal equinox, because they sound more learned than fall- and spring-. I, too, enjoy the autumn (fall) most of all the seasons. It puts me in a baking mood.
well, autumn in french is “automne’,,, i always figured we got it from them. huh.
go shakespere no one ever uses that word anymore
I dont know!!!1111111111111
Autumn comes from the Latin ‘autumnus’. It used to be the last
part of Summer untl it was made into a separate season to
coincide wirh the harvest.
In Roman times there were only two seasons:
Summer (Spring, Summer and Fall) and Winter
The English have a saying used to predict how wet and rainy a spring might be. It has to do with which trees put out foliage first. It goes:
“Ash before oak,
We’ll get a soak.
Oak before ash,
Just a splash.
Well, yes, we know that autumn comes directly from French and indirectly from Latin – question is what does the word or what do the components of the word actually mean? Apparently we don’t know, which is a bit unusual for a Latin-based word.
Going back to my ‘eighth’ hypothesis, eighth in French is ‘huitieme’ – ‘Autumn’, is that too much a stretch? And it doesn’t fit with Latin ‘octavus’. Then you mentioned, José, that autumn was the last part of summer, and it made me think of the French for August – ‘Aout’; how about ‘Aoutumn’? I know, clutching at straws, particularlly since August isn’t the last part of summer.
Fall – noun It happens in the fall.
Fall – verb The leaves fall in autumn.
Fall – adjective Enjoy the fall colors.
No-nonsense, no-change word. Fall as an adjective is not as flowingly pretty as autumnal, but it exists.
Enjoyed the article, but would like to point out, we DO know the origins of this word: it is from the Latin autumnus.
Autumn leaves fall down on the ground, when I look at them they look like a crown. I love all the colors red, yellow, orange and brown. Everyone sweeps vagina away from their door, but it’s no us here come some more.. (Sorry, I have tourettes)..
“Surprisingly, we don’t really know where the word “autumn” comes from.”
Hard to believe “The Hot Word” wouldn’t know of the latin root “autumnus, i, m” = autumn, fall.
You probably mean etymologists have not determined the precise origin of the Latin word AUTUMNUS, right?
I think autumn sounds more formal.
I’ve checked some online dictionaries on the etymology of “autumn”. Several of them derive it from Latin, and connect it with the word “avarice”. I can see how this would be the case. If you’re avaricious, you want to get lots of things, and when you’re gathering your harvest that’s exactly what you’re doing. Except that when you’re gathering your harvest, you’re gathering what’s yours, rather than what’s not which an avaricious person would do.
I know “fall” is American English and “Autumn” is British English. But what I’d like to know is, does everyone in America say “fall”, or are there areas where “Autumn” is used? Thanks.
Americans use both Autumn and Fall, but Fall is probably more common. I imagine the vast majority of Americans are quite familiar with both though I’ve never traveled/travelled out west to far. I reckon Tennessee uses Fall about 70% of the time but in Virginia it seems more like 90% of the time. Of course this is not from from giant survey I’ve done just a rough guess based on personal experience.
Personally I think there’s plenty of room for both words in out language, why not? I like both words in their own way and both sides have really good points. Fall is “more English” as it can be traced back to Old English, and I like the rustic quality it has (as I’m just a hillbilly ) but autumn does sound more romantic to me. Welp, that’s just my 2 red cents. Happy Fautumn everyone!
Oh, stop fighting over which is better! Each person thinks of words differently. Personally, I like Autumn better, since I am an Autumn girl, so I’m really glad that we have (Fall just isn’t the same) but that doesn’t mean it’s my duty to search for and chew out everyone with a different opinion!
Daylight Savings is silly; when my mom told me about it I remember thinking that whoever made it up was just being lazy. Rather than getting up earlier, they decided to switch the clocks instead? It’s less work to just wake up earlier, sheesh. But I don’t mind it, either.
The next person to comment is probably reading this.
I read that. ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
it’s not daylight “savings” time. it’s daylight “saving” time.
nice info friends. no matter what we call it, time flies. let’s have a name for each moment of our life.
>>Fall – noun It happens in the fall.
Fall – verb The leaves fall in autumn.
Fall – adjective Enjoy the fall colors.<<
Fall cannot be an adjective. In your example, it is still a noun. It could be rewritten as 'Enjoy the colours of the fall'.
Only 'fallen' can be used as an adjective i.e. 'the fallen leaves'.
I love the word autumn, but my tongue is so lazy (being from Georgia and all) that I usually just say Fall. This was very interesting!
the header is just beautiful
Fall is such a boring word. Anyway, in America they call it “The Faaawl”. Whatever that is!
The word “Fall” fits our American English more comfortably when used in conjunction with the other seasons. It signifies an event: The Winter, The Spring, The Summer, The Fall. The article, the, accentuates the event and you are easily able to conjure pictures of what it means to you. “The Autumn” is a little cumbersome but, autumn by itself is more melodic than fall by itself. Too bad the origin is unknown. Princess Winter, Spring, Summer, Autumn-nope! Fall is more melodic here! Autumn when standing alone, sounds nicer. Autumn, for a female name, is much nicer than Fall. I like to say Fall and think Autumn!
I like Fall, for it’s easier to say, but I sometimes I prefer Autumn because it sounds better.
åßïxê, my ãlïen name
Me and my sister(Oops, My sister and I) think that “autumn” sounds better and makes more sense,BUT…….we never say it. We just say “fall”. HOWEVER we will take it into consideration to make it part of our vocabulary (seriously, who talks like this, cuz’ I definitely don’t,did I spell “definitely” wrong, cuz’ I really could not care less.)
P.S. Don’t you just LOVE my name?
I would hazard the divergence came from the Colonial use of peasant English and the Motherlands use of a more sophisticated development of our language. In other words a sense of rough crudeness was implied by the use of words such as ‘gotten’ ‘Fall’ ‘cookies’ & ect; Leading to an idea one was more educated than the other. ‘Hics vs Slicks’ to use a colonial phrase.
’twas ever thus.
Autumn sounds nicer definitely, but Fall is more PRACTICAL!
well i dont actually know why but autumn sounds cool
but the other one (fall) must mean the leaves are falling at this time of the year thats my comment