The Season with Two Names

Is this season fall, or is it autumn?

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Historically, there used to be a focus on the year having two seasons, summer and winter. Winter was the most challenging time of the year to survive so it makes sense.

The idea of spring and autumn/fall as their own seasons came later. Before people used either the word autumn or fall, they called this time of the year harvest. In agricultural communities, it was the time to reap crops and prepare for the winter ahead.

Then in the 16th century, the English started using the French word “autumn” to describe the season between summer and winter. Around this time, people also started using the phrases “spring of the leaf” and “fall of the leaf.” Over time, these phrases shortened until people referred to the time after winter before summer as spring and the time after summer before winter as fall.

  The words autumn and fall started becoming popular when the British were arriving on the North American continent. People in both places used both the term autumn and the term fall with the term autumn becoming particularly popular in the 18th century. Interestingly, autumn had greater popularity in the UK, and fall had greater popularity in the United States. By 1906, the Fowler brothers wrote in The King’s English, “Fall is better on the merits than autumn, in every way; it is short, Saxon (like the other three season names), picturesque; it reveals its derivation to every one who uses it, not to the scholar only, like autumn […] We once had as good a right to is as the Americans, but we have chosen to let the right lapse, and to use the word now is no better than larceny.”   

The term in fall is starting to become more common in Britain again, but for awhile it was considered archaic. People still heavily consider it an American word. Interestingly, Canadians also frequently use the term fall. Australians use both fall and autumn, but seem to use the word autumn much more often.

You can read more about the history of these terms on:

Slate

Grammarist

Live Science

Whichever term you prefer, we have fall, autumn, or harvest flags available here.

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