Originally posted October 3, 2011

It’s that time of year again. The leaves are turning colors, the weather is turning cooler, and the pumpkin vines are taking over my yard. Okay it’s the first year we’ve planted pumpkins, so this is a first–and a lesson to us on where NOT to plant them next year! LOL.

So it seems like a fine time to talk about the roots of the words we associate with the season. =)

For a good while, British folk referred to this time of year solely as “harvest.” It wasn’t until the 16th century that the word “autumn” entered the vernacular. Taken from Old French and, in turn, Latin, there are also suggestions that it shares a root with August, and that the aug- implies severity.

Over the centuries, most “autumn” words have come to carry a meaning of “end, end of summer” or “harvest.” And unlike all the other seasons, we not only have several words for it, we also have several different start/stop dates in English speaking countries. In Britain, for example, autumn begins in August, while in America it’s September.

And of course, from “autumn” we get one of my all-time favorite words: autumnal (pronounced aw-TUHM-nl), which my best friend still swears I made up. 😉 As you can assume, it means “things pertaining to autumn.”

And then, of course, we have “fall.” Now used only in the U.S. as a synonym for the season, “fall” is short for “fall of the leaf,” and dates from the 1540s. So it’s nearly as old as “autumn,” but has for some reason fallen out of use (ha . . . ha . . . ha . . .) in other English-speaking parts of the word.

So here’s wishing everyone a beautiful, colorful fall filled with all the delightful, autumnal things that make you smile. =)

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