Just a few more days until we in the Northern Hemisphere celebrate the arrival of spring! And yes, I say “celebrate,” because spring has always been my favorite season. =) And while I’ve done highlights on a lot of the words for the seasons over the years, I didn’t have one dedicated just to spring, so I figured it was time to remedy that!

I daresay the reason I never featured it before was because its use for the seasonal name is fairly obvious. It’s when new life springs forth.

But there are still some interesting and surprising facets to the word!

First of all, though our Gregorian calendars don’t admit of it, spring is traditionally recognized in Western society as the first season of the year–this is glaringly clear in the Bible, where God tells the Israelites as He’s leading them from Egypt that the month containing Passover is to be their first month. And of course, we know that Passover and the arrival of spring are close together. Before “spring” was used for the season by Old English speakers they in fact called the whole season lencten after Lent.

But despite our calendars now beginning in the middle of winter, socieities still recognize spring as first. The first new season, and the beginning of the visible cycle of life in nature. In fact, the word they use in French is printemps, which literally means “first time” or “first season.” There was a time in the 15th century when English speakers would also call it “prime-temps” after the French, but spring predates it by centuries.

Way back in the 1300s, it was called “springing time,” for when the plants sprang forth. The phrase “the spring of the leaf” was in popular use in the 1500s. But did you know that “spring of…” was used for other natural phenomena too? “Spring of dai” was sunrise; “spring of mone” was moonrise.

By the early 1700s, spring could be used as an adjective to describe things pertaining to the season. Such as… spring fever as “a surge of romantic feelings” dates from 1843 (it was originally used for an actual illness–ew); spring chicken as a “young chicken 11-14 weeks old,” the age they’d be in the spring, is from 1780. The same was used for young people by 1906. Spring training was used of military musters before it was applied to baseball in 1889. And my personal favorite (in terms of words–not action, LOL) is spring cleaning–used in English by 1843, but hilarious because the Ancient Persian word for their first month (our March-April) of the year was called Adukanaiša, which literaly meant “irrigation canal cleaning month.” How’s that for a whimsical name?

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