Seasons And Their Names

The Names Of Our Seasons

Fall is here.

Slipping past the autumnal equinox, we now march headlong into cooler weather, sweaters and steaming cups of coffee.

Or, do you call it Autumn?

Why does this time of year have two names whilst the other seasons have only one?

Fall And Autumn

Before we had either Fall or Autumn, the season was called Harvest in England. This came from the Old Norse word haust, meaning to gather or pluck. However, in the 1600s, when more people moved into the cities, it fell out of favor. People no longer worked in the fields with the earth's rhythm of gathering the harvest.

In the 1540s, people started to use the poetic phrase Fall of the Leaf, referring to the falling leaves that they could see around them, even in the city. 

How lovely it would be to hear someone call out, "Aye, Fall of the Leaf is upon us and I best get busy knitting you that new scarf."

Fall Of The Leaf

Over time, Fall of the Leaf was shortened to just one word, Fall. Use of the word Fall became popular in the 17th century and traveled over to North America with emigrating pilgrims.

By the 16th century, the French exerted their influence with the word autumn, derived from the Old French – l'autompne. This, in turn, came from the Latin autumnus, which meant autumn.

Although Fall had its beginnings in England, the word Autumn took hold there in the 17th century and today the British primarily use the word Autumn. Fall is now used mostly in the United States.

However, some British have a bit of word-envy. The Fowler Brothers who wrote the book The King's English in 1906 had this to say about the word Fall:

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.
— The King's English

Spring And Lenten

Spring actually had another name in the 12th and 13th centuries. In Old English it was known as Lencten, meaning Spring, which derived from Anglo-Saxon. In Middle English, spring was called Lent or Lenten

In the Christian Church, Lent refers to the period of abstinence that was preparatory for the celebration of Easter. Lent, which originally meant spring, was gradually confined to this liturgical use.

By the 14th century, the season of spring became the Springing Time. In the 15th century, it became Spring-Time and eventually was shortened even more to Spring. 

Summer And Winter

Summer and winter don't seem to have many other names. Summer came from the Old English name, sumor. Winter derives from the Proto-Germanic word wentruz and this word, winter, has remained over time.

Name The Seasons

Lest the other seasons feel left out, I took it upon myself to create my own secondary names for winter, spring and summer. Like Fall and Spring, which are both a noun and a verb, I chose words that reflected a state of being and doing.

Winter – Burrow

Burrow – We burrow within the fallen leaves and plant our acorns and nuts to sustain us through the coming cold. We burrow into our sweaters and under our quilts. 

Burrow is coming soon, does your coat from last Burrow still fit? Perhaps it’s time to buy a new one.

Spring – Lift

Lift – the plants lift out of the earth. And we lift ourselves up after being huddled in the cold, and out of the darkness.

I can’t wait for the warmth of Lift and to have longer days. It’s been a cold and bitter Burrow this year.

Summer – Shine

Shine – the sun shines in full, bringing its life-giving light to one and all. Our produce shines with freshness. Our brows shine in the heat of the season.

I love Shine because of all the fresh fruit and vegetables! Shine is a great time for canning and putting up preserves.

These words have no historical background and originate only from my imagination.

What names would you give the seasons?

As we delve into the richness of the Autumn harvest and celebrate the dropping leaves of Fall, which word do you use most to describe the season?

Fall or Autumn?