September 23, 2019, marks the start of a newseason—but what exactly you should call that seasondepends on where in the world you are and whomyou ask. In Great Britain, the third season of theyear usually has only one name: autumn. But if youhop across the Atlantic, you'll find that people useboth fall and autumn interchangeably when referringto this time of year, making it the only season in theEnglish language with two widely accepted names. So what is it about the season that makes it sospecial?
According to Dictionary.com, fall isn't a modern nickname that followed the more traditionalautumn. The two terms are actually first recorded within a few hundred years of each other.
Before either word emerged in the lexicon, the season between summer and winter was knownas harvest, or hærfest in Old English. The word is of Germanic stock and meant "picking,"
"plucking," or "reaping," a nod to the act of gathering and preserving crops before winter.
In the 1500s, English speakers began referring to the seasons separating the cold and warmmonths as either the fall of the leaf or spring of the leaf, or fall and spring for short. Both termswere simple and evocative, but for some reason, only spring had staying power in Britain. Bythe end of the 1600s, autumn, from the French word autompne and the Latin autumnus, hadovertaken fall as the standard British term for the third season.
Around the same time England adopted autumn, the first-ever British American colonists werevoyaging to North America. With them they brought the words fall and autumn, and while theformer fell out of fashion overseas, it solidified itself in the local vernacular by the timeAmerica won its independence. Today, using both words to describe the season before winteris still a uniquely American behavior.