November 7, 2013

Case File #013.11.07: AUTUMN

The roots of the noun autumn wind all the way back to the Latin autumnus, which meant “harvest time.” The Latin passed into Old French as autompne, and in the late fourteenth century, Middle English borrowed the Old French term but altered its form to autumpne. Then around 1590, roughly a century after Middle English gave way to modern English, the word's spelling changed again to become the contemporary autumn. The synonym fall, which is now used primarily in the United States and is there the more popular way of referring to the harvest season, first appeared in the mid-seventeenth century. It came about as a shortening of the phrase fall of the leaf, an obvious though still somewhat poetic alternative to autumn that had been in common use since circa 1540.

©2013 Michael R. Gates

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