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Autumn (fall)
Temperate season
Park Srodula, Sosnowiec - 01.jpg
Leaves often turn orange and fall off from trees in the autumn.
Northern temperate zone
Astronomical season22 or 23 September – 22 December
Meteorological season1 September – 30 November
Solar (Celtic) season1 August – 31 October
Southern temperate zone
Astronomical season21 March – 21 June
Meteorological season1 March – 31 May
Solar (Celtic) season1 February – 30 April
Spring Seasons.svg Autumn
New hampshire in autumn.jpg
Autumn, Belgrade, Serbia.jpg
Paris raining autumn cityscape (8252181936).jpg
Cincinnati - Spring Grove Cemetery & Arboretum "Autumn Reflection" (15630100199).jpg
Tuolumne Meadows with Meandering River in Autumn.jpg
Victoria Avenue - Canterbury.jpg
The variety of colours between the trees and the forest floor is like a giant mural in autumn, particularly out of cityscapes

Autumn, also known as fall in American English and Canadian English, [1] is one of the four temperate seasons on Earth. Outside the tropics, autumn marks the transition from summer to winter, in September (Northern Hemisphere) or March (Southern Hemisphere). Autumn is the season when the duration of daylight becomes noticeably shorter and the temperature cools considerably. Day length decreases and night length increases as the season progresses until the Winter Solstice in December (Northern Hemisphere) and June (Southern Hemisphere). One of its main features in temperate climates is the striking change in colour for the leaves of deciduous trees as they prepare to shed.


Date definitions

Some cultures regard the autumnal equinox as "mid-autumn", while others with a longer temperature lag treat the equinox as the start of autumn. [2] In the English-speaking world of high latitude countries, autumn traditionally began with Lammas Day and ended around Hallowe'en, the approximate mid-points between midsummer, the autumnal equinox, and midwinter. Meteorologists (and Australia [3] [4] and most of the temperate countries in the southern hemisphere) [5] [6] use a definition based on Gregorian calendar months, with autumn being September, October, and November in the northern hemisphere, [7] and March, April, and May in the southern hemisphere.

In the higher latitude countries in the Northern Hemisphere, autumn traditionally starts with the September equinox (21 to 24 September) [8] and ends with the winter solstice (21 or 22 December). [9] Popular culture in the United States associates Labor Day, the first Monday in September, as the end of summer and the start of autumn; certain summer traditions, such as wearing white, are discouraged after that date. [10] As daytime and nighttime temperatures decrease, trees change colour and then shed their leaves. [11]

Under the traditional East Asian solar term system, autumn starts on or around 8 August and ends on or about 7 November. In Ireland, the autumn months according to the national meteorological service, Met Éireann, are September, October, and November. [12] However, according to the Irish Calendar, which is based on ancient Gaelic traditions, autumn lasts throughout the months of August, September, and October, or possibly a few days later, depending on tradition. In the Irish language, September is known as Meán Fómhair ("middle of autumn") and October as Deireadh Fómhair ("end of autumn"). [13] [14] Persians celebrate the beginning of the autumn as Mehregan to honor Mithra (Mehr).


Quebec city, Quebec, Canada202205.jpg
Autumnal scene with yellow, orange, and red leaves

The word autumn ( /ˈɔːtəm/ ) is derived from Latin autumnus, archaic auctumnus, possibly from the ancient Etruscan root autu- and has within it connotations of the passing of the year. [15] Alternative etymologies include Proto-Indo-European *h₃ewǵ- ("cold") or *h₂sows- ("dry"). [16]

After the Greek era, the word continued to be used as the Old French word autompne (automne in modern French) or autumpne in Middle English, [17] and was later normalised to the original Latin. In the Medieval period, there are rare examples of its use as early as the 12th century, but by the 16th century, it was in common use.

Before the 16th century, harvest was the term usually used to refer to the season, as it is common in other West Germanic languages to this day (cf. Dutch herfst, German Herbst, and Scots hairst). However, as more people gradually moved from working the land to living in towns, the word harvest lost its reference to the time of year and came to refer only to the actual activity of reaping, and autumn, as well as fall, began to replace it as a reference to the season. [18] [19] [ better source needed ]

The alternative word fall for the season traces its origins to old Germanic languages. The exact derivation is unclear, with the Old English fiæll or feallan and the Old Norse fall all being possible candidates. However, these words all have the meaning "to fall from a height" and are clearly derived either from a common root or from each other. The term came to denote the season in 16th-century England, a contraction of Middle English expressions like "fall of the leaf" and "fall of the year". Compare the origin of spring from "spring of the leaf" and "spring of the year". [20]

During the 17th century, Englishmen began emigrating to the new North American colonies, and the settlers took the English language with them. While the term fall gradually became nearly obsolete in Britain, it became the more common term in North America. [21]

The name backend, a once common name for the season in Northern England, has today been largely replaced by the name autumn. [22]



Association with the transition from warm to cold weather, and its related status as the season of the primary harvest, has dominated its themes and popular images. In Western cultures, personifications of autumn are usually pretty, well-fed females adorned with fruits, vegetables and grains that ripen at this time. Many cultures feature autumnal harvest festivals, often the most important on their calendars.

Still-extant echoes of these celebrations are found in the autumn Thanksgiving holiday of the United States and Canada, and the Jewish Sukkot holiday with its roots as a full-moon harvest festival of "tabernacles" (living in outdoor huts around the time of harvest). There are also the many festivals celebrated by indigenous peoples of the Americas tied to the harvest of ripe foods gathered in the wild, the Chinese Mid-Autumn or Moon festival, and many others. The predominant mood of these autumnal celebrations is a gladness for the fruits of the earth mixed with a certain melancholy linked to the imminent arrival of harsh weather.

This view is presented in English poet John Keats' poem To Autumn , where he describes the season as a time of bounteous fecundity, a time of 'mellow fruitfulness'.

In North America, while most foods are harvested during the autumn, foods usually associated with the season include pumpkins (which are integral parts of both Thanksgiving and Halloween) and apples, which are used to make the seasonal beverage apple cider.


"Jesien" (Autumn) Jozef Chelmonski picture of 1875 presenting a typical view of autumn in Polish 19th century countryside Jozef Chelmonski - Jesien 1875.jpg
"Jesień" (Autumn) Józef Chełmoński picture of 1875 presenting a typical view of autumn in Polish 19th century countryside

Autumn, especially in poetry, has often been associated with melancholia. The possibilities and opportunities of summer are gone, and the chill of winter is on the horizon. Skies turn grey, the amount of usable daylight drops rapidly, and many people turn inward, both physically and mentally. [23] It has been referred to as an unhealthy season. [24]

Similar examples may be found in Irish poet W.B. Yeats' poem The Wild Swans at Coole where the maturing season that the poet observes symbolically represents his own ageing self. Like the natural world that he observes, he too has reached his prime and now must look forward to the inevitability of old age and death. French poet Paul Verlaine's " Chanson d'automne " ("Autumn Song") is likewise characterised by strong, painful feelings of sorrow. Keats' To Autumn , written in September 1819, echoes this sense of melancholic reflection but also emphasises the lush abundance of the season. The song "Autumn Leaves", based on the French song "Les Feuilles mortes", uses the melancholic atmosphere of the season and the end of summer as a metaphor for the mood of being separated from a loved one. [25]


Autumn is associated with Halloween (influenced by Samhain, a Celtic autumn festival), [26] and with it a widespread marketing campaign that promotes it. The Celtic people also used this time to celebrate the harvest with a time of feasting. At the same time though, it was a celebration of death as well. Crops were harvested, livestock were butchered, and Winter was coming. [27]

Halloween, 31 October, is in autumn in the northern hemisphere. Television, film, book, costume, home decoration, and confectionery businesses use this time of year to promote products closely associated with such a holiday, with promotions going from late August or early September to 31 October, since their themes rapidly lose strength once the holiday ends, and advertising starts concentrating on Christmas.

Other associations

In some parts of the northern hemisphere, autumn has a strong association with the end of summer holiday and the start of a new school year, particularly for children in primary and secondary education. "Back to School" advertising and preparations usually occurs in the weeks leading to the beginning of autumn.

Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday celebrated in Canada, in the United States, in some of the Caribbean islands and in Liberia. Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday of October in Canada, on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States (where it is commonly regarded as the start of the Christmas and holiday season), and around the same part of the year in other places. Similarly named festival holidays occur in Germany and Japan.

Television stations and networks, particularly in North America, traditionally begin their regular seasons in their autumn, with new series and new episodes of existing series debuting mostly during late September or early October (series that debut outside the autumn season are usually known as mid-season replacements). A sweeps period takes place in November to measure Nielsen Ratings.

American football is played almost exclusively in the autumn months; at the high school level, seasons run from late August through early November, with some playoff games and holiday rivalry contests being played as late as Thanksgiving. In many American states, the championship games take place in early December. College football's regular season runs from September through November, while the main professional circuit, the National Football League, plays from September through to early January.

Summer sports, such as association football (in Northern America, East Asia, Argentina, and South Africa), Canadian football, stock car racing, tennis, golf, cricket, and professional baseball, wrap up their seasons in early to late autumn; Major League Baseball's championship World Series is popularly known as the "Fall Classic". [28] (Amateur baseball is usually finished by August.) Likewise, professional winter sports, such as ice hockey and basketball, and most leagues of association football in Europe, are in the early stages of their seasons during autumn; American college basketball and college ice hockey play teams outside their athletic conferences during the late autumn before their in-conference schedules begin in winter.

The Christian religious holidays of All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day are observed in autumn in the Northern hemisphere. Easter falls in autumn in the southern hemisphere.

The secular celebration of International Workers' Day also falls in autumn in the southern hemisphere.

Since 1997, Autumn has been one of the top 100 names for girls in the United States. [29]

In Indian mythology, autumn is considered to be the preferred season for the goddess of learning Saraswati, who is also known by the name of "goddess of autumn" (Sharada).

In Asian mysticism, Autumn is associated with the element of metal, and subsequently with the colour white, the White Tiger of the West, and death and mourning.


Autumn colouration at the Kalevanpuisto park in Pori, Finland. Kalevanpuisto syyskuussa 2.jpg
Autumn colouration at the Kalevanpuisto park in Pori, Finland.

Although colour change in leaves occurs wherever deciduous trees are found, coloured autumn foliage is noted in various regions of the world: most of North America, Eastern Asia (including China, Korea, and Japan), Europe, southeast, south, and part of the midwest of Brazil, [30] [31] the forest of Patagonia, eastern Australia and New Zealand's South Island.

Eastern Canada and New England are famous for their autumnal foliage, [32] [33] and this attracts major tourism (worth billions of US dollars) for the regions. [34] [35]

Views of autumn

Allegories of autumn in art

See also

Related Research Articles

A solar equinox is a moment in time when the Sun crosses the Earth's equator, which is to say, appears directly above the equator, rather than north or south of the equator. On the day of the equinox, the Sun appears to rise "due east" and set "due west". This occurs twice each year, around 20 March and 23 September.

A solstice is an event that occurs when the Sun appears to reach its most northerly or southerly excursion relative to the celestial equator on the celestial sphere. Two solstices occur annually, around June 21 and December 21. In many countries, the seasons of the year are determined by the solstices and the equinoxes.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Summer</span> Hottest of the four temperate seasons

Summer is the hottest of the four temperate seasons, occurring after spring and before autumn. At or centred on the summer solstice, daylight hours are longest and darkness hours are shortest, with day length decreasing as the season progresses after the solstice. The earliest sunrises and latest sunsets also occur near the date of the solstice. The date of the beginning of summer varies according to climate, tradition, and culture. When it is summer in the Northern Hemisphere, it is winter in the Southern Hemisphere, and vice versa.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Wheel of the Year</span> Annual cycle of seasonal festivals observed by many modern Pagans

The Wheel of the Year is an annual cycle of seasonal festivals, observed by many modern pagans, consisting of the year's chief solar events and the midpoints between them. While names for each festival vary among diverse pagan traditions, syncretic treatments often refer to the four solar events as "quarter days", with the four midpoint events as "cross-quarter days". Differing sects of modern paganism also vary regarding the precise timing of each celebration, based on distinctions such as lunar phase and geographic hemisphere.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Winter</span> Coldest of the four temperate seasons

Winter is the coldest season of the year in polar and temperate climates. It occurs after autumn and before spring. The tilt of Earth's axis causes seasons; winter occurs when a hemisphere is oriented away from the Sun. Different cultures define different dates as the start of winter, and some use a definition based on weather.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Spring (season)</span> One of the Earths four temperate seasons

Spring, also known as springtime, is one of the four temperate seasons, succeeding winter and preceding summer. There are various technical definitions of spring, but local usage of the term varies according to local climate, cultures and customs. When it is spring in the Northern Hemisphere, it is autumn in the Southern Hemisphere and vice versa. At the spring equinox, days and nights are approximately twelve hours long, with daytime length increasing and nighttime length decreasing as the season progresses until the Summer Solstice in June and December.

Seasonal lag is the phenomenon whereby the date of maximum average air temperature at a geographical location on a planet is delayed until some time after the date of maximum insolation. This also applies to the minimum temperature being delayed until some time after the date of minimum insolation.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Earth's orbit</span> Trajectory of Earth around the Sun

Earth orbits the Sun at an average distance of 149.60 million km in a counterclockwise direction as viewed from above the Northern Hemisphere. One complete orbit takes 365.249 days, during which time Earth has traveled 940 million km. Ignoring the influence of other Solar System bodies, Earth's orbit is an ellipse with the Earth-Sun barycenter as one focus and a current eccentricity of 0.0167. Since this value is close to zero, the center of the orbit is relatively close to the center of the Sun.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">September equinox</span> When sun appears directly over equator

The September equinox is the moment when the Sun appears to cross the celestial equator, heading southward. Because of differences between the calendar year and the tropical year, the September equinox may occur anytime from September 21 to 24.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">March equinox</span> When sun appears directly over equator

The March equinox or northward equinox is the equinox on the Earth when the subsolar point appears to leave the Southern Hemisphere and cross the celestial equator, heading northward as seen from Earth. The March equinox is known as the vernal equinox in the Northern Hemisphere and as the autumnal equinox in the Southern Hemisphere.

The term Uttarāyaṇa is derived from two different Sanskrit words – "uttara" (North) and "ayana" (movement) – thus indicating a semantic of the northward movement of the Sun on the celestial sphere. This movement begins to occur a day after the winter solstice in December, which occurs around 22 December and continues for a six-month period through to the summer solstice around June 21. This difference is because the solstices continually precess at a rate of 50 arcseconds per year due to the precession of the equinoxes, i.e. this difference is the difference between the sidereal and tropical zodiacs. The Surya Siddhanta bridges this difference by juxtaposing the four solstitial and equinoctial points with four of the twelve boundaries of the rashis.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Winter solstice</span> Astronomical phenomenon

The winter solstice, also called the hibernal solstice, occurs when either of Earth's poles reaches its maximum tilt away from the Sun. This happens twice yearly, once in each hemisphere. For that hemisphere, the winter solstice is the day with the shortest period of daylight and longest night of the year, when the Sun is at its lowest daily maximum elevation in the sky. Either pole experiences continuous darkness or twilight around its winter solstice. The opposite event is the summer solstice.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Thanksgiving</span> Holiday in various countries

Thanksgiving is a national holiday celebrated on various dates in the United States, Canada, Grenada, Saint Lucia, Liberia, and unofficially in countries like Brazil and Philippines. It is also observed in the Dutch town of Leiden and the Australian territory of Norfolk Island. It began as a day of giving thanks for the blessings of the harvest and of the preceding year.. Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday of October in Canada and on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States and around the same part of the year in other places. Although Thanksgiving has historical roots in religious and cultural traditions, it has long been celebrated as a secular holiday as well.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sun path</span> Arc-like path that the Sun appears to follow across the sky

Sun path, sometimes also called day arc, refers to the daily and seasonal arc-like path that the Sun appears to follow across the sky as the Earth rotates and orbits the Sun. The Sun's path affects the length of daytime experienced and amount of daylight received along a certain latitude during a given season.

Lists of holidays by various categorizations.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">June solstice</span> Annual solstice between 20 and 22 June

The June solstice is the solstice on Earth that occurs annually between 20 and 22 June according to the Gregorian calendar. In the Northern Hemisphere, the June solstice is the summer solstice, while in the Southern Hemisphere it is the winter solstice. It is also known as the northern solstice.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">December solstice</span> Annual solstice on 20–22 December

The December solstice, also known as the southern solstice, is the solstice that occurs each December – typically on 21 December, but may vary by one day in either direction according to the Gregorian calendar. In the Northern Hemisphere, the December solstice is the winter solstice, whilst in the Southern Hemisphere it is the summer solstice.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Season</span> Subdivision of the year based on orbit and axial tilt

A season is a division of the year based on changes in weather, ecology, and the number of daylight hours in a given region. On Earth, seasons are the result of the axial parallelism of Earth's tilted orbit around the Sun. In temperate and polar regions, the seasons are marked by changes in the intensity of sunlight that reaches the Earth's surface, variations of which may cause animals to undergo hibernation or to migrate, and plants to be dormant. Various cultures define the number and nature of seasons based on regional variations, and as such there are a number of both modern and historical cultures whose number of seasons varies.

Autumnal equinox or variations, may refer to:

Spring equinox or vernal equinox or variations may refer to:


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