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Fall Versus Autumn

The Pumpkin Spice Latte has arrived, but fall hasn't. Or wait, is it autumn? 

By
Mignon Fogarty,
August 25, 2014

Fall doesn't officially start until September 23 this year, but Starbucks doesn't care; it's launching its Pumpkin Spice Latte—a hallmark of fall—on August 25. All the excitement online got us thinking about seasons and why this one seems to have two names: fall and autumn. (And just to make it more confusing, the first day of fall is also called the autumnal equinox.)

Fall gets its name from the longer phrase fall of the leaf  that was first used in the mid-1500s. (Spring comes from a similar phrase: spring of the leaf.) Fall took hold in America more than it did in Britain, and in the US, fall is the standard season name. It's preferred by both the AP Stylebook and the Chicago Manual of Style.

Fall is more common in the US. Autumn is more common in Britain.

British speakers are more likely to use the word autumn, which came into English in the late 1300s from an Old French word. The first reference in the Oxford English Dictionary is from Chaucer:

Autumn comes again, heavy of apples.

Season names such as fall and autumn are lowercase unless they are part of an official name such as the Winter Olympics.

References

Wickman, F. "Why is autumn the only season with two names?" Slatehttp://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2012/09/29/why_does_autumn_have_two_names_how_the_third_season_became_both_autumn_and_fall_.html (accessed August 23, 2014).

"Days of the weeks, months, and seasons." Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition, online. Section 8.87. http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/16/ch08/ch08_sec087.html (subscription required, accessed August 18, 2014).

"seasons." AP Stylebook, online. http://www.apstylebook.com/online/?do=entry&id=2601&src=AE (subscription required, accessed August 18, 2014).

"fall." Oxford English Dictionary, online edition. http://bit.ly/1vaea2J  (subscription required, accessed August 18, 2014).

"autumn.'  Oxford English Dictionary, online edition. http://bit.ly/1noehzM (subscription required, accessed August 18, 2014).

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