What Does The Word “Summer” Really Mean?

woman with multiple pool floaties being snowed on

Summer is the season for basking in the warm sun and rejoicing in the freedom of vacation. So when the rest and relaxation is shooed away for cooler days and the start of school, it’s easy to forget that the summer season is far from over.

Let’s take a look at the name summer and what it actually means and also answer that age-old question: when does summer really end?

Where did the word summer come from?

The word summer is quite old. It’s recorded before the year 900 and comes from the Old English word for the season, sumor. It’s related to the Dutch zomer, the German Sommer, and the Sanskrit samā (which means “year”). Summer became an adjective around 1300, and terms like summer camp, summer school, and summer resort are all first recorded in the 1800s.

Many consider Labor Day the final hurrah of summer, but we still have a few weeks of summer after that celebratory first Monday of September. Summer officially ends at the autumnal equinox, when the sun is at its zenith at, or directly above, the equator. After the autumnal equinox, the sun moves south of the equator, leaving behind a chilly autumn in the Northern Hemisphere and beckoning in spring to the Southern Hemisphere.

What is the difference between equinox and solstice?

Each year is divided into the four seasons based on the two equinoxes and the two solstices. The summer and winter solstices, which typically land around June 21 and December 22, mark the longest and the shortest days of the year, respectively. The autumnal and vernal equinoxes, which fall around September 23 and March 21, mark the points in the year when the day and the night are equal lengths. The word equinox is ultimately derived from the Latin word aequinoctium meaning “equal days and nights.”

Astronomically speaking, these four solar events mark the middle of the seasons rather than their beginning and ending, but we separate the year into meteorological seasons which reflect the average temperature patterns and climate.

Just as the summer solstice tends to fall a little ways into summer vacation, the autumnal equinox typically falls at the end of September, a few weeks into the school year and well after the Dog Days, the hottest period of the summer.

Are you ever ready for the start of autumn? Or, if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, have you been looking forward to the warmth of spring?

Speaking of summertime, do you know how the month of June got its name?

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