Speak The Season: 7 Essential Words Of Fall


A deciduous tree is one that sheds its leaves annually, distinct from an evergreen tree that keeps its foliage year-round. But, this autumnal adjective also has a much more poetic meaning of "not permanent" or "transitory." Of these two, the scientific "transitory" sense emerged first, but both stem from the Latin deciduus meaning "falling down, falling off."

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Pumpkin patches, apple trees, and heaps of fallen leaves are a few images that may come to mind when you think of autumn, but what about gossamer? This delightfully descriptive word is defined as "a fine, filmy cobweb seen on grass or bushes or floating in the air in calm weather, especially in autumn." The term is also used to refer to a delicate variety of gauze.


The cornucopia, a symbol of abundance that many of us have come to associate with Thanksgiving, has its roots in Greek mythology. The word comes from the Latin cornu copaie, meaning "horn of plenty," and the horn in question belonged to the goat Amalthaea, who suckled Zeus as an infant.

As one version of the story goes, Zeus accidentally broke off one of Amalthaea's horns. To make up for this, he promised the horn would always be filled with whatever its owner desired ... apparently fruit and veggies?

Indian summer

An Indian summer is a period of warm, dry weather occurring in late October or early November and following a period of colder weather. The coinage of this term is uncertain, though one theory is that it stems from the Native Americans' practice of gathering food for winter during this unseasonable heat wave.

In Britain, an autumnal warm spell can be called an All-Hallows summer.


Speaking of All Hallows, the word Halloween is a shortened version of the phrase All-Hallow-Even, which means "Eve of All Saints." The term references the November 1 holiday, All Saints' Day, which commemorates saints of the Christian church.

The customs of Halloween, however, are linked to the Celtic festival of Samhain, which also occurred around November 1 to celebrate the beginning of winter. Souls of those who had died were believed to return to their homes, and people sometimes wore disguises to avoid being recognized by the visiting ghosts.

Harvest moon

Harvest moon refers to the full moon occurring nearest to the autumnal equinox. Before electricity, the extra light provided by this brilliant moon allowed farmers to work into the night gathering their crops during peak harvest season. Other names for full moons in autumn include blood moon in October, frosty moon in November, and long nights moon in December.


It refers to the ninth month of the year, but the word September is formed from the Latin term septem, which means "seven"; what's going on here?

This name is a relic of the month's place in the Roman calendar. The Gregorian reform pushed the New Year back two months from March to January, rendering September (along with October, November, and December, respectively formed from the Latin words for "eight," "nine," and "ten") a misnomer.

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