Seven Essential Words Of Fall

deciduous

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 (in the mid-1600s), but both stem from the Latin deciduus meaning "falling down, falling off."


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gossamer

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.

cornucopia

The cornucopia, a symbol of abundance that many of us have come to associate with Thanksgiving, has its roots in clasical mythology.

The word comes from the Latin cornu copiae, meaning "horn of plenty." The horn in question belonged to the nymph Amalthaea, who suckled Zeus as an infant on goat's milk. Sometimes, she is represented as the goat.

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 fruits and flowers?

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, recorded in the late 1700s, 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 the UK, an autumnal warm spell can be called a St. Luke's Little Summer and St. Martin's Summer, for when these Christian saints' feast days fall in October and November, respectively.

And Shakespeare once called it an All Hallow'n Summer ...

Halloween

Speaking of Halloween, the word Halloween is ultimately a shortened version of the phrase All Hallows' Even, which means "Eve of All Saints."

The term references the November 1 Christian holiday, All Saints' Day, which commemorates all the saints (once called hallows) of the Christian church.

Some of 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, where they were feasted.

harvest moon

Harvest moon refers to the full moon occurring nearest to the autumnal equinox.

Before electricity, it's said, the extra light provided by this brilliant moon allowed farmers to work into the night gathering their crops during peak harvest season.

Other names names for special types of full moons in fall include: fruit moon (September), hunter's moon (October), and frosty and beaver moon (November).

September

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 vestige of the month's place in the ancient Roman calendar, which had 10 months. The Julian calendar reform in 46–45 b.c. added January and February to make a 12-month year, rendering September (along with October, November, and December, respectively formed from the Latin words for "eight," "nine," and "ten") an etymological misnomer.

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