MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — We deserve this week’s warm-up after the cold start to fall — or do you say “autumn?”
University of Minnesota etymologist Anatoly Liberman says everyone in England was using the word “fall” hundreds of years ago. It makes sense, with the annual falling of leaves.
But, sometime during the 16th or 17th century, the English started using the word autumn, which is of French origin. Both of the words eventually made their way to the US.
Over time, though, the English dropped the use of the word fall and the American stopped saying autumn.
“We have no way of explaining why that preference took place,” Liberman said.
Investigating where words originate can be tricky because it often happened thousands of years ago.
For example, Liberman says the origins of the words “winter” and “summer” are difficult to know. The word “winter” is of Germanic origin, but Liberman says that while it’s not connected to wind, it could be connected to water or wet. “Summer” could be connected to the word season.
“Perhaps the words were coined in a part of the world where there were two seasons,” Liberman said. One season would the wet one — winter — and the other would be the rest of the year.
Spring, though, has a much more obvious association as plants “spring” forward during that season.