We’re all familiar with the different seasons. Some might even know why we have them. But have you ever stopped to think about where the various season names come from? Like why is summer called “summer”, winter called “winter”, and so on? If you’ve ever been curious to know how the different seasons were named, read on.
How Did the Different Seasons Get Their Names?
The term “winter” comes from a Proto-Germanic word, wentruz. This term may have been derived from a Proto-Indo-European word, wed, which means “wet.” Or it could have possibly come from the word wind-, which means “white.” In either case, the Proto-Germanic word, wentruz, is what influenced the Old English word “winter.” That term has been around for a while to describe the cold, wet time of the year when very little vegetation can be found.
The word “spring” has its origins in the 14th century. Before then, in Old English, the season was simply referred to as “Lent.” However, the season would eventually come to be called “springing time,” which referred to vegetation springing from the ground. By the 15th century, “springing time” was shortened to “spring-time,” and by the 16th century, it was shorted to just “spring.”
In Old English, the hottest time of the year was called sumor. This term came from the Proto-Germanic word sumur-, which was derived from the Proto-Indo-European root word sam-. This term, and it’s variant sem-, mean “one/together.” This makes sense for this time of year, because it is often when people get together to have fun and eat. With the weather being nice, it’s possible to travel and spend time outside enjoying the company of others.
This season has three names to describe it: autumn, fall, and harvest. Originally, it was called harvest because this was the time of year that crops were brought in from the field. They had matured to the point where they were viable for food, so they needed to be brought in and stored for the long winter months ahead.
The term “autumn” came from an Old French word, autompne, which is derived from the Latin word autumnus. The origin of this word is unclear, but it is believed to come from an Etruscan word that meant “to increase.”
Even though autumn was first used in the 12th century, it didn’t gain popularity until the 14th century. It really gained widespread use in the 16th century, which is about the same time that the term “fall” began to be used to describe this time of year.
Of all the season names, this one the hardest to trace its origin. It is believed that it came from the English saying, “fall of the leaf,” which would refer to the leaves falling from the tree. The first time it can be traced as being used to describe a season was in the late 16th century in England. The term didn’t gain popularity until the 17th century. At that point, it found its way to North America.
We often take the names of the seasons for granted today, but they did have to start somewhere. They have been in the language for so long, that we know exactly what is being referred to when someone says spring, fall, summer, or winter. We probably picture in our minds something specific from that time of year, such as picnics and warm weather for summer; new plant growth for spring; the leaves changing colors for fall; and the world blanketed in snow for winter.
Of course, while each of these terms describes a specific time of the year, they are experienced differently around the country. Not all places get snow or freezing cold temperatures. Some areas stay the same when it comes to temperature and how much sunlight the area receives. However, the seasons still occur no matter where in the world someone is, and it has to do with the tilt of the Earth.
Without the seasons, it might be difficult for us to measure the passage of time. Plus, it gives us something to look forward to or to complain about. We can’t stop the seasons from changing, so it’s best to find things to enjoy about each time of year. Nothing lasts forever, not even the seasons, and soon the weather will change again.