Autumn (also known as fall in North American English) is one of the four temperate seasons. Autumn marks the transition from summer into winter, usually in late September (northern hemisphere) or late March (southern hemisphere) when the arrival of night becomes noticeably earlier.
|Northern hemisphere||1 September - 30 November||Autumnal equinox (22–23 September) - Winter solstice (21–22 December)|
|Southern hemisphere||1 March - 31 May||20 March - 21 June|
Before the 16th century, harvest was the term usually used to refer to the season. However as more people gradually moved from working the land to living in towns (especially those who could read and write, the only people whose use of language we now know), the word harvest lost its reference to the time of year and came to refer only to the actual activity of reaping, and fall, as well as autumn, began to replace it as a reference to the season.
The alternative word fall is now mostly a North American English word for the season. It traces its origins to old Germanic languages. The exact derivation is unclear, the Old English fiæll or feallan and the Old Norse fall all being possible candidates. However, these words all have the meaning "to fall from a height" and are clearly derived either from a common root or from each other. The term came to denote the season in the 16th century, a contraction of Middle English expressions like "fall of the leaf" and "fall of the year".
During the 17th century, English immigration to the colonies in North America was at its peak, and the new settlers took their language with them. While the term fall gradually became obsolescent in Britain, it became the more common term in North America, where autumn is nonetheless preferred in scientific and often in literary contexts.
Autumn's association with the transition from warm to cold weather, and its related status as the season of the primary harvest, has dominated its themes and popular images. In Western cultures, personifications of autumn are usually pretty, well-fed females adorned with fruits, vegetables and grains and wheat that ripen at this time. Most ancient cultures featured autumnal celebrations of the harvest, often the most important on their calendars. Still extant echoes of these celebrations are found in the mid-autumn Thanksgiving holiday of the United States, and the Jewish Sukkot holiday with its roots as a full moon harvest festival of "tabernacles" (huts wherein the harvest was processed and which later gained religious significance). There are also the many North American Indian festivals tied to harvest of autumnally ripe foods gathered in the wild, the Chinese Mid-Autumn or Moon festival, and many others. The predominant mood of these autumnal celebrations is a gladness for the fruits of the earth mixed with a certain melancholy linked to the imminent arrival of harsh weather.
This translates roughly (there is official translation) to:
Similar examples may be found in William Butler Yeats' poem The Wild Swans at Coole where the maturing season that the poet observes symbolically represents his own aging self. Like the natural world that he observes he too has reached his prime and now must look forward to the inevitability of old age and death. Paul Verlaine's "Chanson d'automne" ("Autumn Song") is likewise characterized by strong, painful feelings of sorrow.
In North America, autumn is also associated with the Halloween season (which in turn was influenced by Samhain, a Celtic autumn festival), and with it a widespread marketing campaign that promotes it. The television, film, book, costume, home decoration, and confectionery industries use this time of year to promote products closely associated with such holiday, with promotions going from early September to 31 October, since their themes rapidly lose strength once the holiday ends, and advertising starts concentrating on Christmas.
Since 1997, Autumn has been one of the top 100 names for girls in the United States.