Why Americans say 'fall' over 'autumn'

The season of pumpkin spice and everything nice goes by two names: fall and autumn. Although both refer to the same season, Americans often say “fall” more than “autumn” — here’s why.

“Fall” and “autumn” were both once known as “harvest,” according to Dictionary.com. And “harvest” is technically the earliest name for this season. But the phrase was a bit confusing because it refers to both the time people usually harvest crops and the actual harvesting of crops.

“Autumn,” a word dating back to the late 1300s, became popular as an alternative. No matter the term you use, these are the weird ways the world changes during this season.

“Fall” and “autumn” were both once known as “harvest,” according to Dictionary.com. And “harvest” is technically the earliest name for this season.

“Fall” and “autumn” were both once known as “harvest,” according to Dictionary.com. And “harvest” is technically the earliest name for this season. (iStock)

How did fall come into the picture?

The word “fall” likely stems from “the fall of the leaves” or “falling of the leaves,” phrases poets liked, according to Merriam-Webster. Not long after, people shortened the phrase to “fall” in the 1600s.

Eventually, the English empire grew before the eventual independence of the United States. The time, distance, and new freedom contributed to the many differences in English spoken in American and Britain. That’s why there are some 10 other words with very different meanings in England and America.

So why do Americans usually say fall instead of autumn?

The word “fall” likely stems from “the fall of the leaves” or “falling of the leaves,” phrases poets liked, according to Merriam-Webster. Not long after, people shortened the phrase to “fall” in the 1600s.

The word “fall” likely stems from “the fall of the leaves” or “falling of the leaves,” phrases poets liked, according to Merriam-Webster. Not long after, people shortened the phrase to “fall” in the 1600s. (iStock)

Although both fall and autumn stem from Britain, autumn was the more popular word for a long time. Both have had their ups and downs in popularity. It wasn’t until the 1800s that American English and British English took unofficial stances on these words: fall is the word of choice in the U.S. and autumn in Britain.

It’s still unclear why America clings so strongly to fall. Some speculate it has to do with daylight savings time because of “spring forward, fall back.”

It’s still unclear why America clings so strongly to fall. Some speculate it has to do with daylight savings time because of “spring forward, fall back.”

It’s still unclear why America clings so strongly to fall. Some speculate it has to do with daylight savings time because of “spring forward, fall back.” (Reuters, File)

What we do know, however, is why Americans say “soccer” instead of “football.”

This story was originally published by Reader's Digest.