Career & Education

Seven essential words of FALL

Sunday, September 22, 2019

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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”.

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 classical 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.

Halloween

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

— dictionary.com


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