This Is Why Americans Say “Fall” Instead of “Autumn”

Both are interchangeable, but there's a clear preference in America.

Beautiful Fall Color on Giant Cypress Trees Reflected in the Clear Waters of the Frio River at Garner State Park, TexasRichard A McMillin/Shutterstock

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 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.

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?

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 ahead, fall forward.” What we do know, however, is why Americans say “soccer” instead of “football,” and where our newly popular phrase, “quid pro quo” comes from.

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Emily DiNuzzo
Emily DiNuzzo is an associate editor at The Healthy and a former assistant staff writer at Reader's Digest. Her work has appeared online at the Food Network and Well + Good and in print at Westchester Magazine, and more. When she's not writing about food and health with a cuppa by her side, you can find her lifting heavy things at the gym, listening to murder mystery podcasts, and liking one too many astrology memes.