What’s the origin of Indian Summer?

This entry was posted on Monday, September 26th, 2011 at 8:00 AM



Old Scotney Castle

There I was tootling along the M25 yesterday, on my way to Scotney Castle in Kent to meet a friend. It was a beautiful day and given the wet summer we’ve had, the glorious sunshine came as a welcome surprise. “Perhaps we’ll have an Indian Summer,” I said to myself. Then I started to wonder where the term comes from.

I’ve always associated it with unseasonably warm weather in autumn, but I didn’t realise that an Indian Summer is usually followed by period of colder weather.

According to The Phrase Finder and Wikipedia the term originated in America in the late 18th century and reached the UK in the 1920s.

Previously in Europe the phenomenon was known as St Lukes Summer, All-Hallown Summer or Saint Martin’s Summer. The latter referred to St Martin’s Day on 11 November – the date it was supposed to end. It originated in France where it’s still used.

But why Indian? Well, apparently no-one knows but lots of people have speculated. Here are three of the theories listed by both * The Phrase Finder and Wikipedia – there are more extensive lists and more information on both sites if you’re interested:

Whatever its meaning, it’s certainly nice to see blue skies and sunshine at the end of September!

And Scotney Castle is well worth a visit. The grounds looked stunning in the late summer sun yesterday – particularly the old medieval castle at the bottom of the valley which was left as a romantic ruin when the ‘new’ castle at the top of the hill will built in 1837. The National Trust, who owns Scotney, is renovating the old castle and it should be available for weddings next year. Aaah – how romantic!


Romantic medieval Scotney Castle

Photos copyright Elaine Swift

*As well as visiting the website, you can follow The Phrase Finder on Twitter @aphraseaweek


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Hello. I'm Elaine, I'm a copywriter and this is my blog.

It's mostly about words and writing - things that inspire me, entertain me, and make me smile. Sometimes it's about things that horrify me so much I want to scream and shout!

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