'Autumn' vs 'Fall' What's the Difference?

By Carly Forsaith, updated on February 7, 2023

Do you want to know the difference between 'autumn' vs 'fall' and why some people use the first term while others use the second? This article will explain it all.

In short, 'autumn' is the more popular term in the United Kingdom, while 'fall' is preferred in the United States. However, this is just a general guideline, as both terms are perfectly acceptable in both countries.

What's the Difference Between 'Autumn' vs 'Fall?'

'Autumn' and 'fall' are both nouns that refer to the season of the year that comes after summer and before winter.

All English-speaking countries agree on the term for the other three seasons - winter, spring, and summer - so why not autumn/fall?

The original word was 'autumn,' which was derived from the Latin autumnus, which is of unknown origin. But over time, people began to use the phrase "the fall of the leaves" to refer to the season where, as you know, leaves fall from the trees. This phrase was especially popularized in poetry.

It wasn't long until that phrase was simply shortened to 'fall.'

In 1755, the term was officialized when Samuel Johnson entered it in his "Dictionary of the English Language."

So which of the two should you use between 'autumn' and 'fall'? Well, it's hard to argue that the former is the most popular term of the two in British English-speaking countries and that the latter is preferred in American English. But you can definitely still use 'autumn' in the US and 'fall' in the UK. You might get an odd look or a teasing remark, but nobody can say you're incorrect.

Other Meanings of the Words

It's worth noting that the words' fall' and 'autumn' do have other meanings.

Perhaps the most well-known one for 'fall' is the verb that describes one's descent to the ground after they trip over, for example.

'Autumn' is also sometimes used as a person's name, in which case it would be a proper noun. Interestingly, you can also use 'autumn' in an idiomatic sense to refer to a period of maturity or the stage of life that comes in later years. For example:

I'll spend my autumn years gardening and taking it easy.

There are more, but I won't go into them here because they are unrelated to the meaning that identifies seasons, but I wanted to mention a few to show you that they do exist and are distinct from the seasons. You'll need to defer the word's intended meaning from the context.

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce 'Autumn' and 'Fall'

How do you pronounce these two words? Well, the International Phonetic Alphabet says they should be pronounced as such:

/ ˈɔ təm /

/ fɔl /

And when you say them out loud, they'll sound something like this:

[ aw-tuhm ]

[ fawl ]

When to Use 'Autumn' and 'Fall'

We'll take a look at some examples of the words' autumn' and 'fall' in sentences, so you can get an idea of how they are used in context. I'll use them interchangeably throughout the sentences since they have the same meaning.

I prefer to go on vacation in the summer than in the fall.

Many animals start to prepare for hibernation in autumn.

The fall rains can get pretty heavy around here.

It was a cool autumn afternoon, and the leaves crunched beneath my feet as I wandered through the park.

They've released their new fall/winter catalog.

Concluding Thoughts

That concludes today's article on the difference between 'autumn' and 'fall.' Here's what I hope you take away from this:

  • 'Autumn' and 'fall' are two words used to refer to the same season
  • 'Autumn' is more common in the UK and 'fall' in the US
  • Both terms are perfectly acceptable and grammatically correct in both countries

If you'd like to learn to differentiate more words like these, visit our Confusing Words blog.

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Written By:
Carly Forsaith
Carly Forsaith is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. Carly is a copywriter who has been writing about the English language for over 3 years. Before that, she was a teacher in Thailand, helping people learn English as a second language. She is a total grammar nerd and spends her time spotting language errors on signs and on the internet.

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