Indian summer

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Unknown US, attested 1778.[1] Spread and popularized early 19th century.[2] Used figuratively from 1830s. By 20th century globally replaced earlier St. Luke's summer, St. Martin's summer, and All-Hallown summer.

A wide variety of etymologies have been proposed, none convincingly.[3] Most plausible is the suggestion thar Native Americans called it a form of “summer”, due to harvesting late plants or preparing for winter, or that European settlers coined it due to various Native American activities in this season, or due to the weather phenomenon being associated with regions inhabited by Native Americans. There is no evidence of connection with Indian giver, as posited by some folk etymologies which suggest that the term is due to the warm weather being given but then taken away.


Indian summer (plural Indian summers)

  1. A stretch of sunny and warm days during late autumn.
    • 1778, J. Hector St. John de Crèvecœur, Letters from an American Farmer, (published 1782, letter dated 1778), "German-flats, 17 Janvier, 1778":
      Then a severe frost succeeds which prepares it to receive the voluminous coat of snow which is soon to follow; though it is often preceded by a short interval of smoke and mildness, called the Indian Summer.
    • 1882, Gilbert Parker, Pierre And His People:
      There is sunshine in the face of all — a kind of Indian summer sunshine, infused with the sadness of a coming winter.
    • 2004, August Kleinzahler, London Review of Books, 19 Aug 2004:
      It was a warm night, Indian summer. The whole city seemed to be out of doors. It was like an enormous block party.
  2. (figuratively) The late autumn of life; a late flowering of activity before old age.
    • 2004, The Washington Post, 15 June, 2004:
      This kind of activism is often the hallmark of people in their Indian summer season. Their energy is fueled by a sense of urgency that is lacking in youth.

Usage notes[edit]

Used across varied regions and months – worldwide, from as early as September to as late as January in the northern hemisphere. Various prescriptive usage specifies various conditions, particular regions, or times of year, particularly restricting it to several days of warm weather after there has already been a frost. Narrowly speaking, originally late October through November in US Northeast.


Coordinate terms[edit]


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout#Translations.


  1. ^ Indian summer” in Gary Martin, The Phrase Finder, 1997–, retrieved 24 October 2017.
  2. ^ Matthews, 73
  3. ^ Matthews, 73–79