Indian summer

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A period of Indian summer (sense 1) during autumn in Quebec, Canada

Of North American origin, exact etymology uncertain.[1] The most plausible suggestions are that Native Americans (or American Indians) 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.[2] Alternatively, the use of the word Indian may indicate something deviating from the norm: compare terms like Indian bread, Indian corn.[3]



Indian summer (plural Indian summers)

  1. A stretch of sunny and warm, often hazy, days during late autumn. [from late 18th c., popularized in the early 19th c.][4]
    • 1778 January 17, J[ohn] Hector St. John de Crèvecœur, Letters from an American Farmer: [], London: Printed for Thomas Davies [], and Lockyer Davis [], published 1782, →OCLC; republished as Albert E. Stone, editor, Letters from an American Farmer and Sketches of Eighteenth-century America (Penguin Classics), New York, N.Y.: Penguin Books, 1986, →ISBN, page 233:
      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.
    • 1786 July, “Written in Lord Palmerston’s Park near Romsey, Hants”, in The County Magazine, volume VII, number I, Salisbury, Witshire: Printed for and sold by B. C. Collins, and by S. Crowder, in London, published 1788, →OCLC, page 100:
      And while the bards, before my fancy bring / The Indian ſummer, and Italian ſpring, / Rapt let me mark the different climates found, / In Temple's gardens, and his lawns around.
    • 1869 February, “The Bismarck Moire”, in Frank Leslie’s Pleasant Hours: Devoted to Light and Entertaining Literature, volume VI, number 1, New York, N.Y.: Frank Leslie, [], →OCLC, chapter II, page 381, column 1:
      The gentlemen were still lounging on the gallery, fighting time with newspapers and cigars, for the Indian Summer kept up a charming pretense that Winter had forgotten to cross the water; []
    • 1892, Gilbert Parker, “Shon McGann’s Tobogan Ride”, in Pierre And His People: Tales of the Far North, London: Methuen & Co. [], →OCLC, section II, page 158:
      There is sunshine in the face of all—a kind of Indian summer sunshine, infused with the sadness of a coming winter; and theirs is the winter of parting.
    • 2004, August Kleinzahler, “The Dog, the Family: A Household Tale”, in Cutty, One Rock: Low Characters and Strange Places, Gently Explained, New York, N.Y.: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, →ISBN, part 1:
      Truth be told, I enjoyed the earthquake of '89; [] It was a warm night, Indian summer. The whole city seemed to be out of doors. It was like an enormous block party, all the neighbors sitting on their stoops, drinking beer, listening to their radios.
  2. (figuratively) The late autumn of life; a late flowering of activity before old age. [from early 19th c.]
    • 1843, John G[reenleaf] Whittier, “Memories”, in Lays of My Home, and Other Poems, Boston, Mass.: William D[avis] Ticknor, →OCLC, page 110:
      Thus, while at times before our eye / The clouds about the present part, / And, smiling through them, round us lie / Soft hues of Memory's evening sky – / The Indian summer of the heart, / In secret sympathies of mind, / In founts of feeling which retain / Their pure fresh flow, we yet may find / Our early dreams not wholly vain!
    • 1971 March 9, Francis Wheen, quoting Kenneth Tynan, “Introduction: The Paranoia Blues”, in Strange Days Indeed: The Golden Age of Paranoia, paperback edition, London: Fourth Estate, HarperCollins Publishers, published 2010, →ISBN, page 6:
      We may come to look back on the Sixties as the Indian summer of the Western imagination, of the last aristocrats of Western taste. Beginning with [John F.] Kennedy, the era ends with [Richard] Nixon and Joe Frazier, his hatchet-man … Cavaliers had better beware. The Roundheads are back in force.
    • 2004 June 15, Abigail Trafford, “Nancy Reagan’s Second Act”, in The Washington Post[4], Washington, D.C.: The Washington Post Company, →ISSN, →OCLC, archived from the original on 7 September 2018, page HE01:
      Instead of focusing on winning the next election for her husband, Nancy Reagan can turn to the broader mission of helping others. She is laying down her own legacy next to her husband's. 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.
    • 2012 November 26, Betty R. Pritchett, The Indian Summer of Mary Margaret Masters, [Bloomington, Ind.]: Trafford Publishing, →ISBN, page 262:
      Here, in what she had begun to think of as the Indian summer of her life, she was claiming a future that held infinite and delicious possibilities; and she would spend the coming years with someone who would bring all the seasons alive.
  3. Used other than figuratively or idiomatically: see Indian,‎ summer.

Usage notes[edit]

In the northeastern region of the United States, the term refers to a phenomenon occurring from late October through November. However, depending on the geographical region to which it is applied, it may occur from as early as September to as late as January in the northern hemisphere. Some people restrict the term to several days of warm weather after there has already been a frost.

By the 20th century, the term had displaced earlier ones like all-hallown summer, St. Luke's summer, and St. Martin's summer that had described a similar phenomenon.

Due to its supposed use of Indian to mean "abnormal" or "different from the norm", the term has seen controversy as possibly being a racist term against Indians and Native Americans.[5]


Coordinate terms[edit]



The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.


  1. ^ Various suggestions are set out in Albert Matthews (1901 December 15) “The Term Indian Summer”, in Monthly Weather Review[1], volume 30, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, published February 1902, →OCLC, archived from the original on 25 February 2017, pages 69–79 at 73–79. See also Albert Matthews (1901 December 15) “The Term Indian Summer”, in Monthly Weather Review[2], volume 30, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, published January 1902, →OCLC, archived from the original on 3 March 2017, pages 19–28.
  2. ^ Compare William Deedler (1996 fall) “Just what is Indian Summer and did Indians Really Have Anything to Do with It?”, in National Weather Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration[3], archived from the original on 6 September 2018.
  3. ^ Indian summer, n.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, September 2009.
  4. ^ Matthews (February 1902), page 73.
  5. ^

Further reading[edit]