Indian summer

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An Indian summer day in Fageda d'en Jordà, a beech forest located in Garrotxa county, Catalonia.

An Indian summer is a period of unseasonably warm, dry weather that sometimes occurs in autumn in temperate regions of the northern hemisphere. Several sources describe a true Indian summer as not occurring until after the first frost, or more specifically the first "killing" frost.[1][2][3]


The late 19th-century lexicographer Albert Matthews made an exhaustive search of early American literature in an attempt to discover who coined the expression.[4] The earliest reference he found dated to 1851. He also found the phrase in a letter written in England in 1778, but discounted that as a coincidental use of the phrase.

Later research showed that the earliest known reference to Indian summer in its current sense occurs in an essay written in the United States circa 1778 by J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur. The letter was first published in French. The essay remained unavailable in the United States until the 1920s.[5]

Although the exact origins of the term are uncertain,[6] it was perhaps so-called because it was first noted in regions inhabited by Native Americans, or because the natives first described it to Europeans,[7] or it had been based on the warm and hazy conditions in autumn when Native Americans hunted.[6] John James Audubon wrote about "The Indian Summer that extraordinary Phenomenon of North America" in his journal on November 20, 1820. He mentions the "constant Smoky atmosphere" and how the smoke irritates his eyes. Audubon suspects that the condition of the air was caused by "Indians, firing the Prairies of the West." Audubon also mentions in many other places in his writings the reliance Native Americans had on fire. At no point does Audubon relate an Indian Summer to warm temperatures during the cold seasons.

Because the warm weather is not a permanent gift, the connection has been made to the pejorative term Indian giver.[8] It is also suggested[by whom?] that it comes from historic Native American legends, granted by the God or "Life-Giver" to various warriors or men, to allow them to survive after great misfortune, such as loss of crops.[9][10]


Weather historian William R. Deedler wrote that "Indian summer" can be defined as "any spell of warm, quiet, hazy weather that may occur in October or November," though he noted that he "was surprised to read that Indian Summers have been given credit for warm spells as late as December and January." Deedler also noted that some writers use Indian summer in reference to the weather in only New England, "while others have stated it happens over most of the United States, even along the Pacific coast."[3]

In literature and history, the term is sometimes used metaphorically. The title of Van Wyck Brooks' New England: Indian Summer (1940) suggests an era of inconsistency, infertility, and depleted capabilities, a period of seemingly robust strength that is only an imitation of an earlier season of actual strength.[11] William Dean Howells' 1886 novel Indian Summer uses the term to mean a time when one may recover some of the happiness of youth. The main character, jilted as a young man, leads a solitary life until he rediscovers romance in early middle age.

In British English, the term is used in the same way as in North America. In the UK, observers knew of the American usage from the mid-19th century onward, and The Indian Summer of a Forsyte is the metaphorical title of the 1918 second volume of The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy. However, early 20th-century climatologists Gordon Manley and Hubert Lamb used it only when referring to the American phenomenon, and the expression did not gain wide currency in Great Britain until the 1950s. In former times, such a period was associated with the autumn feast days of St. Martin and Saint Luke.[12]

In the English translation of Boris Pasternak's Doctor Zhivago, the term is used to describe the unseasonably warm weather leading up to the October Revolution.[13]

Other names and similar phenomena[edit]

Similar weather conditions with local variations also exist. A warm period in autumn is called "Altweibersommer" (de: old women's summer) in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Lithuania, Hungary (Hungarian: vénasszonyok nyara), Estonia (Estonian: vananaistesuvi), and in a number of Slavic-language countries—for example, in the Czech Republic, Ukraine,[14] Poland, Slovakia, Russia[15] and Slovenia, – it is known as "(old) women's summer" (Czech: babí léto, Ukrainian: бабине літо, Polish: babie lato, Slovak: babie leto, Russian: бабье лето, IPA: [ˈbabʲjə ˈlʲetə]. In Bulgaria, it is known as "gypsy summer" or "poor man's summer," and in Serbia it is known as "Miholjsko leto" because Saint Michael or "Miholjdan" is celebrated on October 12. In Sweden, there's "Brittsommar" (out of "Birgitta" and "Britta", having their name days around the time, on October 7). In Finland,[16] the period is today called "intiaanikesä," a direct translation, but historically a warm period in autumn was named after Bartholomew, his saint day being in late August. In Gaelic Ireland, the phenomenon is called "fómhar beag na ngéanna" (little autumn of the geese).[17]

In temperate parts of South America—such as southernmost Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Uruguay—the phenomenon is known as "Veranico," "Veranito" or "Veranillo" (literally, "little summer"), and usually occurs in early autumn, between late April and mid-May, when it is known as "Veranico de Maio" ("May's little summer") or as "Veranito de San Juan" ("Saint John's little summer"). Its onset and duration are directly associated with the occurrence of El Niño.

In other countries, it is associated with autumnal name days or saint days, such as Teresa of Ávila (Portugal, Spain and France), St. Martin's Summer (Spain, France, Italy, Portugal and Malta), St. Michael's summer ("Miholjsko leto", Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina), St. Martin's Day (Netherlands and Italy), St. Demetrius (Greece and Cyprus), Bridget of Sweden in Sweden, and Saint Michael the Archangel in Wales (haf bach Mihangel). In Turkey, it is called pastırma yazı, meaning "pastrami summer," since the month of November was considered to be the best time to make pastırma (the meat that, though slightly different, pastrami originated from).[18]

The American Meteorological Society (AMS) also notes that a similar phenomenon may be referred to poetically as halcyon days, a term that originated in Greek mythology. Halcyon days in Greece take place in winter, usually 16-31 of January and last around 4-7 days with extremely warm and sunny days.[1][19] "All-hallown summer" or "All Saints' summer" is also referenced in English folklore and by Shakespeare, but its use appears to have died out.[1][20]

In media[edit]

Board games[edit]

  • Indian Summer, designed by Uwe Rosenberg, is named and themed after the event, and involves players placing leaf-filled tiles on the forest floor.


  • An Indian Summer: A Personal Experience of India was written by James Cameron in 1974.
  • Engine Summer written by John Crowley in 1979, is named after and refers to the event, with the spelling changed to reflect the post-apocalyptic setting of the book.
  • Indian Summer by John Knowles, published in 1966.
  • Indian Summer was written by Adalbert Stifter in 1857.
  • Indian Summer was written by William Dean Howells in 1886.
  • Indian Summer: The Secret History of the End of an Empire was written by Alex von Tunzelmann in 2007.
  • Indian Summer: The Tragic Story of Louis Francis Sockalexis, the First Native American in Major League Baseball was written by Brian McDonald in 2003.
  • The graphic novel Indian Summer was written by Hugo Pratt and illustrated by Milo Manara in 1983.
  • The Indian Summer Of English Chivalry written by Arthur Ferguson in 1960.




In 1875 Józef Chełmoński painted a picture Indian Summer with a wide landscape panorama.

Józef Chełmoński: Indian Summer, Oil-on-canvas, 1875, Dimensions 119.7 cm × 156.5 cm (47.1 in × 61.6 in), National Museum, Warsaw

In 1922 Willard Leroy Metcalf painted Indian Summer, Vermont


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Second summer- Glossary of Meteorology, American Meteorological Society". October 25, 2020.
  2. ^ "What Is "Indian Summer" Or "Second Summer"?". November 1, 2021.
  3. ^ a b Deedler, William (Fall 1996). "Just What Is Indian Summer And Did Indians Really Have Anything To Do With It?". Detroit/Pontiac, MI: National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office. Archived from the original on October 9, 2014. Retrieved September 24, 2014.
  4. ^ Matthews, Albert (February 1902). "The Term Indian Summer". Monthly Weather Review. 30 (2): 69–80. Bibcode:1902MWRv...30...69M. doi:10.1175/1520-0493-30.2.69c.
  5. ^ Sweeting, Adam W. (2003). Beneath the Second Sun: A Cultural History of Indian Summer. New Hampshire. pp. 14–15. ISBN 978-1-58465-314-1.
  6. ^ a b "Hints of an Indian Summer". BBC News. Retrieved September 19, 2015.
  7. ^ "Indian summer". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved September 19, 2015.
  8. ^ "Who put the 'Indian' in Indian summer?". Christian Science Monitor. September 17, 2018.
  9. ^ "Indian Summer". July 21, 2011. Retrieved May 13, 2021.
  10. ^ "Native American Indian Weather Legends from the Myths of Many Tribes".
  11. ^ Commager, Henry Steele (August 18, 1940). "In New England's Lesser Days" (PDF). The New York Times. Retrieved October 6, 2012.
  12. ^ "Indian summer: What exactly is it?". BBC. October 1, 2011. Retrieved September 24, 2014.
  13. ^ Pasternak, Boris Leonidovich; Gutiérrez, Fernando (1994). El doctor Zhivago. Barcelona: RBA. ISBN 844730681X. OCLC 434433796.
  14. ^ Khavrus, Vyacheslav; Gabovich, Alexander (December 13, 2022). "Warm wall in autumn: how to use the solar irradiation in full?". European Journal of Physics. 44 (1): 015803 (18pp). Bibcode:2023EJPh...44a5803K. doi:10.1088/1361-6404/aca2ff.
  15. ^ "БАБЬЕ ЛЕТО • Большая российская энциклопедия - электронная версия". Retrieved September 17, 2021.
  16. ^ Kallio, Jussi (October 13, 2009). "Intiaanikesä". Kotimaisten kielten keskus (in Finnish). Retrieved September 12, 2015.
  17. ^ "Foclóir Gaeilge-Béarla (Ó Dónaill)" (in Ga). Retrieved November 11, 2017.
  18. ^ "İstanbul'a kış 20 Ocak'ta gelecek!" (in Turkish). Retrieved November 11, 2014.
  19. ^ "Halcyon days- Glossary of Meteorology, American Meteorological Society". November 13, 2021.
  20. ^ "All-hallown summer- Glossary of Meteorology, American Meteorological Society". November 13, 2021.
  21. ^ Cooke, Chris (March 4, 2013). "Sweat It Out Records founder dies". Complete Music Update. Retrieved September 12, 2019. he launched his own label Sweat It Out Records, which signed the likes of Indian Summer, Loot & Plunder and Yolanda Be Cool
  22. ^ "Jai Wolf - Indian Summer". SoundCloud.
  23. ^ "Too Much Rock Single Series".
  24. ^ Sandeen, Ernest (December 1967). "Delight deterred by retrospect: Emily Dickinson's Late-Summer Poems". The New England Quarterly. 40 (4): 483–500. doi:10.2307/363554. JSTOR 363554.

Further reading[edit]

  • Adam Sweeting (2003). Beneath the Second Sun: A Cultural History of Indian Summer. New Hampshire. ISBN 978-1584653141.

External links[edit]