Having just heard for the first time that a true Indian summer has to be preceded by a freeze, I did a little googling and found this page, which contains detailed investigations of the phenomenon itself and of the possible origins of its name (which goes back at least to a letter by St. John de Crevecoeur dated “German-flats, 17 Janvier, 1778”). The consensus definition:

It is an abnormally warm and dry weather period, varying in length, that comes in the autumn time of the year, usually in October or November, and only after the first killing frost/freeze. There may be several occurrences of Indian Summer in a fall season or none at all.


  1. My father-in-law told me the same thing a few weeks ago. I figured the difference in our usages (he required the frost; I only needed a cold spell) were due to his being a New Englander and my being from Louisiana. Thanks for the further elucidation.

  2. Googling some some, the Glossary of Meterology compares Indian Summer with Old Wives’ summer, St. Martin’s summer, St. Luke’s summer and All-hallown summer.
    Digging more, Altweigersommer appears to be the term in German, and été des Indiens in Québécois.
    Flipping though a few random dictionaires, I found babie lato (Polish); Schmokdaage, Schmokwedder and Altweiwersummer (Pennsylvania German); бабье лето (Russian); brittsommar and indiansommar (Swedish).
    I asked a Chilean colleague, and he saw veranillo de San Martín in a dictionary, but left a message with a friend because he couldn’t remember the term they used back home. A Brazilian colleague insisted that it is summer year round in Brazil thus no need for such a term.

  3. Huh. Sue and I were just speculating about where the name came from two days ago. Thanks for the link!

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