Indian Summer – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Is the summer long gone, but are you suddenly enjoying a spell of warm weather in October or November? That’s what you’d call an “Indian summer”. Learn more about this phenomenon and its origins here, and discover how to use the phrase in a sentence.


The phrase “Indian summer” refers to a short period of warm and dry weather — reminiscent of the summer — in the fall. This climate phenomenon is common in countries in the Northern hemisphere.

An “Indian summer” is sometimes defined specifically as a period of summer-like weather that occurs after the first frost. Colloquially, it may be used to describe a warm spell that occurs before the first frost.

​​​Example Usage

Take a look at these example sentences to better understand how the phrase “Indian summer” can be used in practice before you include in your speech or writing:

  • “You’re welcome to come to our cabin in the fall. We usually get a wonderful Indian summer at the end of October!”
  • “I don’t like the hot summers down here, but the Indian summer is more pleasant.”
  • “They don’t have Indian summers down under — but there’s such a thing as an Indian spring in Australia.”


The term “Indian summer” appears to have originated in North America in the middle of the nineteenth century.

It referred to uncharacteristically warm periods that tend to occur in temperate climates in the Northern hemisphere during the fall from the beginning. These Indian summers tend to last a week or two.

There is some debate as to whether an Indian summer can only describe such periods that take place after the first frost, or any warm and dry spell during the fall. In practice, however, any unusually warm fall period can be called an Indian summer.

The phrase has been used in poetry and as a metaphor as well. Poems have spoken of an “Indian summer of the heart”, for example, while texts have compared a dying person’s sudden improvement as an Indian summer.

Where does the phrase come from? Nobody knows for sure. British people started talking about Indian summers in around the late nineteenth century, and many assume, on hearing the phrase for the first time, that it is related to the country of India.

The most plausible explanation is that the “Indian” in “Indian summer” talks about Native Americans, however. Indian summers occurred in many Native American territories, and tribes often harvested their crops during such warm and dry spells.

Terms exist for the phenomenon in other languages as well. In Spanish, for instance, an Indian summer is called “Veranito”, or “little summer”.

​Phrases Similar to Indian Summer

  • An Indian summer is also sometimes called St Martin’s summer.
  • Countries in the Southern hemisphere do not have Indian summers, but may enjoy an “Indian spring” instead.
  • The phase “Indian giver” is used to describe someone who gives something away and later wants it back.

​Phrases Opposite to Indian Summer

There is no similar phrase to describe an unusually cold, winter-like, period that occurs during the fall.

​​What Is the Correct Saying?

The correct saying is “Indian summer“. An Indian summer is an unusually hot and dry spell that occurs during the fall, typically in October or November.

​​​Ways People May Say Indian Summer Incorrectly

An Indian summer occurs in the fall, after the weather has been cool for a while. It would be incorrect to refer to continued warm summer weather as an Indian summer for this reason.

Sticklers will insist that only a hot spell that takes place after the first frost can be called an Indian summer.

​​​Acceptable Ways to Phrase Indian Summer

You can say that you’re enjoying an Indian summer if you’ve been wearing a warm jacket for a while, but the weather is suddenly so warm that you need to get your summer clothes back out.

The term “Indian summer” may also be used metaphorically, to refer to a renewal that follows a decline, when a final decline is expected soon after. This metaphor can be used to describe ending relationships, the process of dying in old age, or even the way a company’s stocks are performing.

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