Before the 16th century, harvest was the term usually used to refer to the Autumn season: in fact the word comes from old English hærfest, which meant Autumn (the German word Herbst has the same origin and still means Autumn). The word is a compound word (hær + fest) and its first part has Indo-European roots in *kerp meaning to gather, pluck, harvest. Compare it with the Latin verb carpere meaning to cut, divide, pluck (Carpe diem). So hærfest indicated originally the joyful celebration of finally being possible to gather the mature crops; it extended afterwards its meaning to the all period beginning with the harvest (autumn). Recall also the expression harvest moon which is recorded since 1706 and indicates the full moon within a fortnight of the autumnal equinox (21 of September). However, as more people gradually moved from working the land to living in towns (especially those who were literate), the word came to refer to the actual activity of reaping, rather than the time of year, and the terms Fall and Autumn began to replace it in the latter sense.
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