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Spring Forward, Fall Back and Similar Expressions

timeanddate.com looks at what it means to “spring forward” and “fall back”, as well as other words used to describe daylight saving time (DST).

Springing Forward
The term "spring forward" is commonly used to describe the start of daylight saving time. ©iStockphoto.com/7nuit&pkline

Spring Forward and Fall Back

Many people in North America and the United Kingdom (UK) use the term “spring forward” and “fall back” when they refer to the daylight saving start and end dates. This is mainly due to the fact that DST occurs in the spring season and ends in the fall (or autumn) season in the northern hemisphere, where Canada, the UK, and the United States (USA) are located.

The term “to spring forward” refers to when people set the clocks one hour forward, marking the start of DST. It is a term that is easy to remember for many people in countries such as Canada, the UK and the USA. This is because the DST start date coincides with the spring season in these countries. It is the time of the year when the days begin to have longer hours of sunlight after the winter’s end, in addition DST, which brings forth an extra hour of daylight in the afternoons or evenings.

The term “to fall back” suggests that one must set the clocks one hour back when DST ends. It is associated with the fall (autumn) season because the DST schedule ends in the fall. The fall season and the end of daylight saving time mark a period when the days become darker, in that there are less hours of sunlight during the day, particularly in the afternoons or evenings, as winter soon approaches.

The phrase “spring forward, fall back” has been used for many years. The terms “spring forward” and “fall back” were mentioned in newspapers from as far back as the early part of the 20th century. For example, the Heppner Gazette-Times (October 28, 1928) printed a notice, stating “Daylight Savings Time ends this Sunday, October 31. Remember to set your clocks back one hour, ‘Spring forward – Fall Back!’”. The use of the words “spring forward” and “fall back” became increasingly popular over time and these terms are now used widely across the United States and Canada, as well as in the UK.

Other terms to Describe DST

Similar to the expression of “spring forward”, the words “spring ahead”, “spring up” are used to describe the action of setting the clocks one hour ahead for DST. These terms are mainly used in the USA and Canada to remind people about DST, which starts on the second Sunday of March and coincides with the spring season in both countries. It is common for newspaper articles, magazine articles, bulletin notices and other media to tell people about when DST starts by using catchy phrases such as “Make the clocks spring ahead one hour”. Another term used to describe the end of DST in Canada and the USA is "fall behind”.

The term “March forward” is also used to remind people about the start date for daylight saving time and is used in many countries where it starts in March. These countries include Canada, the USA and the UK. It is important to note that the UK observes DST as part of the European Union’s (EU) daylight saving schedule, which starts on the last Sunday of March each year.

Some expressions related to daylight saving time include "change the clock" or "changing the clock".

Daylight saving time is abbreviated as “DST”, which is also widely used. Other phrases associated with the DST start date, regardless of which hemisphere a country is in (eg. Australia and New Zealand), include “push the clocks forward”, “turn the clocks ahead”, and “shift the clocks forward”. There is also the expression “gain an hour here, lose an hour there”, which describes the start and end of DST, as well as “changing the clock”.

Then there is “Daylight Time”, which refers to the DST schedule itself. Many people and forms of media (eg. newspapers) also use the expressions “daylight savings” or “daylight savings time” instead of daylight saving time, which is considered to be the correct term.

“Summer Time” and Other DST Terms

Another term that is commonly used to refer to DST, particularly in the United Kingdom, is “summer time”. British Summer Time (BST) is the period in which DST is observed in the United Kingdom. The term “winter time” is used for standard time, or time without DST. The term “summer time” is used in various bills and Acts about DST in the United Kingdom. This includes the Summer Time Act of 1916, the Summer Time Act of 1925, and the Summer Time Act of 1972. The term “

The term sommerzeit (summer time) has also been used in Germany to describe DST. For example, on April 6, 1916, the German Federal Council decreed that its summer daylight saving time would be instituted in Germany as a wartime measure, starting the last Sunday of that month. Germany was one of the first countries to observe DST.

DST During World War II

Daylight saving time was referred to as “War Time” in the USA during World War II. It was known as “British Double Summer Time” in the UK during the summer months, and then “British Summer Time” during the winter months. DST has also been called “Central War Time”, “Eastern War Time”, “Mountain War Time”, and “Pacific War Time”, depending on the time zone one was located at, in the United States. After World War II, it was loosely referred to as “Eastern Peace Time”. DST was also known as “Hitler time” in some parts of Europe, as well as “Berlin time” and sommerzeit, during World War II. After the war, DST had other references, including “summer time Daylight Saving”, which refers to daylight saving time occurring during the warmer, summer months during the year.

Daylight Saving Dates For 2010

For those living in Canada and the USA, daylight saving time starts on the second Sunday of March and ends on the first Sunday of November each year. DST in Canada and the USA runs from Sunday, March 14, until Sunday, November 7, in 2010.

DST in the UK and most of Europe starts on the last Sunday of March and ends on the last Sunday of October each year. Therefore, DST will apply from Sunday, March 28, until Sunday, October 31, in 2010. For more daylight saving dates in countries around the world, please check the Daylight Saving Time Dates for 2010.

Feedback on More DST–related Expressions

timeanddate.com encourages readers to let us know of other expressions that relate to daylight saving time, particularly any words or phrases used to describe the DST start and end dates. Readers can do this by writing to webmaster@timeanddate.com or clicking on the Feedback link at the bottom of the page.

Note: The terms used in this article may have different meanings depending on the context and reference, but for this article only, these terms refer to the topic of daylight saving time.  It is also important to note that not all parts of Canada and the USA follow DST. Moreover, whilst “autumn” is the more common term for “fall” in the UK, there are UK articles or other media sources using the phrase “spring forward” together with “fall back”.


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