I always thought the word gossamer just meant spider silk. But now I know where the word comes from, I see it specifically refers to the fine threads that blow and glitter on the breeze on sunny days at this autumn time of year.
The Middle English word was gossomer, perhaps from “goose summer”, a time of year when geese are in season and spider webs abound.
Goose summer is also another name for St Martin’s summer, which we now prefer to call an Indian summer. This last name comes from the USA, so it relates to the first nations of America, rather than to the Indian subcontinent.
St Martin’s Day is November 4, so last week’s mini heatwave in parts of Britain was a bit early to be called any of these names. Some say you can’t have an Indian summer until you have had the first frost of the autumn.
Originally “gossamer threads” were those used by small spiders to fly long distances through the air at this time of year, although the definition has extended a little now to the orb webs on bushes and draped over doors, windows and even cars.
Over the last few months I have been watching the diadem spiders grown until by now they are quite huge and plump. They are orb-web weavers, also known as just “garden spiders” and the Latin name is Araneus diadematus.
A diadem is a jewelled head band or simple crown (originally from Greek dia – “round” and deein “to bind”). Although the spider wears its diadem around its pretty abdomen…
If you dare, see more of my spider pictures here:
My spiders identification project