The Etymology of Months

In my opinion, the autumn always comes and goes so fast. First in September, you just cannot accept the fact that summer is almost over and it is still basically summer. 🙂 In October there is always a lot of rush; you change the house, clothes, all the errands etc. Only in November you convince yourself that winter is on the way it is really autumn. However, after mid November you just begin to make plans about Christmas or new year. For these reasons, I always think that autumn is somewhat a missing season and a little bit overrated. :)))

Anyway, today I really wondered why we call November as November, then I remembered the latin number reference. I’d learned the etymology of months when I was in college but I realized that I’ve almost forgotten them all. So this article will be a kind of reminder for me. 🙂 I hope you also enjoy it.

January — Janus’s month

Middle English Januarie
Latin Januarius “of Janus”
Latin Janu(s) “Janus” + –arius “ary (pertaining to)”
Latin Januarius mensis “month of Janus”

Janus is the Roman god of gates and doorways, depicted with two faces looking in opposite directions. His festival month is January.

Januarius had 29 days, until Julius when it became 31 days long.

February — month of Februa

Middle English Februarius
Latin Februarius “of Februa”
Latin Februa(s) “Februa” + –arius “ary (pertaining to)”
Latin Februarius mensis “month of Februa”
Latin dies februatus “day of purification”

Februarius had 28 days, until circa 450 BC when it had 23 or 24 days on some of every second year, until Julius when it had 29 days on every fourth year and 28 days otherwise.

Februa is the Roman festival of purification, held on February fifteenth. It is possibly of Sabine origin.

Intercalaris — inter-calendar month

Latin Intercalaris “inter-calendar”
Latin Mercedonius (popular name) “?”

Intercalaris had 27 days until the month was abolished by Julius.

March — Mars’ month

Middle English March(e)
Anglo-French March(e)
Old English Martius
Latin Martius “of Mars”
Latin Marti(s) “Mars” + –us (adj. suffix)
Latin Martius mensis “month of Mars”

Martius has always had 31 days.

March was the original beginning of the year, and the time for the resumption of war.

Mars is the Roman god of war. He is identified with the Greek god Ares.

April — Aphrodite’s month

Old English April(is)
Latin Aprilis
Etruscan Apru
Greek Aphro, short for Aphrodite.

Aprilis had 30 days, until Numa when it had 29 days, until Julius when it became 30 days long.

Aphrodite is the Greek goddess of love and beauty. She is identified with the Roman goddess Venus.

May — Maia’s month

Old French Mai
Old English Maius
Latin Maius “of Maia”
Latin Maius mensis “month of Maia”

Maius has always had 31 days.

Maia (meaning “the great one”) is the Italic goddess of spring, the daughter of Faunus, and wife of Vulcan.

June — Juno’s month

Middle English jun(e)
Old French juin
Old English junius
Latin Junius “of Juno”
Latin Junius mensis “month of Juno”

Junius had 30 days, until Numa when it had 29 days, until Julius when it became 30 days long.

Juno is the principle goddess of the Roman Pantheon. She is the goddess of marriage and the well-being of women. She is the wife and sister of Jupiter. She is identified with the Greek goddess Hera.

July — Julius Caesar’s month

Middle English Julie
Latin Julius “Julius”
Latin Julius mensis “month of Julius”
Latin quintilis mensis “fifth month”

Quintilis (and later Julius) has always had 31 days.

Julius Caesar reformed the Roman calendar (hence the Julian calendar) in 46 BC. In the process, he renamed this month after himself.

August — Augustus Caesar’s month

Latin Augustus “Augustus”
Latin Augustus mensis “month of Augustus”
Latin sextilis mensis “sixth month”

Sextilis had 30 days, until Numa when it had 29 days, until Julius when it became 31 days long.

Augustus Caesar clarified and completed the calendar reform of Julius Caesar. In the process, he also renamed this month after himself.

September — the seventh month

Middle English septembre
Latin September
Latin septem “seven” + -ber (adj. suffix)
Latin september mensis “seventh month”

September had 30 days, until Numa when it had 29 days, until Julius when it became 30 days long.

October — the eighth month

Middle English octobre
Latin October
Latin octo “eight” + -ber (adj. suffix)
Latin october mensis “eighth month”

October has always had 31 days.

November — the nineth month

Middle English Novembre
Latin November
Latin Novembris mensis “nineth month”

Novembris had 30 days, until Numa when it had 29 days, until Julius when it became 30 days long.

December — the tenth month

Middle English decembre
Old French decembre
Latin december “tenth month”
Latin decem “ten” + -ber (adj. suffix)

December had 30 days, until Numa when it had 29 days, until Julius when it became 31 days long

Source: http://www.crowl.org/lawrence/time/months.html

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