There are only 12 months in a year, with the start of every brand new year filled with resolutions, goals and promises. From forming good habits to learning new and exciting things, everyone is busy trying to make positive changes.
But….what do you think is the first thing we all change without fail at the start of a new year, with or without a resolution? It’s the calendar itself!
However, do you know that the names of the months are much older than the modern day calendar?! Have you ever wondered where the unique names of all months come from?
Some of the names sound like they might be English words but most of them sound exotic, don’t they? Well, wonder no more! In today’s story, we take you time-hopping through the calendar to explore the fascinating stories behind the names of each month in the year (Psst! As with a lot of things, the people responsible for this are the ancient Romans!)
The Gregorian Calendar – The calendar followed throughout the world:
The Gregorian calendar has a history older than itself. You’ll read more on that later in this post. The calendar that we follow internationally and the one that you see on your desktops and cell phones are all Gregorian calendars. This calendar had replaced the old Julian calendar in 1582 and over centuries it was used across cultures and countries all across the world. There are two main types of calendars, one is lunar based while the other is solar based. The Greek calendar was a solar based calendar.
Did you know that before the modern calendar took shape, the Roman Calendar was being followed which had just 10 months.
Facts about the Gregorian calendar or the modern calendar:
The Names of Months With Number of Days
The first month of the year, January gets its name from the Roman god Janus. A mythical deity with two faces, Janus was said to be able to look at the past and the future at the same time. Also symbolising gates and doors, Janus is thought to be the symbol of entering a new era or time.
Janus on an ancient Roman coin. Image source: Shutterstock
February comes from the Latin word “’februare” which means “to purify”. Some believe that February, being the last month added to the calendar, was meant to “purify” it and make it an accurate record of time.
Read Also: Why Is February So Odd This Year?
A European painting depicting the month of February. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
The pleasant month of March is actually named after the violent Roman god of war, Mars. Romans believed that the good weather in March was a great time to resume their battles with enemy kingdoms and hence named it after their god of war.
Statue of Roman god – Mars. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
The etymology for the month of April is by far the most debated of all the calendar months. However, one interesting theory links the naming of April to springtime. Coinciding with the time when flowers begin to bloom, some scholars believe that April comes from the Latin word ‘aperire’ which means ‘to open,’ as flowers do in spring!
Blooming flowers may have inspired the name ‘April’. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
The origin of the month of May is relatively more straightforward. To celebrate the earth in all its glory as it begins to bloom and grow in the thick of spring, the month of May gets its name from Maia, the Roman goddess of the Earth.
Image of Maia on Greek pottery. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
In ancient Rome, the start of summer was a time to get married! A part of the Northern hemisphere, the days start getting longer around the middle of the year in Rome and a lot of celebrations, including marriages, was planned around this time. To commemorate this, Juno, the Roman goddess of marriages lends her name to the month of June.
Statue of Juno. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Arguably one of the most famous personalities from ancient Rome, the month of July is named after Julius Caesar. Following his assassination in 44 B.C., the month was renamed ‘July’ to honour Caeser, who was born in the said month. This was also the first month that was named after a real person and not a mythological deity.
Statue of Julius Caesar. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
The month of August gets its name from the Roman Emperor Augustus Caesar, Julius Caesar’s nephew. Considered to be one of the greatest emperors of Rome, Augustus was immortalised with the naming of the month. The name ‘Augustus’ also means ‘respected’ or ‘impressive’. In English, the word ‘august’ is used to denote this too! For example, ‘The professor has an august reputation for his work!’
Statue of Augustus Caesar. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
|September, October, November & December
30, 31, 30 & 31 days
September, October, November and December, the last four months of the year seem to rhyme. No, that was not a coincidence. Originally, the last four months of the year were the seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth months respectively in the old 10-month-long Roman calendar. Hence, their names also reflect the same, being named after the corresponding Roman numerals. However, once January and February were added to the calendar to make it more accurate, these last four months got pushed from their spots! Their names, however, stayed the same.
An old Roman calendar. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Names of months in English and in Roman:
|Months in English||Months in Roman|
Easy way to remember the days in a month: (Knuckle mnemonic)
Some of you may already know this little trick. It is a very effective way to find out the number of months in a year. It is sometimes called the Knuckle mnemonic as we use the. There are two methods in Knuckle mnemonics.
In both these methods you will assign each knuckle with a value of 31 days and each depression between the knuckle with 30 days, 28 days or 29 days.
In the single handed method you start from the first knuckle (little finger knuckle) as January and the adjacent depression as February and the next knuckle as March until the last Knuckle as July. Remember to say the months while doing this.
Now repeat this again by coming back to the little finger knuckle (Now August) and then continue until you finish all the months.
There is another variation In this method where you could also reverse your direction of counting once you reach the last knuckle instead of starting from the little finger knuckle after reaching July.
In this second method you can use both your hands. You will need to make a fist and place your hands next to each other with the knuckles of your index fingers touching each other.
Just like in the previous method you can start from the small finger knuckle saying January and then when you reach the last knuckle of your hand jump to the next knuckle (index finger knuckle) on the second hand and then continue to complete the months.
What is a leap year?
In the Gregorian Calendar one year is not equal to 365 days. There is a quarter of a day in each year that gets carried over. That is why after completing four years you end up with four quarters of a day which is the same as a whole day. This day is what gets added to February thereby giving 29 days in that month when it is done. That year when February has 29 days instead of the usual 28 days is called a leap year.
How to calculate the next leap year?
For most of the years once you add 4 years to a leap year you get the next leap year but that does not hold true when you consider long spans.
Here is a simple way to calculate leap years:
If your answer is a Yes after the above three checks then the year under consideration is a leap year.
But if the year is divisible by four and not divisible by 100 you still have a leap year.
But if the year is divisible by four, divisible by 100 and not divisible by 400 it is not a leap year.
Here is a list of leap years for years from 2000 to 2100:
|Leap Years from 2000 to 2100
In the above table, notice how 2100 failed to appear as a leap year. This is because despite the year being divisible by both 4 and 100 it was not divisible by 400 and hence is not a leap year.
So there you have it! Once again we see that history lives on with us even today. The Roman emperors who made the first calendars may be long gone. But the legacy of their culture still lives with us today in the form of the modern calendar! Want to know more about culture, history and geography? Check out the BYJU’S social science videos here!
1. Why is August named August?
August is named after a major figure of the ancient Roman world – Rome's first emperor, Augustus Caesar.
2. Who is June named after?
June is the sixth month of the Gregorian calendar. It was named after Juno, the Roman goddess of childbirth and fertility.
3. Why did the Romans only have 10 months?
According to tradition, Romulus, the legendary first king of Rome, oversaw an overhaul of the Roman calendar system around 738 BCE. The resulting calendar, whose structure borrowed heavily from the ancient Greek calendar system, had only 10 months, with March (Martius) being the first month of the year.
4. Who is the month of April named after?
The origins of some months were debated even by the Romans themselves. One tradition had it that Romulus named April after the goddess Aphrodite, who was born from the sea's foam (aphros in Ancient Greek).
5. Who is the month of May named after?
May was named after the Roman goddess Maia, who oversaw the growth of plants. Maia was considered a nurturer and an earth goddess, which may explain the connection with this springtime month.
Deepthi is an ambivert who is on a steady diet of good food, filter coffee, and self-improvement. Being an ardent reader, storytelling has been her first love and she enjoys exploring how to convey stories compellingly. Having studied psychology and experienced the learning and development field, Deepthi is driven to understand human behavior and to know what makes each of us unique. You are most likely to find her tucked into a cozy corner at a local cafe with a Kindle or a book in hand. If you find her there, stop by and say hello, she'd be eager to learn your story too. Until then, you can ping her at [email protected] for anything you may like to share.
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