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Did you know the names of the months are older than the calendar?

Team StoryWeavers|January 7, 2021| 9

Welcome to 2021! 

The start of a brand new year is often filled with resolutions and promises of a fresh start. 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?

The calendar!

As we start our calendars on the month of January, have you ever wondered where the unique names of the month come from? Some of them 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!)

Quick Fact

The study of the origin of words is called etymology.

 

At the doorstep: January

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

Janus on an ancient Roman coin. Image source: Shutterstock

Cleaning it up: February

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.

A European painting depicting the month of February. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

A European painting depicting the month of February. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Read Also: Why Is February So Odd This Year?

Onwards and upwards: March

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.

Quick Fact

March was also originally supposed to be the first month of the calendar!

Statue of Roman god Mars. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Statue of Roman god Mars. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Blooming to glory: April

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

Blooming flowers may have inspired the name “April”. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Nurturing the Earth: May

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

Image of Maia on Greek pottery. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Celebrating marriages: June

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, were 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

Statue of Juno. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Don’t forget Caesar: July

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 to ‘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 Caeser. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Statue of Julius Caeser. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Another great king: August

The month of August gets its name from the Roman Emperor Augustus Caesar, Julius Caeser’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 Caeser. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Statue of Augustus Caeser. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Counting the rest: September, October, November, December

The last four months of the year seem to rhyme and that isn’t a coincidence. Originally, the months of September, October, November and December 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

An old Roman calendar. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

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!

About the Author


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Deepthi Chakravarthy

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 storyweavers@byjus.com for anything you may like to share.

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Comments


Srijita Sen

January 7, 2021

Wow😮😮😮😮


Nehal Pohane

January 7, 2021

Wow! I didn’t know that these months are older than I thought they were!😮😳


Parvathi Ajayakumar

January 9, 2021

Unbelievable.😯😯😲😲Really Amazing.👍🏻👍🏻Now I understood how these months got these names😃😃


Aastha Pratap Mokashi

January 10, 2021

Happy New Year 🎉🥳 Nice Information…..👍👌


Rathod Avani

January 11, 2021

Nice 😊😊


Jiya Gadhavi

January 11, 2021

Amazing😯😯😮😮,
I didn’t know that the calendar month names are older than the calendar !!!


Aayush Kumar🤠

January 13, 2021

Amazing😮


Alokendra Mandal

January 17, 2021

Very nice information as it helps us from now to use calendar not just to refer dates but now we also know that from where these names come from !!


Yasmin Bano

January 17, 2021

Wow…!!! Its really nice I don’t have any information about this… Really a new and interesting information…… For me…!!


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