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Month Names & Origins: How Did the Months Get Their Names in English?


What is the story behind the month names? In this post, we go in order, January through December, to talk about the etymology and month name origins.

You know there are 12 months in the year. And you know February is a weirdo. But, how did the months get their names? What’s the origin of month names?

Let’s take a look.

In this quick post, we look at the etymology behind the names of each month.

calendar month names origins
Taken by E. Rothermel via unsplash.com. [Public Domain].

January – Month #1

The month of January gets its name from the Latin word for door (ianua). It’s a fitting name, since it is a sort of door into the new year.

One common misconception is that January gets its name from Janus, the two-headed Roman god of beginnings and transitions. However, Juno, the patron goddess of the Roman Empire, was actually the deity of this month.

Fun Month Facts: January and February were the last two months to be added to the calendar, which helps make sense of later months (September and on). This was because the Romans considered the winter to be “monthless.”

February – Month #2

The month of February gets its name from Februa (or dies Februatus), the ancient Roman purification ritual which occurred during this month.

This purification festival was originally called Lupercalia, and it occurred between the 13th and 15th of February.

With 28 days, February is the shortest month of the year, and the only month not to have 30 or 31 days. During a leap year, February has 29 days.

Related Read: Why Does February Have Just 28 Days?

March – Month #3

The month of March gets its name from Mars, the Roman god of war.

March was the first month in the Roman calendar until around 150 BCE, and many ancient Roman festivals which took place in March were actually new year’s celebrations.

April – Month #4

The month of April has an officially uncertain origin, but it probably gets its name from the Latin verb aperire (“to open”). This is fitting because, in the Northern Hemisphere, April is springtime, when flowers begin to open or blossom.

The Anglo-Saxons in Old English called April ēastre-monaþ, which means “Easter month.”

May – Month #5

The month of May gets its name from Maia, the ancient Greek goddess and mother of Hermes.

The Roman goddess of fertility, Bona Dea, was the counterpart to Maia, and her festival was held in May.

June – Month #6

The month of June has multiple possible etymologies, but it likely derives its name from Juno, Jupiter’s wife and the Roman goddess of fertility.

However, as we mentioned earlier, Juno may have been the goddess of January, so another possible explanation is that June is named for Lucius Junius Brutus, the founder of the Roman Republic.

July – Month #7

The month of July gets its name from Julius Caesar, after the Roman Senate voted to name the month in his honor.

Prior to that, it was named Quintilis, after quin, as it was the fifth month of the calendar prior to January and February being added. It’s also where we get the quin hotel room, which sleeps 5 people.

August – Month #8

The month of August gets its name from Augustus, the first emperor of the Roman Empire.

Prior to that, it was named Sextilis, being the sixth month of the year prior to January and February being added.

September – Month #9

The month of September gets its name from Latin septem, which is the number seven, as it was the seventh month of the year prior to January and February being added.

October – Month #10

The month of October gets its name from Latin ôctō, which is the number eight, as it was the eighth month of the year prior to January and February being added.

November – Month #11

The month of November gets its name from Latin novem, which is the number nine, as it was the ninth month of the year prior to January and February being added.

December – Month #12

The month of December gets its name from Latin decem, which is the number ten, as it was the tenth month of the year prior to January and February being added.

As you can see, the Romans and their mythology had a lot to do with modern English month names. For more on gods and goddesses, check out the deities of travel (from every background).

Well, that was our post on the various months’ names, what did you think? Got any questions, feedback, or other facts to add about the naming of one of the months? Let us know in the comments below, and thanks for reading!

Christian Eilers
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Christian Eilers
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