Origin of Month Names

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Where the Twelve Months Names Came From

Origin of month names-Thinkstock

Each month’s name has an interesting history.

Photo by Thinkstock

What is the origin of the calendar months’ names? Read on.

JANUARY

Named for the Roman god Janus, protector of gates and doorways. Janus is depicted with two faces, one looking into the past, the other into the future.

FEBRUARY

From the Latin word februa, “to cleanse.” The Roman calendar month of Februarius was named for Februalia, a festival of purification and atonement that took place during this period.

MARCH

Named for the Roman god of war, Mars. This was the time of year to resume military campaigns that had been interrupted by winter.

APRIL

From the Latin word aperio, “to open (bud),” because plants begin to grow in this month.

MAY

Named for the Roman goddess Maia, who oversaw the growth of plants. Also from the Latin word maiores, “elders,” who were celebrated during this month.

JUNE

Named for the Roman goddess Juno, patroness of marriage and the well-being of women. Also from the Latin word juvenis, “young people.”

JULY

Named to honor Roman dictator Julius Caesar (100 B.C.– 44 B.C.). In 46 B.C., Julius Caesar made one of his greatest contributions to history: With the help of Sosigenes, he developed the Julian calendar, the precursor to the Gregorian calendar we use today.

AUGUST

Named to honor the first Roman emperor (and grandnephew of Julius Caesar), Augustus Caesar (63 B.C.– A.D. 14).

SEPTEMBER

From the Latin word septem, “seven,” because this had been the seventh month of the early Roman calendar.

OCTOBER

From the Latin word octo, “eight,” because this had been the eighth month of the early Roman calendar.

NOVEMBER

From the Latin word novem, “nine,” because this had been the ninth month of the early Roman calendar.

DECEMBER

From the Latin word decem, “ten,” because this had been the tenth month of the early Roman calendar.

Now that you know more about our month’s names, how about the day’s names—Monday, Tuesday, etc.? For the truly curious calendar lovers, check out the origin of day names.

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This article was originally published in 2009 and has been updated.

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Interesting!

Interesting!

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