How Did the Months Get Their Names?

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How did the month of the year get their names? The months’ names reflect a mix of gods and goddesses, rulers, and numbers.

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. In ancient Roman times, the gates of the temple of Janus were open in times of war and closed in times of peace.

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. March was also a time of many festivals, presumably in preparation for the campaigning season.

APRIL

From the Latin word aperio. “to open (bud).” because plants begin to grow in this month. In essence, this month was viewed as spring’s renewal.

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. Maia was considered a nurturer and an earth goddess, which may explain the connection with this springtime 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.) after his death. 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). Augustus (the first Roman emperor) comes from the Latin word “augustus.” meaning venerable, noble, and majestic.

SEPTEMBER

September comes from the Latin word septem, meaning “seven,” because it was the seventh month of the early Roman calendar.

OCTOBER

In the ancient Roman calendar, October was the name of the eighth month of the year. Its name comes from octo, the Latin word for “eight.”

In Old England, the month was called Winmonath, which means “wine month.” for this was the time of year when wine was made. The English also called it Winterfylleth, or “Winter Full Moon.” They considered this full Moon to be the start of winter.

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.

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