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How Months Got Their Names (HINT: Gods Are Involved!)

Categories: Vocabulary Research |

Ever wondered how the months got their names? Then read on!


The first month of the year is named after the Roman god Janus, the god in charge of beginnings and passages. This was an apt name for January as it marked a review of the year that just ended and the optimism associated with a new year ahead.


This month took its name from ‘februa’, the cultural practice taking place halfway through the month. The Februa feast culminated between the 15th and 13th centuries as a form of ritual purification.


This one is easy! March got its name from the god of war, Mars. Several cultural practices devoted to Mars were taking place around this season, hence the name.


This name was presumably derived from the Latin word ‘aprillis’ coming from the verb aperio, which means “to open.” Given the agricultural focus of civilizations thousands of years ago, April was a busy, thriving month for farmers that signaling the opening of new agricultural possibilities ahead.


The fifth month is named after Maia, a goddess who, according to Greek mythology is Hermes’ mother and Atlas’ daughter. She was celebrated as a deity with a nurturing, motherly attitude.


Named after the Roman goddess, Juno, June is a month dedicated to marriage, childbirth and women’s well-being. Often Juno was associated with her Greek counterpart, Hera.


Named after Julius Caesar as a way to commemorate him, July is the first month of the calendar year not named after a deity, and it’s the month Caesar was born in.

Now let’s take a breather and a brief history lesson to understand the naming of the remaining months.

Hundreds of years back, the Romans had only ten months. These were what we now know as March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November and December. They also had a dead or idle period of about 60 days in which nothing major happened , at least not anything related to agriculture.

So, according to the Roman year, the year started in March and ended about 60 days after the end of December.  So considering that March was the first month, that makes August the sixth, September the seventh and so forth.

Now, Numa Pompilius, the King of Rome 2,700 or so years ago, decided to spice things up a bit. He said that the year should start earlier than March, and so he divided and named that dead winter time, creating January and February.

August, September, October, November, December

Before being named August, the six month was known as Sextilis (the ‘sixth’, see history lesson above). It was renamed as August in honor of the first Roman emperor.

September is the seventh month, October is the eighth month, November the ninth and of course, December, the tenth. These all come from the Latin words for those numbers: septem, octo, novem, decem.

Now you know why months are named the way they are!

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