The Origins of the Secular Names for the Months of the Year



In this case only a few of the names of the months are associated with certain gods or personalities, whereas the others simply come from Latin origins to indicate the order (number) in which it appeared in the old Roman calendar.



Abbreviations of Languages Used

Arm. - Armoric L. - Latin
Corn. - Cornish Port. - Portuguese
Eng. - English Russ. - Russian
Fr. - French Sax. - Saxon or Anglo-Saxon
Ir. - Irish, Hiberno-Celtic, and Gaelic Sp. - Spanish
It. - Italian W. - Welsh


The information in the "Origins of Name" column comes from Noah Webster's original 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language.

Month

Name of
God or
Personality

Origins of Name

January Roman god Janus [Ir. gionbhar or gionvar; Russ. genvar; Fr. janvier; It. gennaio; Sp. enero; Port. janeiro; L. januarius.  It is evident from the Irish and Russian words, that the first syllable of January, is from the root of L. geno, to beget, Eng. to begin, Sax. aginnanVar is said to signify a revolution.  January then signifies the beginning, or first month.  Janus is probably from the same root.]
The first month of the year, according to the present computation.  At the foundation of Rome, March was considered the first month.  January and February were introduced by Numa Pompilius.
February   [L. Februarius; Fr. Fevrier; It. Febbraio; Sp. Febrero; Arm. Fevrer; Port. Fevereiro; Ir. Feabhra; Russ. Phebral.  The Latin word is said to be named from februo, to purify by sacrifice, and thus to signify the month of purification, as the people were, in this month, purified by sacrifices and oblations.  The word februo is said to be a Sabine word, connected with ferveo, ferbeo, to boil, as boiling was used in purifications.
   This practice bears a resemblance to that of making atonement amoung the Jews; but the connection between ferveo and February is doubtful.]
The name of the second month of the year.
March Roman god Mars [L. Mars, the god of war.]
The third month of the year.
April   [L. aprilis; Fr. avril; Sp. abril; Ir. abrail; Corn. ebril; W. ebrill.]
The fourth month of the year.
May Greek goddess Maia [L. Maius; Fr. Mai; It. Maggio; Sp. Mayo.]
The fifth month of the year, beginning with January, but the third beginning with March, as was the ancient practice of the Romans.
June Roman god Juno [L. junius; Fr. juin; It. giugno; Sp. junio.]
The sixth month of the year, when the sun enters the sign Cancer.
July Roman emperor Julius Caesar The seventh month of the year, during which the sun enters the sign Leo.  It is so called from Julius, the surname of Caius Cesar, who was born in this month.  Before that time, this month was called Quintilis, or the fifth month, according to the old Roman calendar, in which March was the first month of the year.
August Roman emperor Augustus Caesar [L. augustus.  The first sylable of this word is probably from the root of augeo, or of awe.]
The eighth month of the year, containing thirty-one days.  The old Roman name was Sextilis, the sixth month from March, the month in which the primitive Romans, as well as Jews, began the year.  The name was changed to August in honor of the Emperor Octavius Augustus, on account of his victories, and his entering on his first consulate in that month.
September   [L. from septem, seven; Fr. septembre; It. settembre; Sp. septiembre.]
The seventh month from March, which was formerly the first month of the year.   September is now the ninth month of the year.
October   [L. from octo, eighth; the eighth month of the primitive Roman year which began in March.]
The tenth month of the year in our calendar, which follows that of Numa and Julius Cesar.
November   [L. from novem, nine; the ninth month, according to the ancient Roman year, beginning in March.]
The eleventh month of the year.
December   [L. december, from decem, ten; this being the tenth month among the early Romans, who began the year in March.]
The last month in the year, in which the sun enters the tropic of Capricorn, and makes the winter solstice.



By
YashaNet Staff 
March, 2003 • Adar II, 5763

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