We are so used to seeing a calendar year in and year out and we never give a thought to how the names of the calendar months came to be. Do you not think that there is more to these names than what is on the surface? Why name the month January, February or March? Why is September the ninth month today when “septem” is the Latin word for seven? If this arouses your curiosity, continue to read on.
The Calendar Months
Its Latin name is Januarius, which translates to of Janus. It used to be called “Januarius mensis,” or the month of Janus. Janus is the god of doorways and gates according to Roman beliefs and has two faces, enabling him to look to the past as well as the future. It used to have 29 days.
February means of Februa in Latin. The Latin term “dies februatus” pertains to the day of purification. Februa is the festival of purification for the Romans. Before the Julian calendar, the month had 23 to 24 days only.
March was called Marius, and was dedicated to Mars, the Roman god of strife, who is called Ares in Greek. Since the beginning, it already had 31 days and was also the first month of the year then.
April used to be the month, Aprilis and closely associated with the Greek goddess, Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty and love. Her Roman counterpart is Venus. The name derived from the Old English and Latin word, “Aprilis” and the Etruscan word, “Apru.” April had 30 days before King Numa made it 29. It was changed back to 30 days in the Julian calendar.
Its old name, “Maia,” came from the Latin Maius, which translates to the great one, is in honor of the Italian spring goddess, Maia. She is the daughter of Vulcan and Faunus. The month, since the ancient times, had 31 days.
“Junius” was the old Latin name for the month of June, the month of Juno, the Roman goddess of principle. Juno is the goddess of women’s well-being and marriage. She is the sister and wife of Roman god, Jupiter. In Greek, she is called Hera. It used to have 29 days.
Julius was the Latin name for July, the month of Julius Caesar, which he declared when he reformed the calendar. However, it used to be called “Quintilis” because it was the fifth month in the ancient calendar. This month had 31 days since the beginning.
Augustus Caesar named this month after him when it was his turn to reform the calendar. It used to be called “Sextilis” or the sixth month in Latin. It originally had 30 days before King Numa gave it 29 days, which was reinstated to 30 in the Julian calendar.
“September mensis” is the Latin word for the seventh month, derived from “septem” the Latin term for seven. It was given 30 days then before King Numa changed it to 29 and restored to 30 days in the Julian calendar.
The name October was derived from “octo,” a Latin word that means eight. “October mensis” is the translation for eighth month as October was the calendar’s eighth month when it only had 10 months. It had 31 days since the early beginnings of the calendar.
“Novembris” was the ninth month of the year in the original 10-month calendar, from the Latin “novem,” the term for nine. From the original 30 days, it was reduced by King Numa to 29 before being restored to 30.
“Decem” is Latin for the number 10, and December used to be the last or tenth month of the old calendar. It originally had 30 days, which was later reduced to 29 before it was given 31 days when the calendar was reformed.