Most places I researched have conflicting information about the origins of certain month names. I’ll try to stay as close to the common thread as I can, while including the information that seems the most accurate! Also, I’m going to start with March because, initially, it was the first month of the year, and the explanations for the rest of the months might make better sense if we use it as our starting point. Here’s a list of the months of the year and how they got their names:
Month 1) March is named after the god Mars. It was the month to begin farming, which may be the reason it was considered the beginning of the year. Some believe it was a sacred time when no wars should happen while others believe it was the time to start waging war, which may be why it was named after the god of war.
Also, the Ides of March, Ides meaning the middle, is when Julius Caesar was murdered by Brutus, Cassius and the rest of the senate who wanted him dead. That has nothing to do with the name March, but it will have a little bit of relevance later.
Month 2) April is said to derive from the Latin word ‘aperire,’ and means ‘to open,’ like the budding trees and flowers. Others say it’s from Aphrodite and the celebration of Venus. This makes less sense because the Greeks had Aphrodite and the Romans had Venus and if the Romans were naming months, why would they mix ‘em up?
Month 3) May has to do with the Greek goddess of fertility, Maia. Here we go mixing up the Greek and Roman stuff again! Some believe May is the month of fertility because plants are starting to grow like crazy. I think of fertility in a completely different way. Imagine rabbits…
Month 4) June is named after Juno, the Roman goddess of marriage. There were some traditions back then that more favorable marriages took place after May. This makes no sense if Maya was supposed to be the goddess of fertility! I’m so confused!!
Month 5) July was one of the month names that got changed during Julius Cesar’s reign. Before this it was called Quintilis, the 5th month, but Julius happened to be born that month and the Roman Senate named it after him to show honor! Brown nosers…
Month 6) August was also renamed. It had originally been called Sextilis, the 6th month. Supposedly, in the year 8 B.C., it was renamed after Augustus, the Roman Emperor who tried to hunt down and kill those who assassinated his great uncle Julius.
Month 7) September came from the Latin word septem, meaning seven, being that it was originally the 7th month.
Month 8) October, like September, is named after its Latin number name. Octo means eight, hence the 8th month. Very creative…
Month 9) November is from novem, again Latin, and you guessed it, it means nine!
Month 10) December, decem in Latin. 10…
Months 11 & 12) January and February are weird. You see, after the original ten months, there was a winter break that was considered a kind of a limbo. Nothing grew very well. People didn’t do much celebrating after the Winter Solstice, so it was a time to just hunker down and make it through to spring. The 2nd King of Rome didn’t like unlucky numbers, wanted to do something with that unnamed gap, and slapped on the two extra months, January and February.
January was named after the god Janus, who could look back on the old year while looking to the future. February was named after a Roman purification ritual called Februa. Apparently, during Februa, they did a lot of washing their bodies with water. Lucky us! We get to celebrate Februa every day if we want to!!
Food for thought going into the new year or just mindless trivia we’ll forget by next week? Who cares? Enjoy 2017 folks, and thanks for reading!!