Months of the Year And How They Got Their Name

Posted by By flapjack at 3 January, at 07 : 45 AM Print

Those 12 months that make up each and every year on our calendars are very familiar. Even most children by the time they are enrolled in kindergarten or first grade can name the 12 months of the year. There are even cute little poems and rhymes designed to help us keep track of each month. Yet, at one time there were no names for these calendar periods, only the seasons themselves were marked by those living on earth.

This brings us to the question of how the months of the year were given their present day names. Where did these names come from, and why were they chosen to designate certain periods on the calendars? It seems that we owe this honor to the Romans and Greeks who lived so many years ago.

The 12 months of the year were given numbers, and for a few of these months this number is also their name. However some of the months have a history that is a little more interesting. Let’s take a look at these names and their origins, shall we?


The beginning of our modern calendar year is January. This month received its name from Janus, a Roman god who represented all beginnings and was considered to be the god of ‘doors’. In fact you can find statues of Janus now in museums. These statues have 2 faces that are representative of Janus’s ability to see all things past and future. How fitting that the name of this god would be given to the month of January.


Februa (or Februatio) was an ancient purification festival held early in the springtime. This was the time when houses and buildings were cleansed and purged; and life for people was also seen as becoming cleansed and renewed. There was a god was named Februus by the Romans, but the calendar month (as well as this god) was named for the ceremonial, cleansing festival. Thus, in this instance, the name of February is due to the Februatio celebration and not directly to the Roman god.


The stormy and windy month of March was named in honor of ‘Mars’, the god of war. This is also part of the reason that many people consider the coming of March to be similar to the ferocious invasion of a windy, blustery lion (war god).


April is the time when spring is bursting forth in full bloom across much of the world. The name of this month is from a Latin word (aperit) which means ‘to open’. You might consider April to be the opening of the growing season, or an open door to a new growing period.


Maia was a Roman goddess; the mother of Mercury and the daughter of the god, Atlas. The goddess Maia was in charge of the newly growing plants that appeared each year in the springtime. Today the month of May retains the name that still honors this Roman goddess.


Juno is the goddess for whom the month of June was named. Some people may not realize that Juno was especially important because she was married to the most important Roman god, Jupiter. The month of June is a time when many celebrations take place, and this was even true in ancient times as well.

July & August

The months of July and Augustus were named for Roman rulers. These men were Julius Caesar and Augustus Caesar.

The months of September through December do not have such noteworthy legends and stories surrounding their names. These months have more modest histories pertaining to how they were named.

September, October, November and December have Latin names designating their numerical occurrence on the calendar. These months were named during a time when the calendar year began with March. Our modern calendar still reflects these numerical names even though the number is no longer accurate.

Originally the months of the year had a different arrangement on the calendar. This is why September is named the (septem) 7th month; October is called (octem), the8th month; November is designated as (novem), the 9th month; and December gets its name from the word (decem), which meant it was once the 10th month on the calendar.

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    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Aïda of Nubia and miss waiching liu. miss waiching liu said: months of the year and how they got their names- IT thing [...]

  2. david reuteler, 4 years ago Reply

    for the record, that painting for february is modern. it’s the lupercalia by jon foster.

  3. edgar, 4 years ago Reply

    September to December (7th to 10th months) were named when the year began in January but there were only 10 months to a year. Julius Caesar added July between the last named month and the first numbered month, and Augustus Caesar did the same, later. Otherwise nice piece.

  4. Months of the Year And How They Got Their Name - wehaveways's posterous, 4 years ago Reply

    [...] at one time there were no names for these calendar periods, only the seasons themselves were marked by those living on earth.Source: [...]

  5. Months of the Year And How They Got Their Name - ladyblu's posterous, 4 years ago Reply

    [...] at one time there were no names for these calendar periods, only the seasons themselves were marked by those living on earth.Source: [...]

  6. Months of the Year And How They Got Their Name | Have a seat company company blog, 4 years ago Reply

    [...] wonder why we call February “February“? Here’s the reason, and not just for February… Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a [...]

  7. Gollum, 4 years ago Reply

    Sorry, Edgar, but even the Romans couldn’t just shove two extra months into a year. Were years only 303 days long before then? July and August were earlier known as Quintilis and Sextilis — fifth and sixth months from the New Year in March — until they got renamed after a couple of egotistical political/military leaders.

    • kk, 3 years ago Reply

      hey! whos phsicaly watching the sky to see if the earth does make a complete 365 day revolution around the sun or do wait until january 1 like the rest of the world an asumed it did!

  8. Andy, 4 years ago Reply

    Seems like with all this rearranging of calendars, time would get so screwed up. How do we know the year we think it is is correct? We all know that the Jesus myth is not absolute fact, so there goes the concrete beginning to our “time count”. Hours and minutes are measured in 12s like the “english standard” measurement system (which is no longer used in england), plus there are time changes in spring and fall, so there’s no way that’s accurate.
    Apparently, it’s a faith based system like religion. Doesn’t make one bit of sense, but millions of people have been tricked into believing it.

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  10. odds and ends | alice noir, 4 years ago Reply

    [...] you’ve ever wondered how the months got their names, no need to wonder anymore.  Here are the [...]

  11. juliet, 4 years ago Reply

    thanks 4 showing how the months names originally got there names

  12. zdfA, 3 years ago Reply

    alot of people is bad and you are bod

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