Interestingly, in a way, our lives are run by ancient Rome: The names of our months are derived from Roman gods, Roman leaders, Roman festivals and rituals, and even Roman numerals. So, as Earth spins on its axis toward another day, read on for a nutshell version of how the months got their names.
The Roman month of Januarius takes its name from the Roman god Janus, the protector of gates and doorways. Janus is typically depicted with two faces — one looking into the past, the other looking into the future. The gates to the temples of Janus were left open in times of war and closed during times of peace.
Based on the Latin word fevermeaning “to cleanse,” the Roman month of Februarius is named for Februaliaa Roman festival of purification and atonement. Februarius, at some point in time, was shortened to February.
Named for Mars, the Roman mythological god of war, March is named for the time of year when military campaigns resumed after the dead and inactive period of winter. March was also a season of many festivals relating to the preparation of military campaigns.
April derived its name from the Latin word to open or aperiomeaning “to open” or “bud.” Invoking images of spring blossoms and the spirit of renewal, Aprilis ultimately evolved into April.
Named for the nurturing Roman earth goddess Maiawho watched over the growth of plants, May also derives from the Latin word bigger meaning “elders,” who were celebrated during this month of spring.
June is inspired by the Roman goddess Junothe patroness of marriage, childbirth and the overall wellbeing of women. Juno is the mythological wife of Jupiterking of the Roman pantheon. June also derives from the Latin word juveniles meaning “young people.”
Originally named for the Latin word quintilemeaning the number five. Changed after his death to honor the Roman dictator, Julius Caesar (100 B.C.E.–44 B.C.E.). It’s important to note that he is the Julius behind the Julian calendar which he helped develop — the precursor to today’s Gregorian calendar.
Like the origins of July, August was named to honor a famous political figure, the first Roman emperor, Augustus Caesar (63 B.C.E.–14 C.E.), grandnephew of Julius Caesar. Augustus derives from the eponymous Latin word, meaning, “noble, venerable and majestic.”
September derives from the Latin word septemor “seven” because it was the seventh month in the early Roman calendar.
From the Latin word octomeaning “eight,” because, you guessed it, October was the eighth month of the year in the before-times of the early Roman calendar. Attempts were made to rename it after various Roman emperors once they converted to a 12-month calendar, but for reasons unknown, their efforts fell flat.
If you can count to ten in Latin, you’ve probably noticed a pattern here. From the Latin word novemmeaning “nine,” November takes its name because, well, November was the ninth month of the early Roman calendar.
And, it’s a wrap. The Latin word decemmeaning “ten,” became the month of December, the tenth month in the early Roman calendar.