What Do the Months’ Names Mean and Where Do They Come from?

The British Museum explains why we call the months what we do:

  • January is named after the Roman god Janus. He had two faces so he could see the future and the past!
  • February is named after an ancient Roman festival of purification called Februa.
  • March is named after Mars, the Roman god of war. The Roman calendar originally began in March, and the months of January and February were added later, after a calendar reform.
  • April takes its name from the Latin word aperire, meaning ‘to open’ (just like flowers do in spring!.) The Romans called the month Aprilis.
  • May is named after the Greek goddess Maia.
  • June is named after the Roman goddess Juno—the god of marriage and childbirth, and the wife of Jupiter, king of the gods.
  • July and August were named after two major figures of the ancient Roman world—the statesman Julius Caesar and Rome’s first emperor, Augustus.
  • September, October, November and December are named after Roman numbers 7, 8, 9 and 10—they were originally the seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth months of the Roman year!
  • Before July and August were renamed after Roman rulers, they were called Quintilis and Sextilis, meaning fifth and sixth months.

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