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Does September have the wrong name?

Aug 31, 2015 11:33AM ● Published by Charles Reichblum

Yes it does, and as it turns out, not only September, but three other months—October, November and December—also have the wrong names.

According to the Latin derivation of their names, September means seventh month, October means eighth, November means ninth and December means tenth—and originally, those were their positions in the calendar.

But in 46 BC, Julius Caesar changed the calendar and moved September from being the seventh month to being the ninth month. October was moved from eighth to tenth, November from ninth to eleventh and December from tenth to twelfth. The one thing he didn’t change was their names—and ever since, those four months have been misnamed.

Caesar also had another effect on the names of the months: He named July, which originally had a Latin name, after himself.

Here’s how the other months got their names:
  • January was named after the Roman god, Janus, who was the god of doors and gates and had two faces—one looking back and one looking forward, signifying the old year passing and a new year beginning.
  • February’s name came from a Latin word meaning ‘to purify.’ Romans purified themselves in February to prepare for their spring festivals.
  • March was named for the Roman god, Mars, who before becoming their god of war, was their god of agriculture, called upon as spring planting began.
  • April got its name from the Latin word, aprilis, meaning to open and signifying changes in the appearance of the outdoor world.
  • May was named for Maia, the Roman goddess of spring and growth.
  • June got its name from Juno, the goddess of marriage. Then, as now, many people got married in June.
  • August was named after the emperor Augustus.

And that brings us to those months with the wrong names—September, October, November and December. Should we have different names for them, and if so, what names should they have?

Dr. Knowledge is heard on KDKA and the CBS radio network with his “Knowledge in a Nutshell” feature, and is author of the “Knowledge in a Nutshell” book series. His website is knowledgeinanutshell.com.


Education, Today month names Roman calendar
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