The origin of months, based on the Moon’s cycle around the Earth, assisted in noting the time and fragmenting long seasons into small time periods. Let’s look into the meanings of the months of the year.
We look at the calendar several times a day to check our scheduled meetings, appointments, and to refer to dates so as to plan vacations. But we hardly think about the significance of the months’ names. Have you thought about why January is called January and why March is March? What are the meanings of these months? Let’s find out.
Origin of the word Month
The word Month came from Munt — the local deity of Hermonthis, in the south of Thebes. It was founded and worshiped in the times of Roman supremacy. Later, it became the war-god of the Egyptian king (symbolized as falcon-headed).
The original Roman year had only ten months, which started from the month of March.
- March – Martius
- April – Aprilis
- May – Maius
- June – Junius
- July – Quintilis
- August – Sextilis
- September – September
- October – October
- November – November
- December – December
The second king of Rome — Numa Pompilius (circa 700 BC) — added the two extra months that were unnamed, as it was the winters, and no agricultural activity took place during that period.
- January – Januarius
- February – Februarius
He also moved the start of the year from March to January and even changed the number of days in a month.
“January is here, with eyes that keenly glow, A frost-mailed warrior striding a shadowy steed of snow.” – Edgar Fawcett
The month of January is named after ‘Janus’, the Roman God of Gates and Doorways. Janus is represented with two heads that are back to back, which signifies that he is looking backward as well as forward. His festival was celebrated at the arrival of the new year, and hence this month was named after him.
Zodiac – Capricorn, Aquarius
Birthstone – Garnet
Flower – Carnation and Snowdrop
The original name of January was Januarius and had only 29 days. It was later changed by Julius to 31 days.
“February, when the days of winter seem endless and no amount of wistful recollecting can bring back any air of summer.” – Shirley Jackson
Month of Februa
The name February comes from the Roman period of Februa, a festival of purification, which is also known as Lupercalia. The festival of Februa was named after the Roman God Februus, who represented purification, and the month and has originated from the Sabine culture.
Zodiac – Aquarius, Pisces
Birthstone – Amethyst
Flower – Violet and Primrose
Until circa 450 B.C., the month of Februarius had a fixed 28 days at start, and then 23 or 24 days. Later, Julius changed it to be 29 days after every four years and the rest to 28 days.
“March comes in with an adder’s head, and goes out with a peacock’s tail.” – Richard Lawson Gales
March, the third month of our calendar, was originally the first month of the year. The month of March is named after the Roman God of war – Mars. This month was considered as the time to resume war, and hence named after the War-God. Mars is also identified with the Greek God Ares.
Zodiac – Pisces, Aries
Birthstone – Aquamarine
Flower – Jonquil and Daffodil
The month of Martius, being the first month of the calendar, always had 31 days.
“The first of April is the day we remember what we are the other 364 days of the year.” – Mark Twain
April is believed to be Aphrodite’s month. Aphrodite is the Greek Goddess of love and beauty. She is also known as Goddess Venus by the Romans. The word “April” may also have come from the Latin word, Apeire, which means to open — in connection with the buds that open to bloom.
Zodiac – Aries, Taurus
Birthstone – Diamond
Flower – Sweet Pea and Daisy
The month of Aprilis had 30 days in the beginning and then was made into 29 days by Numa. Later, Julius finally made it 30 days long.
“Hebe’s here, May is here! The air is fresh and sunny; And the miser-bees are busy hoarding golden honey.” – Thomas Aldrich
The name of this month is derived from the French word ‘Mai’. It is named after “Maia” — the goddess of spring and growth. She is supposed to be the daughter of Faunus, one of the oldest Roman deities and the wife of Vulcan. In the Greek mythology, Maia is known as the mother of Hermes. The word “Maia” means the great one.
Zodiac – Taurus, Gemini
Birthstone – Emerald
Flower – Lily of the Valley
The month of Maius always had 31 days.
“It is the month of June, the month of leaves and roses, when pleasant sights salute the eyes, and pleasant the noses.” – Nathaniel Parker Willis
June is named after Juno, the goddess of the Roman pantheon. She symbolizes marriage and welfare of women. Juno is said to be the wife and sister of Jupiter. Juno is also known as the Greek Goddess Hera. Getting married in the month of June is considered good luck.
Zodiac – Gemini, Cancer
Birthstone – Pearl
Flower – Rose
The month of Junius had 30 days, which was changed by Numa to 29 days. It was again made 30 days long by Julius.
“Hot July brings cooling showers, apricots and gillyflowers.” – Sara Coleridge
Julius Caesar’s Month
It was originally known as Quintilis, which means the fifth month. Julius Caesar was later born in the same month, and he updated the Roman calendar and renamed this month after his own name.
Zodiac – Cancer, Leo
Birthstone – Ruby
Flower – Water Lily and Larkspur
The month of Quintilis or Julius has always been a month of 31 days.
“I bet deep down you still wish your mom would take you clothes shopping every August for the new school year.” – Bridget Willard
Augustus Caesar’s Month
The sixth month of the Roman calendar was known as Sextilis, which was later changed by Augustus Caesar (who became the emperor of Rome) who decided to have a month after his name. This month is named in honor of Augustus Caesar, who reformed the calendar of Julius Caesar.
Zodiac – Leo, Virgo
Birthstone – Peridot
Flower – Poppy and Gladiolus
The Sextilis month had 30 days, which was later changed to 29 by Numa. Thereafter, it was changed into a 31-day month by Julius.
“By all these lovely tokens September days are here; with summer’s best of weather; and autumn’s best of cheer.” – Helen Hunt Jackson
The Seventh Month
The word “September” comes from the Latin word, septem which means seven. Though it is the ninth month now, it earlier used to be the seventh month in the Roman calendar. It is said that this month was the time of games — Ludi Romani (Roman games), in respect of Jupiter, which were played during the middle of the month at Circus maximus.
Zodiac – Virgo, Libra
Birthstone – Sapphire
Flower – Morning Glory and Aster
The month September had 30 days, which was then made into 29 days by Numa. Eventually, it was made a 30-day month by Julius.
“Listen! The wind is rising, and the air is wild with leaves, we have had our summer evenings, now for October eves!” – Humbert Wolfe
The Eight Month
October comes from the word ‘Octo’, which means eight, as this was the eighth month of the Roman calendar that became the tenth month later. In the early days, this month was full of celebrations with regard to Juno and Jupiter – the Wine God. The celebrations included feasts, games, and consuming a lot of wine.
Zodiac – Libra, Scorpio
Birthstone – Opal
Flower – Calendula and Marigold
The month of October, from the beginning, was 31 days long.
“Dull November brings the blast, then the leaves are whirling fast.” – Sara Coleridge
Novembris or Ninth Month
The word “November” has been derived from the Latin word novem, meaning nine. Its name remained intact, even after January and February were added to the Roman calendar in which it became the eleventh month. This month is said to be named after Tiberius Caesar following Augustus’ time.
Zodiac – Scorpio, Sagittarius
Birthstone – Topaz
Flower – Chrysanthemum
The month of Novembris was initially 30 days long, which was then changed to 29 days by Numa. After the changes made by Julius, it became 30 days long.
“How like a winter hath my absence been. From thee, the pleasure of the fleeting year! What freezings have I felt, what dark days seen, what old December’s bareness everywhere!” – William Shakespeare
The Tenth Month
This month derives its name from the Latin word ‘decem’ that means ten. It was the last month in the Roman calendar, and it remains the last month even now. In the beginning of the month, the Romans celebrated a festival to honor the God of Sea and Water, or Poseidon known to the Greeks. The end of the month signified the start of a new solar year.
Zodiac – Sagittarius, Capricorn
Birthstone – Turquoise
Flower – Narcissus
December had 30 days, which was then changed to 29 days by Numa. Finally, it was made 31 days long by Julius.
For some of us, months may be a medium of calculating days, but each month has its own significance. Now that you know about it, the next time you look at the calendar, you will be able to recollect the glorious history of that month.