MONTHS OF THE YEAR

The Old English names for the months give you some idea of what concerned people 1,500 years ago. They describe what happened at different times of the year. Remember, these relate to life in the northern hemisphere.

JANUARY

In the Roman calendar, Januarius mensis, the month of Janus the god of gates who looked both backwards and forwards, signifying the gate into the new year. Because this month included the festival of Janus, it later became the first month of the year.

The Old English names for this month were

ætera Geola after Yule, a name used by Christians. Yule was a pagan festival.

Formamonath first-month

Wulfmonath wolf-month, because that's when they roamed in search of food!

 

FEBRUARY

In the Roman calendar, Februarius mensis, the month of februa, the feast of purification. Februus was the Etruscan god of riches, represented in Roman mythology by Dis Pater, ‘rich father’.

The Old English name for this month was solmonath, mud-month, because the rain made the soil and the fields difficult for people to work in..

MARCH

In the Roman calendar, Martius mensis, month of Mars, the god of war. In the earlier Roman calendar, it was the first of ten months in the year. (The twelve month year was devised later.)

In Old English, it was Hrethmonath, fierce-month, because it was a time of blustery winds.

APRIL

In the Roman calendar, Aprilis. It was the second month in the older Roman calendar, which had only ten months. Its name might have come from Latin aperire, to open, referring to the Spring opening of buds and blossoms. It might also be a dedication to the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite (who was called Venus in Roman mythology).

Earlier versions in English, from about the 13th century, included Aperill, Averil and the French Avril.

In Old English, it was eastermonath Easter-month. Eostre was the Germanic goddess of fruits and fertility whose name was borrowed by the Christian Church for the festival of Easter.

MAY

In the Roman calendar, Maius, related to the Greek goddess Maia, the mother of Hermes (who was called Mercury in Roman mythology).

An Old English name for this month was thrimilce, three-milk, because cows were very productive at this time and could be milked three times a day.

JUNE

In the Roman calendar, Junius, the name of some Roman generals, or perhaps Juno, the queen of the gods.

An Old English name for the month was seremonath, dry-month — different from the mud-month of February!

JULY

In the Roman calendar, Julius (the famous Julius Caesar) in whose honour it was named in 44BC. In the older Roman calendar, this was the 5th month, Quintilis.

In Old English, we find the picturesque name mædmonath, meadow-month, the time when cattle could feed in the meadows.

AUGUST

In the Roman calendar, named after the emperor Augustus in 8BC. In the older Roman calendar, the month was originally Sextilis, the 7th month.

In the Old English calendar, it was Weodmonath, weed-month. Weod meant grass and herbs, not just weeds as we know them. Harvesting the fruits of flourishing plants came in the following month.

SEPTEMBER

The name in the Roman calendar is from Latin septem, seven. This was the 7th month of the earlier Roman calendar.

In Old English, hæerfestmonath, harvest-month, and later haligmonath, holy-month, in the Christian calendar. This was because Mary, the mother of Jesus, was believed to have been born on September 8th.

OCTOBER

The name in the Roman calendar is from Latin octo, eight. It was the 8th month in the older Roman calendar.

In Old English, it was winmonath, wine-month, the time when grapes were gathered for wine-making.

NOVEMBER  

In the Roman calender, the name came from Latin novem, nine. It was the 9th month of the earlier Roman calendar.

An Old English name was Blotmonath, blood-month, denoting the period of butchering animals and salting their meat for the coming winter. It was also called Windmonath, wind-month, because the seas became too rough for fishermen to do their work.

DECEMBER

In the Roman calendar, the name came from Latin decem, ten. It was the 10th and last month of the older Roman calendar.

In Old English, we find ærra Geloa, early Yule, the first period of the pagan festival which was later borrowed and adapted by the Christian church to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

Special note This is why Christmas is sometimes still called Yuletide.

IN other european languages

Many words look very different in other languages. See how similar the names of the months are!

ENGLISH

GERMAN

DUTCH

DANISH

ITALIAN

FRENCH

January

Januar

januari

januar

gennaio

janvier

February

Februar

februari

februar

febbraio

février

March

Marsch

maart

marts

marzo

mars

April

April

april

april

aprile

avril

May

Mai

mei

maj

maggio

mai

June

Juni

juni

juni

giugno

juin

July

Juli

juli

juli

luglio

juillet

August

August

augustus

august

agosto

août

September

September

september

september

settembre

septembre

October

Oktober

oktober

oktober

ottobre

octobre

November

November

november

november

novembre

novembre

December

Dezember

december

december

dicembre

decembre

Days of the week

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