- Education and Science
Meaning of Month Names
Meaning of Month Names: Have you ever wondered?
Have you ever wondered what is the meaning of the month names? Our calendar has been changed around quite a bit throughout the ages and depending on the culture and region our ancestors resided in could have been quite different; however, today we go with the Roman calendar with twelve distinct months, each month containing somewhere around 30 days equaling a total of 365 days in a year.
But where did the names for the months originate? They sure don't sound purely English in origin, so what is the meaning of the month names? We will take a peek into the meaning of the month names and identify where each term originated and how it relates to our calendar and holidays today. You may be surprised to find that the meaning of the month names are not purely Christian but contain many Pagan elements from the ancient Pagan Romans.
Meaning of the month names for January - was named after a Roman god by the name of Janus. Janus was a god that was depicted with two faces, one that was said to look at the future and the other to look at the past. Janus was known for his ability to guard the doorways or gateways in time, and was known as a god of new beginnings hence the first month in our calendar being dedicated to Janus.
Janus was also a god that oversaw transitional periods, and he was also believed to have invented the first coin. This is why you will see his double-faces on the ancient Roman coins in museums, etc. I find the meaning of the month name of January to be quite fascinating...do you?
The meaning of month names for February is named after a pagan Roman item and festival known as februa (also known as Lupercalia). Februa was a whip made of strips of animal-skin (leather) that was used every year at the feast of februa (also known as the feast of purification) by the young men. They would go around the city, whipping beautiful, young women as a ritual to ensure fertility and purification in the coming year. Now, I'm not sure how whipping would result in purification, but we all have our beliefs right?
The month of February in modern times does remind many of us of love and therefore does directly correspond with fertility. We have St. Valentine's Day which is around the same time as the Roman feast of Februa, showing us once more a Pagan holiday that has been Christianized to some degree.
The meaning of the month names for March is attributed to the Romans' god of war by the name of Mars (he also has a planet named after him, in case you didn't make that connection). Because war was a very big part of life for the ancient Romans, we can see why the god of war might have gotten such credit and recognition. Because Mars' festival was celebrated in this month, the month of March was named after him. It is interesting to note that another festival in celebration of Mars occurred in October.
Mars was also a part of a Trinity of gods, if you will. He was a part of a threesome (no pun intended) with Jupiter and Quirinus and this divine Trinity is actually called the Archaic Triad. I find it interesting to note how many trinities of gods there have been over the ages, including modern Christianity.
As a side note, Easter is a major holiday that we tend to celebrate in the month of March (sometimes in April as well) but the name of Easter is actually derived from the Germanic Goddess who was honored around this time by the name of Eostre.
Meaning of month names for April is rooted in the word aprilus. Aprilus which is believed to have meant the month of Venus in Latin. The idea was that the word April was based on an Etruscan word Apru, which is thought to represent the Greek goddess Aphrodite...Romanized to the goddess Venus. Who were Aphrodite and Venus for whom this month is named?
In modern times we consider Aphrodite and Venus to have been goddesses of love; however, this is only partially a correct thought. Aphrodite was a Greek goddess who is actually older than the belief in the god Zeus, and she was also a main figure in procreation and pleasure. Procreation is blossoming everywhere in nature during the Spring month of April, so this meaning of month names seems quite appropriate. The goddess Venus was not only a goddess of love in Roman mythology but also a goddess representing victory over enemies and sexual desire. How do those two relate? Somehow, I guess! Myrtles and roses represented the goddess Venus and eventually Aphrodite was merged with Venus to make Aphrodite-Venus.
With meaning of month names for the month of May, this month is named after the Roman goddess Maia (May is also my middle name). Maia was a goddess who was a loving, nurturing mother in Roman mythology. She was the mother of Hermes and sort of adopted other deities when their mothers ditched them. The name of Maia is thought to have meant "larger, greater" and therefore the goddess Maia is associated with growth of plants, animals, trees, and the womb.
Again, Spring is a time of growth and renewal, so naming the month of May after a Spring nature goddess seems fitting to me.
For meaning of the month names, the month of June is also named after...that's right...a Roman goddess. This goddess' name was Juno and was considered to be a goddess of the state, being a protector and guide. Juno was also referred to as the patron goddess of Rome and the queen. Many consider her to be a goddess of marriage, as she was said to look after the newlywed Roman female and new marriages. She is a very complex figure in mythology and many scholars debate where she originated and what she actually represented throughout ancient Roman history.
As June is the first month of Summer (the summer solstice is usually around June 21st), it is logical that the goddess of marriage would be celebrated in the first Summer months. The month of June was named after Juno because the majority of her festivals were celebrated in this month by the ancient Romans.
Ahhh, good ol' Julius Caesar. He re-worked the calendar in 44 BC and added a month named after himself. I wouldn't say that's conceited, would you? Well, that's how we got the meaning of the month names for July.
No, just kidding. The month of July was actually named after Julius Caesar in 44 BC after he was assassinated...and we all know that story...at least we were taught in school. In addition to being a month name, some people use July as a name for their babies too.
August is the eighth month and the meaning of the month names for this month is named after Augustus Caesar, the supposed first emperor of the Roman empire. Pretty handsome dude, right? I would name a month after him any day.
Read More on Roman Mythology:
September - December
The meaning of the month names for September, October, November, and December are a lot less interesting than the other eight months in the year. I won't sit here and pretend that they are as intriguing, but I'll tell you that the names are quite confusing to many.
September basically means the seventh month, but it is actually the ninth month in our calendar.
October means the eight month, of which it is the tenth month.
November means the ninth month, and again it is actually the 11th month.
December means the tenth month, while it is actually the twelfth and last month in our calendar.
Why do we have these month names if they don't even match the actual number of the month they were chosen to describe? There used to be only 10 months in the calendar, but then two months were submitted as extras thereby pushing these month names out of sequence by two. Yes, I know. We should just change them...but what fun would that be?
Written and copyrighted © by Kitty the Dreamer (May Canfield), June 29th, 2012. All Rights Reserved.
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© 2012 Nicole Canfield