Have you ever flipped through a calendar and wonder why the months were named the way they were? Some months follow similar structure, while others (looking at you, August) seemingly come out of nowhere.
The names of the months were set in Ancient Rome, 2,000 years ago. They went through a few changes in the earlier days, and there are clues that allude to this in the current names.
As with most things in the ancient world, the months were heavily influenced by gods and kings (the rest were named based on the order in which they fell).
Originally, the Romans only bothered to name 10 months. The first was March, and the last was December. Not much really happened in that cold period we now know as January and February, and it was left unnamed until Julius Caesar ironed out these minor details in the Julian Calendar.
March was named after the god of war, Mars. It was the first time that the weather was warm enough for men to go to war. They were able to celebrate Mars with bloody battles.
April was the second month. Its name is derived from the Latin Aprillis, meaning to open. It’s thought this was inspired by the floral buds starting to open. Another possibility is that it was influenced by the Latin word apero, which means second.
Another deity was honored in May. Maia, the Greek/Roman goddess of warmth, earth and growth was chosen for this month. The Romans were clearly very grateful to Maia for the warm weather and flourishing crops.
Juno was chosen for the following month. The Roman goddess of childbirth and fertility, she also represented womanhood in a sense. In her honor, we have the month of June.
The remaining months of the year were named after the order in which they fell. Next was Quintilis, the fifth month, followed by Sextilis, the sixth. Julius Caesar was born in Quintilis, and after his assassination it was renamed after him, as July. Augustus Caesar was the first emperor of Rome. He seemed to have a lot of fortune in Sextilis, and the month’s name was ultimately changed to August.
If you speak Latin, you’ll understand the numerical pattern for the remaining months. This is why we have September (seventh), October (eighth), November (ninth) and December (tenth). Unfortunately for Roman calendar makers, these months would eventually be shifted back in the order by two, making their names somewhat less meaningful.
The reordering occurred when Julius Caesar finalized the Julian Calendar (July and August were still Quintilis and Sextilis at this point). He made the decision to finally organize that unnamed cold patch.
The first half was deemed to be the start of the year, pushing all the other months two places back. It was named January, after Janus, the Roman god of beginnings and endings. The section between January and March was called February, the month of cleansing. This name was derived from februa, the Roman purification festival that was held around this time.