Months of the Year – Origin

Posted on 20. Oct, 2008 by in Spanish Culture

Do you know the origin of the months of the year? In Ancient Rome there were only ten months in the calendar initially. That created a lack of alignment with real time, and artificial adjustments had to made every year. Eventually Julius Caesar supervised a reform of the calendar that took into consideration the four seasons and had 365 days (with the leap year system as we know it today). This is known as the Julian calendar. The fifth and sixth months were renamed after Julius Caesar and Augustus (the first month of the year was March).  The origin of the names of the current months in Spanish can be traced back to the Julian calendar:

Enero – From Latin, januarius, honors Janus, the two-faced God that looked upon the past and the future. Janus was also the God of the Gates and Doors.

Febrero – From Latin, februarius, to purify, referring to the Lupercal feasts where priests hit women on the back with februum (sticks, poles) to purify them. The Romans consecrated this Month, the shortest of the year, to Neptune, God of Water and the Sea.

Marzo – From Latin, martius, in honor of Mars, the God of Warfare. Romulus consecrated this month, which was the first of the year in the old Roman calendar.

Abril – From Latin aprilis; according to Ovid, from aprire, to open, because it is the time when vegetation starts to grow in the northern region and flowers bloom.

Mayo – From Latin maius, in honor of Maia, the eldest of the Pleiades, daughter of Atlas and Pleione.

Junio – From Latin iuniu, in honor of Juno, the Goddess of Home.

Julio – From Latin iuliu, in honor of Julius Caesar. In the ancient Roman calendar it was called quintiles, because it was the fifth month and it was consecrated to Jupiter, Supreme God.

Agosto – From Latin augustus, for Augustus, the Octavian emperor.

Septiembre – From Latin september, because it was the seventh month in the ancient Roman calendar.

Octubre – From Latin october, because it was the eighth month in the ancient Roman calendar.

Noviembre – From Latin november, the ninth month of the early Romans. During Commodus’ Empire there was an attempt to rename it exaperatorius, but it didn’t prosper.

Diciembre – From Latin december, tenth month in the ancient Roman calendar, dedicated to Vesta (Goddess of the Hearth, Home and Family). It was represented by a slave holding a lit torch, in reference to Saturn feasts.

Nos vemos prontito!


About Adir

English / Spanish teacher and translator for over 20 years. I have been blogging since 2007 and I am also a professional singer in my spare time.

8 Responses to “Months of the Year – Origin”

  1. nick 16 March 2009 at 9:49 am #

    I love this website =P

  2. david carmona 16 March 2009 at 10:23 am #

    Thank you for your nice comment. We try our best to make it a useful site for our readers.

  3. Robert 24 January 2010 at 1:33 pm #

    Thanks for the explinations of the month. Do you know why, though, spanish uses the word enero insted of something that is similar to januarius? Thanks.

  4. david carmona 26 January 2010 at 5:16 pm #

    It also comes from the Latin Janus. Remember that, in Latin, the letter J is pronounced like the Spanish /y/, which makes it really easy to assimilate.

  5. kadija taylor 15 September 2010 at 6:18 pm #

    omg freaking random lol

  6. Bri 8 September 2011 at 9:19 am #

    wow thanks for teaching me something new i never knew any of that!

  7. a person 15 November 2012 at 2:14 pm #

    thanks helped me with my homework

  8. Another person 10 January 2013 at 6:34 pm #

    Helped me with my spanish homework.

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