Arabic Language Blog

Where did the Arabic names of months come from? Posted by on Jan 21, 2015 in Arabic Language, Culture, Vocabulary

    Ahlan أهــْــلاً Arabic lovers! In a previous post, we discussed the origins and meanings of the Arabic names of the weekdays. In today’s post, we are going to discuss the meanings of the Arabic names of months and where they came from. Before we explore the meanings and origins of these months’ names, let’s have a look at some facts about them:

  • The Arabs who lived in the Arabian Peninsula adopted the tribal system. They traveled a lot for the sake of pasture for their animals or for the sake of trade with other tribes or other nations or for the sake of pilgrimage to the Holy City of Mecca since the time of Abraham or even for the sake of war against other tribes for many different reasons.
  • Some of these tribes settled in some places that formed the civilized cities at the time, like those in Hejaz, Yemen and Oman.
  • The Arabs adopted the Lunar System (Some Arabs also used the solar system). They mostly depended on the moon for determining the months of the year. However, they had no calendar. They named the years after some great events that happened during those years.
  • The Arabs used to have different names for the months until the time of the fifth grandfather of Prophet Mohammad 150 years before the Prophet’s time. That fifth grandfather was named كــِــلاب (Kilaab). He gathered the major tribal figures in Mecca during the pilgrimage season to discuss the matter of choosing names for the months. The names of the Arabic months that we know today dates back to that time.
  • The Second Muslim Caliphate Omar Bin Al-Khattab was the one who set the Islamic Hijri Calendar starting its first year from the Year of Hijrah (Immigration of the Prophet Muhammad from Mecca to Al-Madinah). A.H. refers to After Hijrah. However, the names of the months remained the same.
  • The Arabic (Hijri) months play an important role in determining major religious events in Islam like the pilgrimage season and the fasting month of Ramadan.
  •  Today, not all the Arab and Muslim countries use these months names in their formal calendar except for maybe Saudi Arabia.
  • Since the Hijri Calendar depends on the moon, the Hijri month is either 29 or 30 days long. Hence, the Hijri year is about 11 days shorter than the Gregorian year that depends on the sun.
The Arabic Months by Rokeya Hassan

The Arabic Months by Rokeya Hassan

The Arabic (Hijri) Months:

1) Muharram مــُــحــرَّم

The name literally means “forbidden” and the Arabs used to abstain from any act of fighting, killing or aggression during this month (and during three other months called The Forbidden Months الأشــهــر الــحــُــرُم). It is the first month in the Arabic Hijri Calendar.

2) Safar صــَــفــَــر

Literally means “void” and the month was named like that maybe because pagan Arabs used to go on raids on other tribes emptying their homes or their opponents’ homes.

3) Rabi’ Al-Awwal ربــيـــع الأول

Literally meaning “the first spring” and the name happened to appear at the beginning of spring.

4) Rabi’ Al-Akhir ربــيـــع الآخــِــر

It means “the last spring”. The month is also called Rabi’ Al-Thani ربــيـــع الــثـــانــي which means “the second spring”. The reason for this reason is that because it was named at the end of spring season.

5) Jumada Al-Oula جــُــمــَــادَى الأولــى

Arabs came with this name to mark the first time when the land became parched or dry. Some say it was because of the summer heat while others say it was because of the winter cold.

6) Jumada Al-Akhirah جــُــمــَــادى الآخــِــرَة

Literally means “the last time of parched land”. It is the same meaning as the previous month but it marks the end of that time when the land becomes parched or dry. The month is also called Jumada Al-Thaniyah جــُــمــَــادى الــثــانــيـــة (The Second Jumada).

7) Rajab رَجــَــبْ

It is one of the Forbidden Months. Arabs took away their arrows from the bows and gave up any fight during those four months. It means “respect or honor”.

8) Sha’ban شــَــعــْـــبـــان

It was named like this because Arabs used to disperse in this month seeking water and grass.

9) Ramadan رَمــَــضــَــان

It literally means “burning” and was named at the hot season in the desert of Arabia. It is also the sacred month of fasting for Muslims.

10) Shawwal شــَـــوَّال

The name refers to what happens to the female camels when they are in calf. They become thinner and shorter in giving milk during that time of the year.

11) Dhu Al-Qi’dah ذو الــقــعــدة

It literally means “the one of truce”. Arabs sat in this Forbidden month and ceased fight.

12) Dhu Al-Hijjah ذو الــحــجــة

The literal meaning is “the one of pilgrimage”. It is the holy sacred and Forbidden month when Arabs and Muslims performed their Hajj (pilgrimage) to Mecca.


Check us back soon 

Peace  ســـَـــلام /Salam/

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About the Author: Fisal

Well, I was born near the city of Rasheed or Rosetta, Egypt. Yes, the city where the Rosetta Stone was discovered. It is a small city on the north of Egypt where the Nile meets the Mediterranean. I am a Teacher of EFL.


  1. Cristiane Freitas:


    Thank you so much for your post!

  2. Eva:

    Very interesting, thanks!

    • Fisal:

      @Eva You are very welcome, Eva 🙂

  3. Paimon:

    What baffles me is the notion of seasons in a Lunar calendar. Why chose a name that means spring in your lunar calendar when in a few years it will coincide with Winter season? I will appreciate your clarification.

  4. Fisal:

    Hi Paimon,
    This was long long time ago when people had no such scientific knowledge. They adopted the names at the time of the season and then the names were passed from generation to generation. As mentioned in the blog post, they had different names. However, they had a meeting and agreed (voted) on these names.

  5. Abdu:

    With all due respect it doesn’t take a scientist to figure out the difference between spring and winter!