The Language Behind Months

Here are somethings that you might not have known about the months of the year and how language can help you decipher it.

  • The first month used to be March. This can be seen from months like September where sept stands for the Latin seven, October where oct is the root for eight or December where dec is the root for ten (in Portuguese ten is dez).
  • Since March was the first month, the last one was February. That explains why it sometimes has one more, that is 29 days – because it used to be the last month and it makes sense to sometimes add one extra day to the last month.
  • Ever wondered why months go from 31 to 30 days (except February since it’s the last one) but July and August come one after each other yet both have 31 days? This is because Octavius Augustus (August) could not be less great than Julius Ceasar (July) since July is 31 as it should be. Thus the exception and August screws up the counting.
  • There is a guy who has suggested making the calendar uniform so that every day on the calendar is the same day in the week. So for example the 3rd of August would always be a Sunday and your birthday would always be on the same day of the week! This would help us save on calendars (if you consider how much we spend on printing and reprinting calendars every single year, it is a huge amount) and would make long term planning a bit easier. This counting would require us to have an extra week every some years and the guy would call it a Newton Week. Nontheless, I think this is a great idea.

As a bonus, most of the names of the months in European, that is Romance, Slavic, Hellenic, Germanic, etc. languages are pretty much the same as in English. That’s because they come from Latin. Here are the Portuguese months:

Portuguese English
January janeiro
February fevereiro
March março
April abril
May maio
June junho
July julho
August agosto
September setembro
October outubro
November novembro
December dezembro

Languages like Lithuanian or Polish are interesting exceptions.

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  1. Hey …nice to see you back with a very informative post. Hope to see you more often from now on. :)

  2. OK, July and August are because of ceasar. But what about December and January? They are both 31 days long and they are also in one year together (if you count from March).

  3. Hei. You named English the Portuguese names and vice versa.

  4. As for Slavic languages, Ukrainian and Belorussian also have different names for months, which are rooted in old Slavic language, but Russian uses pretty much the same names as English.

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