How Did The Months Of The Year Get Their Names?

Ever wonder how the months got their names? We explain which deities, rulers, and numbers helped name January through December.

Do you ever wonder, “where do the month names come from?” Essentially, there are three sources: Greek and Roman deities, Roman rulers, and numbers. Let’s take a look at how they influenced each month, from January to December:

Month Names & Their Origins

  • January is “the month of Janus” the Roman god of beginnings and endings. Janus presided over doors and gates—appropriate for the beginning of the year. Indeed, Janus was usually depicted with faces looking backward and forward, as is characteristic of a new year.
  • February, “the month of cleansing,” is derived from februa, the name of a Roman purification festival held on the 15th of this month.
  • March is named after the god of war and a planet: Mars. In ancient Rome, several festivals of Mars took place in March because that was the earliest month of the year when the weather was mild enough to start a war. At one time, March was the first month in the Roman calendar. The Romans changed the order of months several times between the founding of Rome and the fall of the Roman Empire.
  • April is from the Latin Aprillis, which is a derivative of the Latin base apero-, meaning “second.” April was named as such because of the tweaking of the ancient Roman calendar, where April was the second month.
  • May springs from the Greek goddess Maia, daughter of Atlas and mother of Hermes. She was a nurturer and an earth goddess, which certainly explains her connection with this springtime month, when flowers and crops burst forth.
  • June descends from Juno, wife of Jupiter, and the Roman ancient goddess of marriage and childbirth.
  • July was named in honor of Julius Caesar right after his assassination in 44 B.C., with July being the month of his birth. July is the first month in the calendar that bears the name of a real person, rather than a deity.
  • August represents another Roman ruler having been enshrined. In 8 B.C., the month Sextilis (“sixth”) was renamed after Augustus, nephew of Julius Caesar and the first emperor of Rome. The emperor’s name came from the Latin augustus, which gave rise to the adjective “august,” meaning “respected and impressive.”
  • September, from the Latin septem (“seven”), seems as if it should be the seventh month of the year.
  • The names for October (octo), November (novem), and December (decem) suggest that they would be the eighth, ninth, and tenth months. And they once were, when the Roman lunar calendar started the year in March at harvest time. But all that changed in 46 B.C., when January became the first month of the new Julian calendar, making September through December the ninth–twelfth months of the year.
Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Anguished English: An Anthology of Accidental Assaults Upon Our Language - Lederer on Language: A Celebration of English, Good Grammar, and Wordplay
Richard Lederer

Richard Lederer is a writer, speaker, and teacher best known for his books on word play and the English language and is a regular contributor to the Farmers' Almanac. You can visit his web site at Verbivore.

Notify of

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

The Roman calendar used to begin the year in March, the month of the spring equinox, but the change to January happened over half a century before Julius Caesar was born, basically for military reasons to accommodate all the rigmarole (religious, logistic, sometimes political) necessary before a commander embarked with an army to operate in areas farther from home, in particular the Hispanic peninsula. The first year in Roman history that began on 1 January was 153 BCE.


What did they do during the first two months?


I mean before they named them January and February…

Victory Ogaga

The parts of the body


this comment section be wack


The calendar is a Gregorian calendar so to celebrate anything that is on the Gregorian calendar is going against God/Adonai you should be following the feast that are listed in the Torah/Bible those are the days that were set forth for us to honor and to remember and to celebrate by Adonai/God


I agree with you, but did you know that “The names that we use for the Jewish months are actually Babylonian in origin and were adopted by the Jews as of the time of the Babylonian exile in the sixth century BCE.“

David niswangersr

The Torah that has been done away with tells us of much it tells us every thing we see today because it is a book of prophecy and the things for told are not done with just waiting to happen


I am a Christian, and it makes me wonder if God would approve of us celebrating New Years? Our calendar seems to be pagan, and if we celebrate new beginnings in January, wouldn’t we be honoring their god? Also, God says the beginning of the year starts in spring, not winter.


Romans have invented a lot of names

Abraham Lionel

Can you refer to where it says this in the Bible, and let me know?

Susan Higgins

Hi Abraham, it does not that I’m aware of.


Read Exodus 12:1-3
It is time to check…
The world now becomes the true Babylon the great , under the leadership of the Romans… They influenced everything.
Take the warning of Revelation 18:4
Revelation 14:6-11

Stay faithful to Abba (Father) YAHAWAH, the Elohim of Abraham, Isaac, & Jacob(Israel) & to Yahawashi (Yahshua) our Messiah, our King till He returns…Go back to pure faith without leaven. Observe newmoons for it is where we can start a new beginning as a true worshipper in truth to Abba YAHAWAH & King Yahawashi…Be blessed?


Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year) is in September


Spring and winter begin at different times depending where you are on the globe. The Romans were naming things relative to what they were experiencing. I would think that God would be understanding of our perspective and our ignorance.


Spare me the lecture

Teke Moses Mokoena

I am a Christian therefore I will be very glad to be given more information regarding roman history and Christianity.

Teke Moses Mokoena

Linda McC

I love the history that the farmers almanac presents!
The calendar’s history amazes me!

Plan Your Day. Grow Your Life.

Enter your email address to receive our free Newsletter!