The word month derives from a root widespread in many European languages and associated to the meaning of measure. The Latin word "mensis" actually refers to Greek metiri, to measure. The same root originated in Germanic languages the word Moon in English, Mond in German. Not by chance the Moon was used since the early time for the measurement of time.
The names of the months originate from the Roman calendar with some modifications introduced later by the emperors:
1. January from Ianuarius. It was dedicated to god Janus, the two-faced god, symbolically marking the transition from the previous year to the next. Ianua in Latin means "door", "passage" another reference to the change of the year, which was considered as a continuos circle by the Romans. January began later the first month, as it begins with the first crescent moon after the winter solstice, thus indicating the natural beginning of the year.
2. February from Februarius. It derives from an ancient Italic language, where februa means "purification". It was the month dedicated to the purification of the fields and flocks in many ancient civilizations marking the end of the winter and the beginning of the spring. Februa was used to propitiate the gods of the Earth and Underworld and to honour the spirits of the ancestors in their strong connection with the fertility of family, fields, cattle. Even the Celtic festival of Imbolc has the same purpose.
3. March from Martius. It was dedicated to Mars, god of war, as the month to start again military campaigns after the winter break.
4. April from Aprilis. The etymology is uncertain. It is supposed to be related to Latin word aperire, to open, as the vegetation is starting again its cycle and during this month the Floralia, important celebration of the vegetation goddess. Another version could be from the Etruscan goddess Apru, the Greek Aphrodite and Latin Venus, whom the month is dedicated.
5. May from Maia, goddess of fertility. In this month the vegetative growth was honored with rituals dedicated to this goddess of fertility of the fields, also associated with celebration in honour ofd the deads.
6. June from Iunius. It was dedicated to the goddess Juno, wife of Zeus, protecting home and family.
7. July from Julius. The name refers to Gaius Julius Caesar. The previous name Quintilis, fifth month, changed its name in Julius in 44 BC, to honor Caesar, murdered in that year in the Roman Senate.
8. August from Augustus. Similar to the previous month it was named after Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus Augustus, the emperor Octavian Augustus, who replaced the previous name of Sextilis, sixth month, in 8 BC (Lex de Pacuvia de mense augusto).
9. September as the seventh month of the ancient Romulus calendar
10. October as the eighth month.
11. November as the ninth month.
12. December as the tenth month.
It is worth to observe that the seventh month of the Roman Empire is our ninth month: actually the first Roman calendar began in March, the first month.
Image: "Fasti Antiates Maiores", Miniature black and white image of a 1m high by 2.5m wide fragmentary fresco of a pre-Julian Roman calendar found in the ruins of Nero's villa at Antium (Anzio).
Source: Wikimedia Commons