According to my dictionary, the word February originates directly from Middle English "Feverer" from Old French "Feverier" yet the Modern English word more closely resembles the original Latin spelling "februarius." So where did the "v" in the Middle English and Old French come from, and why was it discarded in our current pronunciation? Also, when and why was the "r" after "b" rendered silent?

  • 2
    The "r" after the "b" isn't silent, if you pronounce it correctly! FEB BREW ARY is how I've pronounced it since about the 3rd grade.
    – Hot Licks
    Jan 30 '15 at 4:14
  • Did you actually search "February Etymology" and come up lacking in results?
    – SrJoven
    Jan 30 '15 at 6:26
  • A b->_v_ shift is not uncommon. In modern Greek, the beta is actually pronounced as a v.
    – oerkelens
    Jan 30 '15 at 7:57
  • @oerkelens This one goes the other way, though. (At least after the French version.) Jan 30 '15 at 10:48
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    @oerkelens Spanish is a somewhat different matter, since it only has one phoneme, whether you want to call that /b/ or /v/. And neither development has taken place in English, where /b/ and /v/ have remained separate throughout history. Jan 30 '15 at 11:06

Etymonline gives information about what is known about the etymology of February. http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=february&searchmode=none

As to the change from b to v there is nothing astonishing about this. The articulation of b and v is very similar. When pronouncing b you produce a stop of the air stream by closing both lips. When producing v you weaken this closure. Often sounds are weakened to reduce articulation work.

If in spelling the b was introduced again we may assume that is was the aim to latinize the spelling again and to show the connection with the Latin word februarius mensis.

  • You link mentions a "14c. respelling to conform to Latin", so I don't think we need to assume too much about why the current version looks a lot like the Latin version :)
    – oerkelens
    Jan 30 '15 at 7:55
  • It escaped my notice. Will change my formulation.
    – rogermue
    Feb 2 '15 at 2:16

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