26
  • September
  • October
  • November
  • December

Presumably something Latin, but my (admittedly brief) search sees only mention of the number-based root words.

More specifically, what does "-ber" mean?

15
  • 23
    Because they're cold and make you go "Brrr!"
    – Hot Licks
    Aug 25, 2019 at 21:59
  • 1
    @HotLicks feb-brrr-ary Aug 26, 2019 at 7:04
  • 2
    @HotLicks not where I live. (But no shoveling snow, either...)
    – RonJohn
    Aug 26, 2019 at 8:09
  • 3
    Also now misnamed - Sept, Oct, Nov, Dec for 9th 10th 11th and 12th months?! Maybe 'ber' should mean ' two out of kilter'..?
    – Tim
    Aug 26, 2019 at 12:29
  • 2
    February was originally the last month of the year until around 450 B.C. - hence the reason it's shorter by a few days, and the reason it's the one that gets affected by leap years. The months all used to be shorter and they used to just stick a whole other month in there every now and then to get back on track. Aug 26, 2019 at 17:31

2 Answers 2

20

From Etymonline:

The -ber in four Latin month names is probably from -bris, an adjectival suffix. Tucker thinks that the first five months were named for their positions in the agricultural cycle, and "after the gathering in of the crops, the months were merely numbered."

If the word contains an element related to mensis, we must assume a *decemo-membris (from *-mensris). October must then be by analogy from a false division Sep-tem-ber &c. Perhaps, however, from *de-cem(o)-mr-is, i.e. "forming the tenth part or division," from *mer- ..., while October = *octuo-mr-is. [T.G. Tucker, "Etymological Dictionary of Latin"]

8
  • 11
    As far as I know in Roman times the year started with March, making January and February the last months (so 'Sept'ember was the 7th month, 'Octo'ber the 8th and so on). Following Tucker's reasoning, January and February should have been numbered but obviously they aren't, so I think his reasoning is not the full explanation. Aug 26, 2019 at 13:00
  • 7
    @RoelSchroeven When the months originally got their names in the Roman calendar, the year began with March, and there were only ten named months. What we now call January and February were just an un-named block of days not assigned to any month, and the months following Junius (June) were Quintilis and Sextilis (for the numbers five and six). The Julian calendar reform moved the beginning of the year and renamed Quintilis to "Julius". Soon after, Sextilis was renamed "Augustus". In each case, the months were expanded to 31 days at the expense of February. Aug 26, 2019 at 15:48
  • 2
    @MontyHarder I stand corrected. Today I learned that the history of the Roman calendar is a lot more complex than I thought. Aug 26, 2019 at 17:46
  • 4
    That's just so odd that a civilization would name 10 out of 12 months and just be OK with the fact there was this yearly period of time with no name.
    – JPhi1618
    Aug 26, 2019 at 18:20
  • This is a hypothesis, not an answer. I might as well submit that -ber is analog to duonos*/*bonus, duellum*/*bellum, duo*/*bi, thus akin to *deH- "part" (+ some nomiative -r), which only makes sense if this were akin to *dwo- "two" (the b is thought to be due to the labial w, surely in some dialect), which would be motivated by to make two ~ to half, to split, to part. Incidentally, I think, that's pretty much the meaning of mensis (cp. measure, mensur, further to mean, to decide). Also compare to break.
    – vectory
    Aug 26, 2019 at 19:38
-2

Romans spoke Latin. Their first 10 numbers were: Unus, Duo, Tres, Quattuor, Quinque, Sex, Septem, Octo, Novem, and Decem. The Latin ber translates to per. This could be referencing a ratio. So Septem ber would be the seventh part of a ten month year of campaigning.

Their calender would then be Unusber, Duober, Tresber, Quattuorber, Quinqueber, Sexber, September, October, November, December for the 10 months they would be able to engage in war. Two months were added to the end of their calendar: January and February for the period where they wouldn't go to war.

Their calendar began with Unusber (named March) as their focus was on being able to conquer the known world.

January was named for the Roman god Janus, protector of gates and doorways. Janus is depicted with two faces, one looking into the past, the other into the future. January was meant to be a time when the military campaigns ceased and there time for peace and reflection.

February comes from the Latin word februa, “to cleanse.” The Roman calendar month of Februarius was named for Februalia, a festival of purification and atonement that took place during this period.

Unus ber was called March, named for the Roman god of war, Mars. This was the time of year to resume military campaigns that had been interrupted by winter. The word march is a play on this relationship, as one would march off to battle. March was also a time of many festivals, presumably in preparation for the campaigning season.

Duo ber became April, from the Latin word aperio, “to open (bud),” because plants begin to grow in this month. In essence, this month was viewed as spring’s renewal.

Tresber was named May for the Roman goddess Maia, who oversaw the growth of plants. Also from the Latin word maiores, “elders,” who were celebrated during this month. Maia was considered a nurturer and an earth goddess, which may explain the connection with this springtime month.

Quattuor ber became June, named for the Roman goddess Juno, patroness of marriage and the well-being of women. Also from the Latin word juvenis, “young people.”

Quinqueber became July, named to honor Roman dictator Julius Caesar (100 B.C.– 44 B.C.) after his death. In 46 B.C., Julius Caesar made one of his greatest contributions to history: With the help of Sosigenes, he developed the Julian calendar, the precursor to the Gregorian calendar we use today.

Lastly, Sex ber became August, named to honor the first Roman emperor (and grandnephew of Julius Caesar), Augustus Caesar (63 B.C.– A.D. 14). Augustus (the first Roman emperor) comes from the Latin word “augustus,” meaning venerable, noble, and majestic. The Gregorian Calendar then shifted the month of January to the beginning of the Year, which was fitting, due to Janus being the god of beginnings.

1
  • There is a lot of interesting information, but after the first few sentences it's not relevant to the question.
    – jimm101
    Oct 2, 2019 at 19:45

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.