Naming the Months

Contributor: Brian Anthony. Lesson ID: 12196

In what month is your birthday? Is it Maajo? Or Juillet? Maybe Feabhra or Eylül? If you live in a different culture, those could be your birthday month names! From where do the month names come?



learning style
personality style
Otter, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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Why do you think we have twelve months? Why not more or less? What do their names mean, and who named them?

By the time you are in the third or fourth grade, you have experienced something around 108 months on this earth.

We use the names of the months of the year all the time, and rarely even stop to ask, “What do they mean?”

The names of the months have meanings, and we will explore those shortly. First, let’s deal with a mystery:

  • Why are there twelve months in a year? Why not thirteen months, or twenty months, or just four?

It turns out the answer is hidden in the very word, month. The word month is related to the word moon.

  • Can you guess, based on this piece of information, why there are twelve months in a year?

If you checked the night sky every night for one year, and if you were able to have clear skies all year long, you would notice something interesting: You would see a new moon cycle begin about once every 29 days.

That’s twelve times per year. In prehistoric and ancient times, people did not have calendars. They would use the moon as their calendar. There’s one small problem with using the moon as a calendar, and that is that twelve lunar months is 11 days shorter than one solar year. The lunar months get earlier and earlier by about 11 days a year. Many cultures switched to a solar calendar, a calendar that is based on the movement of the sun. They switched to the new kind of calendar but they kept the idea of twelve months.

Share two or three things you learned about the twelve months with your parent or teacher. Then, discuss these questions:

  • Why did people use the moon as their calendar in prehistoric and ancient times?
  • Why do you think calendars were important to people in Roman and other ancient societies?
  • From where do you think the names of the months might have come?

The names of the months tell us interesting things about life and beliefs in Roman times.

In the Got It? section, explore the stories behind the names of the months we use today.

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