Welcome to October! A wonderful month characterized by cooler weather, remembering important discoveries, and (for me) family celebrations. This tenth month of the year brings joy and happiness in so many little ways. But I have to admit there’s also something about this month that I always found puzzling—its name.
Have you ever wondered what the word October means?
Curiosity finally got the better of me, so I looked up the meaning. Names are important because they can describe a person, give insight into the meaning behind a concept, and provide understanding of a place or thing. The word October is no exception. The etymology of the word is Latin.
Its prefix, octo, means eight.
Other words that use the prefix octo are octopus (eight tentacles), octagon (eight sides), and octave (eight notes). But remember, October is the tenth month of the year. So where’s the connection with the number eight?
The meaning of October relates to the Roman calendar.
The ancient Roman calendar, a lunar calendar, only has ten months in a year. As its name suggests, October was the eighth month in that calendar. However, over time the Roman calendar was replaced by the Julian calendar; and then later the Gregorian calendar—which is what we still use today. The current system is a solar calendar of twelve months. That’s right—October now finds its place as the tenth month in the Gregorian calendar despite the meaning of its name.
Curious about the third syllable in the word Oc•to•ber?
According to Dictionary.com, the ending “is probably from -bris, an adjectival suffix.” This explanation also ties back to the Roman calendar. It’s believed that the first several months of the calendar were named according to the agricultural seasons, but the rest of the months were simply named according to their corresponding number placement in the Roman calendar.¹ So October is not the only month whose name reveals its placement in the Roman calendar—September (seventh month), November (ninth month) and December (tenth month) do too. Now isn’t that neat!
What do you enjoy most about the month of October?
¹ december. Dictionary.com. Online Etymology Dictionary. Douglas Harper, Historian. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/december (accessed: September 28, 2013).