Word Geek: February

Word Geek

A romantic at heart, Word Geek holds the month of February in particularly high regard, so she decided to investigate the origins of the word.

Throughout history, the name for the second month of the year has changed. The Saxons called it ‘Sol-monath’ – which some sources suggest means ‘cake month’ as this was the month they offered cakes to the Gods! Others say it translates as ‘mud month’ which seems more plausible, as February is a very muddy time of year in the UK – given the weather. Back when the English language was heavily Germanic in nature, it was called ‘Hornung’. In other Germanic languages this is related to the word ‘horn’ which loosely translates as ‘illegitimate child’. As illegitimate children traditionally inherited much less than their legitimate siblings it is suggested February was given this name as it received fewer days than the other months.

Over time we arrived at the current word February, which was influenced by Latin, both directly from ‘Februarius’, and indirectly from the middle English word ‘Feverer’ whose own roots lie in the Latin-inspired Old French name for the second month of the year: ‘Feverier’.

Did you know the month of February was added to the Roman calendar in 713BC? It has always been a short month but was originally even shorter, with only 23 days!


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