December: the twelfth and final month of the year

December comes from the same root word that gives us the English decade (a period of ten years), decennial (occurring every ten years), decimal (to the tenth place), and dime (ten cents).

December means: the tenth month.

Once upon a time, the Roman calendar began in the spring, with the month of March.  March, by the way gets its name from Mars, the Roman god of war.  With March as the first month of the year, December was the tenth month of the year.  One of the early Roman kings revised the calendar (or his administration did) and moved the new year back to January.  January gets its name from Janus, the Roman god of doors, beginnings, and endings.  In the old calendar, December was the tenth month.  With things rearranged by the king, December became the twelfth month.  I suppose it was just too much work to change the names.

September, from the Latin word for seven (septem) became the ninth month.  October, from the Latin word for eight (octo) became the tenth month.  November, from the Latin word for nine (novem) became the eleventh month.  And, December, the tenth month, became the twelfth month.

The lesson here is this.  If you are a Roman emperor, slow down on the eggnog.


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