Thursday, December 9, 2021

Secret Origins: December

It’s been a long time coming. I’ve done days of the week and now all the months. What am I going to etymologize next???
December comes from the Old French decembre and classical Latin December, so no major changes in spelling except for the French insisting on reversing the R and the E. Decem is classical Latin for ten, from the Proto Indo European dekm-, which also means ten, and is part of pretty much every word related to ten in some way. As for why December means ten when it’s actually the twelfth month, that’s because the Romans had their year start in March, which did make December the tenth month.
Now, December wasn’t always the name used for this particular month. In Old English, it used to be aerra geola, which meant something like Before Yule—December was the month before Yule. January was actually aefterra geola, After Yule. I kind of prefer December and January. But I think we can all agree that the best Old English name for a month is Three-Milk, AKA May.
Online Etymology Dictionary
Google Translate
University of Texas at Austin Linguistic Research Center
University of Texas at San Antonio’s page on Proto Indo European language
Tony Jebson’s page on the Origins of Old English
Old English-English Dictionary


  1. Next you've got to do the letters. Unless you've done the letters. I was amazed to find out A came from bull. Of course, that's the only one I know.


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