September is the ninth month of the year. Yet, that’s not what it means. It means seventh month, and October means eighth month, November ninth month and December tenth month. Why is that? Why is September stemming from the Latin word sept, meaning seven, the ninth month in the calendar? Well, you’ll have to go way back into the calendars of human history to find out!
As per the original Roman calendar, which was only 10 months long, September was actually the seventh month of the year. The 10 months started from March and went on till December. The last six months of this calendar were given names based on their ordinal numbers. They were Quintilis, Sextilis, September, October, November and December, in which Quintilis meant and was the fifth month, Sextilis sixth, September seventh and so on.
This changed in 46 BCE when Roman Emperor Julius Caesar introduced the Julian Calendar named after himself. This calendar sported two extra months, January and February. So Quintilis which was the fifth month of the Roman calendar jumped two steps ahead and became the seventh month of the Julian calendar, and Sextilis became the eighth month. So, these months were renamed July and August respectively after Julius Caesar and Augustus Caesar.
Now only the months starting from September were misaligned. While many attempts were made to rename the last four months of the year, none were successful. Tiberius and Antoninus—derived from the names of two Roman emperors—were two of the alternate names for September recommended by the Roman Senate. But the rulers didn’t have their way. Not only did the names stick in Rome, it also spread to the rest of the world and was adopted by Old English speakers who were unfazed by the fact that the ninth month in their calendar was being referred to as the seventh month.
Click here to read another origin series article mapping the interesting origin story of the word 'sandwich'.
Now that's an interesting story for you, and your children, don't you think?