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In the modern era, we are used to a modicum of standardization, much of which transcends languages. In the theme of time designation, names of days and months are similar, if not the same, in many languages. For example, German and English have the same names for days of the week, albeit adapted to each language, with two exceptions, i.e. Wednesday is 'Mittwoch' and Saturday is 'Samstag' or 'Sonnabend.' Sunday is ‘Sonntag’; Monday, ‘Montag,’ and so on. This similarity extends to the names of the months as well, as the standard names of the months all derive from the Latin tradition. That the ancient Germans borrowed the names of the months is a most curious occurrence, as they, along with most cultures, observed the phases of the moon and, hence, months. But borrow they did and today the English and German-speaking worlds both have month names based on Roman usage. And this we accept without much thought. However, the Germans have had other names for the months in addition to the standard designations. Most of these non-standard names are directly related to a weather feature or an event that happens around that time of the year. It is the purpose of this article to list as many of these non-standard names as possible and give their etymology. Many will be only variants of the standard form; and most will be dialect forms. Indeed, some of the names are Low German and look like Dutch or Flemish words. It is hoped that this list will be valuable to the genealogist as many of these names appear in older German documents instead of the standard names.
First is listed the alternative month name, the standard name, then the etymology. The reader should note, however, that some alternative months have several standard meanings! This is due to several factors, including dialect, time of usage, and the lack of standardization in variant names. Therefore, the researcher should always be very careful when dealing with these names and trying to determine the standard form. Look through the entire year and try to determine, for example, if Wintermonat means October, November, December or January!
We begin with the standard German names, which need no translation into English.
Januar—from the Roman god of gates, Janus, who was depicted with two faces, indicating an
end and a beginning. His festival was in January.
Februar—From Latin februaris, the festival of purification that took place in February
März—named for the Roman god of war, Mars
April—origin unknown, but perhaps the ‘month of Venus’ from an Etruscan form of the Greek ‘Aphrodite’
Mai—named for Maia, goddess of spring
Juni—named for the goddess Juno, patroness of marriage and of well being of women
Juli—named after Julius Caesar. Renamed from Quinctilis, which meant ‘fifth’ because July
used to be the fifth month
August—named after Augustus Caesar. Renamed from Sextilis, which meant ‘sixth' because
August used to be the sixth month
September— from Latin septem, meaning ‘seven’ because September used to be the seventh
Oktober— from Latin octo, meaning ‘eight’ because Oktober used to be the eighth month
November— from Latin novem, meaning ‘nine’ because November used to be the ninth month
Dezember—from Latin decem, meaning ‘ten’ because December used to be the tenth month
In old documents months were often indicated by numerals, both Arabic and Latin. These are not really names of the months, but written designations only. The researcher must be careful when numbers appear, as they are of two types. The first are simply Roman numerals that indicate the number of month:
The following numbers, however, do not designate the number of the month, but rather the name of the month in Latin when these months were the 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th months, respectively. For example, 7 was septem in Latin, so 7ber is September, not July. And so on. These numbers are used with suffixes that indicate that the number is to be spoken and pronounced as the standard names.
Abrulle—April ; q.v.
Armmonat—November; the ‘poor month’
Bisemond—August; ‘northwest wind month’
Blütenmonat—May; ‘bloom month’
Braakmaand—June; ‘fallow month’
Brachat—June; ‘fallow month’
Brachet—June; ‘fallow month’
Broimond—June; ‘twig month’
Brumaent—June; ‘twig month’
Christmaand—December; ‘Christ month’
Christmonat—December; ‘Christ month’
Dritter Herbstmonat—November; ‘third autumn month’
Dustermond— December; ‘dark, gloomy, dismal month’
Effeler—April. A dialect pronunciation of April; q.v.
Eismonat—January; ‘ice month’
Erne—July; from Ernte, ‘harvest month’
Ernte—July; ‘harvest month’
Erster Herbstmonat—September; ‘first autumn month’
Erster Monat—January; ‘First month’
Feber—February. Dialect form of February, q.v. Not to be confused with the German word
Feber, which means ‘fever.’
Feberwoor—February; dialect form of February, q.v.
Februor— February; dialect form of February, q.v.
Fruchtmonat—September; ‘fruit month’
Frühlingsmonat—March; ‘spring month’
Gilbhard— October; gilben ‘to become yellow,’ ‘yellow month’
Grasmaent—April; ‘grass month’
Hartmonat—January ‘hard’ in the meaning of ‘cold, frozen’
Hartmond—January ‘hard’ in the meaning of ‘cold, frozen’
Hartung—January ‘hard’ in the meaning of ‘cold, frozen’
Harvstmaand—September; ‘harvest month’
Haumaand—July; ‘hay month’
Havermant— September; ‘oats or grain month’
Havermonat— September; ‘oats or grain month’
Heiligenmonat—December ‘Holy month’
Herpsten—September; from Herbst (related to English ‘harvest’) ‘autumn month’
Herbstmonat—September; ‘ autumn month’
Heuet—July; ‘hay month’
Heuert— July; ‘hay month’
Heumonat— July; ‘hay month’
Heumond— July; ‘hay month’
Hinterster Wintermonat—February ‘the last winter month’
Hitzmonat—August ‘heat month’
Horning—February; see Hornung
Hornung—February. This is probably the most interesting of the month names. There are
cognates to horn in the other Germanic languages, meaning ‘bastard.’ A ‘bastard’ inherits
less than his legitimate brothers, hence, the application of this word to the month of February,
i.e. the month that has received less than the others (February is shorter than all the other
months, even during leap year.) see Paul and Kluge
Jänner—January. A dialect pronunciation of Januar, q.v. This is the standard form in Austria.
Januoor—dialect pronunciation of Januar, q.v.
Januwoor—dialect pronunciation of Januar, q.v.
Jenner—dialect pronunciation of Januar, q.v.
Julmonat—December. ‘Yule,’ originally a 12-day heathen festival occurring in late December
and early January
Lentmaand— March; ‘Lent month’; Lent is the 40 days before Easter in the ecclesiastical
calendar and means ‘springtime, the basis of the word is long and spring is the time when the
Lenzmonat— see Lentmaand
Lenzmond— see Lentmaand
Letztmaent—December; ‘last month’
Maaimaand—May; ‘May month’ goddess Maia
Maien— May; ‘May month’ goddess Maia
Marzo—March; god ‘Mars’
Mei— May; ‘May month’ goddess Maia
Märzmonat—March, god ‘Mars’
Mertz—March, god ‘Mars’
Merz—March, god ‘Mars’
Nebelmonat—November; ‘fog month’
Nebelung—November; ‘fog month’
Negeder Mant—November; ‘9th month’ in Low German
Nevelmaand— November; ‘fog month’
Oest—dialect pronunciation of ‘August’
Ogst—dialect pronunciation of 'August'
Oostermaand—April; ‘Easter month’
Oostermonat—April; ‘Easter month’
Owest—dialect pronunciation of August
Owestmaent—dialect pronunciation of August
Prillemond—dialect form of April
Rebmonat—February; ‘shoot or vine month’
Regenmonat—February; ‘rain month’
Reifmonat—November; ‘ripe month’
Saatmonat—October; ‘seed month’
Scheiding— September; ‘to diverge, part, separate’
Schneemond—January; ‘snow month’
Schlachtmonat—December; ‘slaughter month’
Selle—February; related to soll which means ‘mire, morass, swamp, pool’; probably ultimately
‘water,’ which would jibe with February during which it rains a lot
Sollman—February; see Selle
Sulle—February; see Selle
Sneemaand—January; ‘snow month’
Weidemonat—May; ‘pasture/meadow month’
Weidemaent—June; ‘pasture/meadow month’
Weinmonat—October; ‘wine month’
Wienmaand—October; ‘wine month’
Wiesemonat—June; ‘pasture/meadow month’
Windmonat—May, ‘wind month’
Wintermonat—Usually November, but also December, January, or even October!; ‘winter month’
Wolfmonat—Usually December, but also November and January; ‘wolf month’ Wolfsmonat—Usually December, but also November and January; ‘wolf month’
Wynmonat—October; ‘wine month’
Wonnemonat—May; ‘bliss month'
Wonnemond— May; ‘bliss month'
Wonnermonat— May; ‘bliss month'
Zweiter Herbstmond—Oktober. ‘Second autumn month’
In the late 1790s, the French instituted a new calendar based on natural principles. Its epoch was the beginning of the French Republic and it lasted till the end of Gregorian 1805. Neither the years nor the months of this calendar corresponded to those of the Gregorian calendar. For more information, including conversion tables, click here.
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Ebner, Jakob. 1969. Wie sagt man in Österreich? Mannheim: Bibliographisches
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Kluge, Friedrich. 1995. Etymologisches Wörterbuch. 23rd ed. Bearbeitet von Elmar Seebold.
Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.
Lindow, Wolfgang. 1987. Plattdeutsches-Hochdeutsches Wörterbuch. 3rd ed. Institut
für Niederdeutsche Sprache. Bremen: Verlag Schuster Leer.
Meyer, Kurt. 1989. Wie sagt man in der Schweiz? Mannheim: Dudenverlag.
Paul, Hermann. 1966. Deutsches Wörterbuch. 5th ed. Neubearbeitet von Werner Betz. Tübingen:
Max Niemeyer Verlag.
Weinhold, Karl. 1869. Die Deutschen Monatsnamen. Halle:Verlag der Buchhandlung des
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