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February

[ feb-roo-er-ee, feb-yoo‐ ]
/ ˈfɛb ruˌɛr i, ˈfɛb yu‐ /
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noun, plural Feb·ru·ar·ies.
the second month of the year, ordinarily containing 28 days, but containing 29 days in leap years. Abbreviation: Feb.

VIDEO FOR FEBRUARY

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Origin of February

before 1000; Middle English; Old English Februarius<Latin Februārius (mēnsis) expiatory (month), derivative of februa (plural) expiatory offerings; see -ary

how to pronounce February

Many people try to pronounce February with both [r] /r/ sounds, as shown above. The common pronunciation [feb-yoo-er-ee], /ˈfɛb yuˌɛr i/, with the first [r] /r/ replaced by [y], /y/, is the result of dissimilation, the tendency of like sounds to become unlike when they follow each other closely. An additional influence is analogy with January. Although sometimes criticized, this dissimilated pronunciation of February is used by educated speakers and is considered standard.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021

MORE ABOUT FEBRUARY

What does February mean?

February is the second month of the calendar year. It follows January and is followed by March.

It can be pronounced either FEB-roo-air-ee or FEB-yoo-air-ee. 

February is notable for being the shortest month of the year. It has 28 days, except during a leap year, when it has 29 due to the addition of a leap day. Every four years, a leap day is added to the end of February to adjust for the fact that the calendar is 365 days long but the Earth’s revolution around the sun actually takes 365 days and 6 hours.

In the Northern Hemisphere, February is a winter month. In the Southern Hemisphere, it is a summer month.

In the U.S. and some other countries, February is Black History Month. Several U.S. and international holidays also fall in February, including Groundhog Day on February 2, Valentine’s Day on February 14, and Presidents’ Day on the third Monday of February. The American football championship known as the Super Bowl is typically held in early February.

Example: I was born on February 29, so I usually celebrate my birthday on February 28 on non-leap years.

Where does February come from?

The first records of the word February come from before 1000. It comes from the Latin Februārius mēnsis, in which mēnsis means “month” and Februārius means “expiatory,” which describes things involving atonement.

The month is named after Februa, a Roman purification festival involving ritual washing and offerings to the gods to atone for mistakes. In Old English, the name for the month was Solmonath, meaning “mud month.”

In ancient Rome, the calendar at one time only consisted of 10 months, with the year beginning on March 1. Eventually, two additional months—what we now call January and February—were added so that the months would fall during the same seasons each year. Both were given 28 days, but, at some point, three more days were added to January, with February still retaining 28 (except in leap years).

In astrology, the sign Aquarius applies to those born between January 20 and February 18. The sign Pisces applies to those born between February 19 and March 20.

 

Discover more to the story behind the word February, by reading our article on the name’s fascinating history.

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms related to February?

  • Februaries (plural)
  • Feb. (abbreviation)

What are some words that often get used in discussing February?

How is February used in real life?

February is known for being the shortest month of the year, and for having an extra day every four years.

 

Try using February!

True or False? 

February is the shortest month of the year except when it has 29 days during leap years.

How to use February in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for February

February
/ (ˈfɛbrʊərɪ) /

noun plural -aries
the second month of the year, consisting of 28 or (in a leap year) 29 days

Word Origin for February

C13: from Latin Februārius mēnsis month of expiation, from februa Roman festival of purification held on February 15, from plural of februum a purgation
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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