[ jan-yoo-er-ee ]
/ ˈdʒæn yuˌɛr i /
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noun, plural Jan·u·ar·ies.
the first month of the year, containing 31 days. Abbreviation: Jan.
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Origin of January

before 1000; Middle English <Latin, noun use of Jānuārius, equivalent to Jānu(s) Janus + -ārius-ary; replacing Middle English Genever, Jeniver<Anglo-French, Old French Genever, Jenever<Latin, as above; replacing Old English Januarius<Latin
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does January mean?

January is the first month of the calendar year. It has 31 days and is followed by February. It follows December, the twelfth and final month of the previous year.

January is closely associated with its position at the beginning of the year. January 1 is known as New Year’s Day due to being the first day of the year.

For many people, January is a time of making New Year’s resolutions—decisions to do something or make some change in the new year, especially to change or start some habit or behavior. For example, many people start new exercise routines or diets in January.

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

In the U.S., the most notable holiday in January after New Year’s Day is Martin Luther King Day, which is observed on the third Monday of the month. The inaugurations of new U.S. presidents and members of Congress are also held in January.

Example: People treat January as a time of new beginnings and life changes, but I like to remind them that they can do that during any month.

Where does January come from?

The first records of the word January come from before 1000. It comes from the Latin Jānuārius.

The month is named after Janus, the Roman god of doorways, beginnings, and the rising and setting of the sun. The name of the God comes from the Latin word jānus, meaning “doorway” or “archway.” Janus is typically depicted with two faces looking in opposite directions, one young and one old. Fittingly, January is often seen as a month of retrospection (looking back on the year that recently ended, which is sometimes personified as an old man) and new beginnings (looking forward to the new year, which is sometimes depicted as a baby).

In ancient Rome, the calendar at one time only consisted of 10 months. 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).

Among the observances that take place in January are Glaucoma Awareness Month and Cervical Cancer Awareness Month.

In astrology, the sign Capricorn applies to those born between December 22 and January 19. The sign Aquarius applies to those born between January 20 and February 18.


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

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What are some other forms related to January?

  • Januaries (plural)
  • Jan (abbreviation)
  • Jan. (abbreviation)

What are some words that share a root or word element with January

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

How is January used in real life?

As the first month, January is closely associated with its position at the start of the year. For that reason, it is often seen as a time of new beginnings.



Try using January!

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January is named after the two-faced Roman god Janus.

How to use January in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for January

/ (ˈdʒænjʊərɪ) /

noun plural -aries
the first month of the year, consisting of 31 days

Word Origin for January

C14: from Latin Jānuārius, from adj: (month) of Janus 1
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