June is a great month. School’s out. The days are long. The weather’s warm.
Perhaps the Anglo-Saxons—who spoke that linguistic ancestor of English known as Old English—were onto something when they collectively called June and July Liða. That’s pronounced like [lee–thuh], with the character ð having the voiced th-, like this. Liða itself may mean “calm” or “mild.” On its own, June was sometimes also referred to as Ærra-Liða, which is like “ere/first Liða,” and July Æftera-Liða, or “after/second Liða.”
So, how did the six month of the year go from Liða to June?
Where did June come from?
June ultimately comes from the the Latin Iunius, “of Juno (Iuno),” referring to the Roman goddess. The J sound for the I in Latin’s Iuno emerges in French, and its spelling with the letter J doesn’t settle in English until the late 1600s.
The name Iuno itself appears to come from the Latin iuventas, “youth,” which is related to words like juvenile and rejuvenate. In ancient Rome, Iunius was the fourth month of the year in a ten-month calendar.
While Iunius was sometimes used alongside Ærra-Liða in Old English and Middle English, June takes over, along with the other ancient Roman names for the months of the year, with the spread of Christianity in England in the the Middle Ages.
Who is Juno?
So, who is Juno, you ask? Identified as a counterpart to the Greek Hera, Juno was an important and powerful ancient Italian deity who became the protector of Rome, wife of Jupiter, queen of gods, and goddess of marriage, childbirth, and fertility.
Summer weddings are pretty popular, and they may have started because of the blessing that this goddess bestowed on those wed in her sacred, namesake month.
When did June become a name?
In the United States, the given name June skyrocketed in popularity in the early twentieth century. In 1925, it was the 39th most popular name for a baby girl … a place held by the name Natalie today.
While the name fell out of popularity through the rest of the century, it has recently been back in vogue, breaking into the top 300 most popular girls names in 2015. Of course, it remains a popular choice for babies born in the month of June.