For many, the month of September signals the end of summer, the beginning of autumn, and the start of a new school year. With respect to the calendar, September marks the beginning of the series of months named after their numerical position in the year.
But the numbers and months don’t add up anymore. See, September, based on the Latin septem- meaning “seven,” is the ninth month of the year.
What does September mean?
According to the original Roman republican calendar, September was the seventh month of the year rather than the ninth. The Roman calendar was only 10 months long and included the following months: Martius, Aprilis, Maius, Junius, Quintilis, Sextilis, September, October, November, and December.
The last six months were assigned names according to their ordinal numbers. Quintilis is the fifth month, Sextilis is the sixth month, and so on. September, as you can see, was the seventh month.
When did the calendar change?
It wasn’t until 46 BCE, when Julius Caesar introduced the Julian calendar (named after Caesar, himself), that the year grew to include two more months, January and February. Quintilis and Sextilis were later renamed July and August in honor of Julius Caesar and Augustus Caesar, but despite repeated attempts to change them, the names for September, October, November, and December not only stuck, but spread to other languages as well.
The strangeness of calling the ninth month “Seventh Month” didn’t seem to bother Old English speakers. September replaced the Old English forms Hāligmōnað and Hærfestmōnað, which mean “harvest month” in modern English.
If the Roman senate had gotten their way, we might now be calling September Tiberius or Antoninus, after two Roman Emperors. Or we might have ended up calling September Augustus as followers of the Emperor Commodus hoped, or Germanicus, as Emperor Domitian wanted.
Would these names have been any better than calling the ninth month September?
What makes September unique
For many of us, Labor Day (the first Monday in September) means the end of summer vacation, but, it’s important to keep in mind the true history behind this holiday: Labor Day is a celebration of laborers, of workers. And, it was introduced at a time when labor meant something far more grueling than it generally does today.
September is the start of the new year at many schools, and parents and teachers alike may be encouraging students to review their lessons (such as important vocabulary) from the previous year.
Yom Kippur, a Jewish high holy day observed on the 10th day of the month of Tishri, begins the evening of September 24, 2023, and October 12, 2024.
Hispanic Heritage Month runs from September 15 to October 15. Constitution Day and Citizenship Day (September 17) recognize the Constitution of the United States and those who are taking steps to become US citizens. On a lighter note, you can celebrate bacon (International Bacon Day is September 2, 2023) or International Talk Like a Pirate Day (September 19).
September also belongs to Virgos (those born between August 23 and September 22) and Libras (people born between September 23 and October 22). Virgos can be described as elegant and orderly, while Libras are known as clever and convivial.