Word of the Week: February

February is a noun and defined as the second month of the Gregorian calendar. First used in the 12th century, February is one of the many words in the English language that has its roots in Latin.

Many scholars believe that the name derives from the ancient Roman festival of purification Februa. During this festival, the Roman citizens purified themselves by promoting health and atoning for their sins. The word February may also derive from Febris, the Roman goddess of fever, since it’s a purifying process to sweat out a fever. Other historical names for February include the Old English terms Solmonathand and Kale-monath, which means mud month and cabbage month, respectively.

Today, the most widely used calendar is the Gregorian calendar. Introduced by Pope Gregory XIII in October 1582, the Gregorian calendar can be traced back to the Roman calendar, which consisted of 10 months and a dead period during winter. The original 10 months were Martius, Aprilis, Maius, Junius, Quintilis, Sextilis, September, October, November, and December. It wasn’t until 713 BC when January and February were added to fill in this dead period. In the Gregorian calendar, the month of February varies between 28-29 days so that the 12-month calendar doesn’t drift through the seasons. Calendars such as the Hebrew, Chinese, and Persian calendars also add additional days or months to account for the Earth’s orbit and seasonal drift. 

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“February.” Merriam-Webster.com

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