How Did September Get Its Name?

September is a noteworthy month for many reasons. It is the start of autumn, which is the most popular of the four seasons in the United States (via a 2013 posting at YouGov America). September also means the start of a new school year for most students. For these reasons and more, September is associated with iconic imagery ranging from welcoming crisp fall leaves to back-to-school sales, from sweater weather fashion finds to seasonal fruits like apples dangling from trees.

As the summer swelter fades and the vibrant fall colors emerge, September finds a warm (but not too warm) place in many hearts. Not only does September mean new beginnings for school kids, but it's also a beautiful transitional period complete with aromatic scents and sights to behold. To that end, one might imagine that its name has a meaning at least equally special as the month itself.

Many are aware that we take our month names from the Gregorian calendar, which was initially brought to us by the ancient Romans (per Wonderopolis). Their month names were often inspired by stars, deities they worshiped, or famous festivals. Not in the case of September, though.

September stems from a Latin word that means seven

According to Almanac, the name September stems from the Latin root word septem, which literally translates to the number seven. Ah yes, in a calendar clad with names taken from the cosmos or somehow tied to divinity — March is an ode to Mars the planet, which in turn honors Mars, the Roman god of war — the number seven feels a bit understated. If you give it any real thought, it's also a bit perplexing because September isn't even the seventh month on the current calendar in use today.

So, why did the ancient Romans choose to name our ninth month Seven? Was this some ancient Roman take on irony? Had they really just miscounted or completely run out of ideas? In truth, the reason September was named after the number seven is that in those days, it was calculated as the seventh month of the calendar year. According to Britannica, the lunar calendar from ancient Rome actually began with the month of March instead of January. 

Introduction of the solar calendar changed the chronological order of September

if you think it's unimaginative or even lazy to call September seven because it's seventh in succession, consider this: The ancient Romans, while recognizing 12 calendar months, only bothered to give 10 of those months formal names at all (via Almanac).

During the reign of the lunar calendar, two months were simply left blank, anonymous, unnamed. This was because they took place during winter, a season that was deemed to be dead. It wasn't until Julius Caesar introduced the solar calendar year that all of the months had names. This gravitation toward a solar calendar is also the reason months like September are out of order, causing their names to be confusing. As the story would have it, the month of July was renamed after the famous Roman Emperor who took his cues from the sun, before he was notoriously assassinated (per History). September had more to do with numbers than naming rights.