How Did July Get Its Name?

If you're in the northern hemisphere, you probably know that July is a summer month. The seventh month represents the mid-point of the calendar year, with the exact middle occurring either on July 2 (or July 1 on a leap year), per Reference. But, it hasn't always been that way. In fact, at one point in history, the month of July occurred at a different time of year and had a completely different name.

To trace how July's name came to be, we have to go back to ancient Rome during the reign of Julius Caesar – from 46 to 44 B.C. During this time, the Roman calendar was in use but it only counted 10 months. According to Time and Date, the winter season consisted of 61 days — essentially two months — but they were not added to the calendar year. Therefore, the absence of the two winter months made March the first month of the year. 

Julius Caesar changes the calendar

The Roman calendar was a source of confusion because it was lunar-based, which means it was based on the monthly cycles of the moon, but Julius Caesar worked to reform it, per History. The most significant change he made to the calendar was switching it to a solar-based system, which tracked how long it took the Earth to revolve around the sun. This change resulted in a calendar with 365.25 days, which closely resembles the one we currently use. According to History, Caesar and his advisors got the idea of a solar calendar from the Egyptians, and in 45 B.C., the Julian calendar was put into use.

Part of this new and improved system was the inclusion of the winter months we recognize as January and February. An extra day was added to February every four years to make up for that extra quarter of a day, which was in the original solar-calendar calculations of 365.25. Stuck in the middle of this new 12-month calendar was the month called Quintilis, which is Latin for "fifth month." 

July is named after Julius Caesar

With the new solar calendar, Quintilis became the seventh month of the year, not the fifth, and strangely enough, the month's name wasn't immediately changed to reflect this. Some accounts claim that Caesar changed the name of Quintilis to Julius because it was his birth month. However, the actual date of his birth is still not fully known, but many believe he was born on either July 12 or 13, according to Britannica

A counter-theory about how July got its name, relates to Ceaser's assassination in the Roman Senate on March 15, 44 B.C. History notes that Mark Anthony, Caesar's second in command, changed the name of Quintilis after Caesar was killed to remember the fallen leader. According to Word Sense, Anthony changed the name of Quintilis to the Latin word Iulius, which later became Julius, and eventually July.