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Q From Harry Yeatts: Out of curiosity, I’ve been researching the derivations of the months of the year. Fascinating stuff this. January: Janus, etc. Haven’t had any real difficulty except with April, for some reason. Can you help?

A Most older books say that the name for the month, which was used in the Latin calendar in the form Aprilis, comes from the word aperire, “to open”, and referred to the springtime budding of trees and flowers. This is no longer thought likely, and the explanation in most dictionaries is that Aprilis probably came into Latin by way of the Etruscan apru from a Greek word that was a shortened form of Aphrodite. So the implication is that in Latin it probably meant “the month of Venus”, which still has a strong procreational association, but differently expressed.

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 19 Sep. 1998

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The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

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This page URL: http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-apr1.htm
Last modified: 19 September 1998.