Why Is ‘February’ Spelled That Way?

February is just one of several weirdly spelled words and phrases that the English language has to offer you. For this just one in particular—like the other 11 a lot more intuitively spelled thirty day period names—we have Latin to thank.

In historic Rome, the month of February was acknowledged as Februarius, a phrase that has to do with purification. Februare is Latin for “to purify,” and februum describes a signifies of purification or an instrument applied to purify. In shorter, February was the month of purification.

Why this was the circumstance very likely involves Lupercalia, a instead wild ancient competition that took location on February 15 and highlighted sacrifices, whippings, and achievable nudity (or, at the extremely the very least, less clothing than folks would have on on a ordinary day). Although we really don’t know precisely what Lupercalia was for, historical accounts recommend it had to do with stimulating pastoral prosperity and fertility as a result of purification rituals.

In accordance to Ovid’s poem Fasti, really significantly just about anything that individuals utilised to purify some thing else was identified as februa (the plural kind of februum). Houses had been purified with “roasted grain and salt,” land was purified with strips of animal hide, priests wore crowns created of leaves from pure trees, and so on.

Andrea Camassei's 1635 oil painting Lupercalia.
Andrea Camassei’s 1635 oil painting Lupercalia. / Museo Nacional del Prado, Wikimedia Commons // General public Domain

But the route from the Latin Februarius to our modern-day English February does include a detour. All over 1200, Middle English speakers were contacting the thirty day period Feverer, Feverell, and other alternate spellings that all came from the Previous French Feverier. While those people words persisted for numerous a lot more generations, Latin-influenced iterations of the month—like Februere and Februari—started cropping up all through the late 14th century. This mirrored a bigger trend towards Latin loanwords that was sweeping the English language at the time, and in February’s circumstance, the Latin versions inevitably changed the French types.

As for why we don’t trouble saying the very first r in February these times, you can chalk it up to linguistic laziness. Generally, we have a tough time enunciating two r’s close to just about every other, so we occasionally just drop one. It’s the exact same motive you may possibly have a tendency to say “suh-prise” as an alternative of surprise and “gov-uh-nor” as an alternative of governor.

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