Old German names for months

Modern German uses western European names for the months. I was vaguely aware that native names were in use several centuries ago, but hadn’t come across the old names much.

Visiting Passau in Bavaria last week, we spotted a statue bearing a plate inscribed with the date 16 Hornung 1824. Checking this out, I discovered that Hornung is the old name for February.

Here is a picture of the inscription.

‘To the beloved King
Maximilian Joseph.
His faithful people.
Lower Danube District.
16 February 1824.’   

Here is a shot of the statue itself.

Old German names of all the months

I list below the old names with their meanings, alongside the modern names.

Modern nameOld namesMeaning
JanuarHartung, Hartmond, Eismonat, Schneemonat, WintermonatHard (ie frozen hard), hard moon, ice month, snow month, winter month
Februar  HornungHorn, tip, corner. According to Wiktionary also bastard—because February is a short month, it is born early, like a bastard.
MärzLenzing, LenzmondSpring (the season). According to Wiktionary, originally ‘long’ (as in ‘long day’)
Spring moon
AprilOstermond, WandelmondEaster month, change month
MaiWonnemond, Weidemonat, BlumenmonatPasture month,
flowers month
JuniBrachet, Brachmond, RosenmondPloughing time (per Duden), fallow (per Wiktionary, as in fallow field), rose moon
JuliHeuert, Heumonat, Beerenmond, HonigmonatHay harvest, hay month, berry moon, honey month
AugustErnting, Ernet, Erntemonat, Erntemond, Erntert, Ährenmonat, Auchst, Augst, August, Sichelmonat[1]Harvest, harvest month, ear of corn month, sickle month
SeptemberScheiding, Herbstmond, 
Unkrautmonat
Dividing [summer from autumn], autumn month, weeds month
OktoberGilbhart, Gilbhard, Weinmonat, DachsmondBecome yellow (gilben) + hart (hard), wine month, badger month
NovemberNebelung, Neblung, Windmond, HartmondFog, wind moon, hard moon
DezemberJulmond, Christmond, Heilmond, Hartmond,Yule moon, Christ moon, saviour moon, hard moon

Notes

  1. Many of the forms ending in –mond (‘moon’) have variants ending in –monat (‘month’)
  2. Hartmond can mean November, December or January.
  3. In Austria, January is sometimes Jänner and February is sometimes Feber.
  4. German names for the months appeared first around 800 in Einhard’s Vita Karoli Magni (life of Charlemagne). The original name for August was aranmanoth. Then in 1781, Justus Friderich Runde gave August the name Ährenmonat or Erntemonat. The form is based on a misunderstanding: aran is not the modern word Ähre (‘ ‘); it derives from Old High German arnoti , whose modern form is Ernte (‘harvest’). Ernting – Wiktionary
  5. Wiktionary says that around 200 different forms for the German names have been used at various times and in various places.

Sources

Wiktionary Hornung – Wiktionary

Duden https://www.duden.de/


 

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