Why 8 means October and not August

Why abbreviating the months names?

If you were a priest living a couple of centuries ago and forced to write with a quill, trying to save your precious ink, you would do the same. Abbreviations were used everywhere possible, sometimes even a bit too much.

One of the most frequent abbreviation regards the last four months of the year:

September – October – November – December

Unlike today, however, they were never abbreviated using the month sequence number (in this case 9, 10, 11 and 12) which is a modern practice.

They were abbreviated according to their etymology, i.e to the words that compose the month names.

Here the roots of the names:

September = sette = 7

October = otto = 8

November = nove = 9

December = dieci = 10

The reason why the 12th month of the year has the number 10 in its root dates back to the Roman period, when the year started in March. But of course the way Julio Caesar was counting months is not the reason why an 18th century priest must abbreviate October putting an 8 at the beginning.

The reason lies in the way they sound, of course.

If months name in English were

Seven-ember

Eight-ember

Nine-ember

Ten-ember

You would like to abbreviate them just the way explained above, and you would not think twice in transcribing them the correct way.

This way of abbreviating months name can be found both in Italian and in Latin.

Months in Italian are:

settembre

ottobre

novembre

dicembre

 

Months in Latin are:

september/septembris

october/octobris

november/novembris

december/decembris

 

7BRE

7bre = settembre (Italian) = September

8BRIS

8BRIS = octobris (Latin) = (of) October

9BRIS

9bris = novembris (Latin) = (of) November

10BRE

10bre = dicembre (Italian) = December

A few more words about December.

The abbreviation 10bre is not very common. The abbreviation I found more often is Xbre, whereas X is 10 in roman figures. Why using a roman figure? Well… to abbreviate it more! In fact, 10 is made of 2 characters, whereas X is only one.

For the same reason, the roman figures are not used for the other months: they would be longer to write.

XBRE

xbre = dicembre (Italian) = December

 

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