THE ORIGIN OF NOVEMBER A new November has arrived, and whether it means pulling out your winter coat, adding another blanket to your bed, or searching for the perfect pumpkin pie recipe, it’s time to begin preparation for the winter months. The etymology of our eleventh month November, however, speaks little to its role in the course of the year. November follows the same pattern as the months before it, September and October, which take their names from their original numerical position in the calendar year. November derives from the Latin root novem- meaning “nine,” because in the Roman calendar there were only ten months in the year, and November was indeed the ninth month. For many English speakers, November marks the point in the year when the cold begins to set in. This association is no doubt why November’s adjectival form, Novemberish, means “dreary,” and why the month’s original name in Old English wasBlōtmōnað, literally “blood-month.” November was the month of heavy animal sacrifice, when the early Saxons would stock up on food for the winter. Here in America, Blōtmōnað maintains a bit of currency, particularly during the weeks leading up to turkey-filled Thanksgiving dinner. But November need not be Novemberish! We have Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and federal elections to look forward to. And as if that weren’t enough, November is apparently Sweet Potato Awareness Month. The fast-approaching winter does not have to be such a daunting season, particularly considering the holidays ahead in December.

Five orange pumpkins sit in a row in front of a distressed, wooden background.
Five orange pumpkins sit in a row in front of a distressed, wooden background.

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