February is the shortest month of the year; the only month, in fact, to have fewer than 30 days. It is also unique for its extra leap year day every four years.
The name of the month comes from the Roman festival of Februa, which was a purification ritual that took place in mid-February. The month was later dedicated to the Roman god Februum who was similarly associated with purification. It was also to be a time of heightened fertility, and so was also associated with Juno, goddess of marriage, who bore the epithets Februata, Februta, Februarius and Februatis.
February has many continental translations, including: Febbraio (Italian), Febrero (Spanish), Februar (German), Fevereiro (Portuguese), Février (French), Únor (Czech) and Veljača (Croatian)
Mud, Cakes and Cabbages
The Anglo-Saxons called February Solmonath. Monath is the Old English word for "month" while sol translates as "Mud" -- literally "Mud Month." Given the weather in Britain at this time of year, the name seems wholly appropriate. And it isn't the only "mud month." The Finnish name for October, Lokakuu, also translates this way. Some believe the first element as actually sól "sun," as February is a time when the days become noticeably lighter, although sol can also refer to a halter used for leading cattle. As ploughing often takes place in February, this also has possibilities.
According to Bede, the month could be called the "month of cakes," which were offered up to the gods, most likely in a bid to ensure their (muddy) fields were fertile. Names associated with fertile land include: Rodica in Romanian; Dáiríne, and the unisex Dáire, from the Old Irish dáire meaning fertile or fruitful, and anglicised as Darina; and the Welsh Iâl "fertile upland", from which the surname Yale is derived.
The Anglo-Saxons also called the month Sprote-Kalemonath, the month of the sprouting kale/cabbages. Cabbage (or Capitata in Latin) has many varieties including Earliana, Promosa, Red Rodan, Savoy Ace and Scarlet O'Hara.
Charlemagne called February Hornung, referring to the shedding of the deers' antlers at this time. Antler itself has a bold sound, while "horn" names can be found in that of the Celtic god Cernunnus, and the Hebrew Keren. The Roman nomen Cornelius (feminine Cornelia) was mostly likely derived from cornu "horn." Variant forms include Corneille (French), Cornelio (Spanish), Kornel (Slavic), Kees and Niels (Czech).
Similarly, there are several names that have "deer" meanings. Tzvi or Zvi is a modern Hebrew boys name meaning "deer" with Tzivya, or Zivya as the feminine form. The Old Testament also gives us an older form of Zibiah. Hersh, or Hirsh, is the Yiddish equivalent, which can also be found in the forms Hershel, Hirshel and Herschel. From the Old Irish oss "deer" derive the names Oisin, Ossan, Ossnat/Osnait, and Oscar.
Hjörtur (Icelandic), Isi (Choctaw), Jelena (Slavic) and Maral (Armenian) all have the meaning "deer." And then there are the surnames Darby "deer town" from Old Norse, and Raleigh "roe-dear meadow" from Old English.
In Finland, February is called Helmikuu, the month of pearl. One theory has it that it is so called because as ice melts and refreezes, it forms pearls of ice on the trees. Helmi "pearl" is also found as a feminine name in Finland. Pearl, of course, has long precedence as a first name, with cognates Perla in Italian and Spanish, and Perle in Yiddish. But perhaps our most well known "pearl" name is Margaret, which derives from the Latin Margarita, via the Greek Margarites (from which we also get the Hebrew Margalit), and, ultimately, the Persian Morvarid. Margaret has nearly a hundred variations and diminutives; too many to list here. But some to mention are Magali (Provencial), Mairead (Scottish), Margaux, Marguerite (French), Marit (Swedish), Mererid (Welsh) and Merete (Danish).
Other pearl names include: Bisera (Bulgarian), Jumana, Lu'lu (Arabic), and Shinju (Japanese).
Amethyst is the birthstone for February and is said to symbolise purity, modesty and sincerity. The Violet and Primrose are the month's flower. Violet derives from the Latin viola, of which Shakespeare used Viola, while Verdi used Violetta.
Aquarius, the water-bearer, is the astrological sign that runs from January 20 - February 19. Its name derives from the Latin aqua "water," the Greek form being Hydrokhoos, from hydro "water" and kheo "to pour." The constellation is identified with Ganymede, the Trojan prince carried off by Zeus to become cup-bearer of the gods. One girl, born in 1879, is recorded with the name Aquariana.
Many different countries have names associated with days of the year; most often they are the feast days of saints. Below are some of the names associated with the days in February around the world.
1 = Bridget / Brigitta, Ignatius, Kinnea, Maximilian, Simeon, Trifon / Tryphon, Verdiana / Veridiana
2 = Candlemas = Candelaria, Candelario, Cande, Candela
3 = Ansgar, Blaise, Disa, Hugo, Margaret, Oscar, Simeon, Valo
4 = Andreas, Armi, Gilbert, Isidore, Jarmila, Joan / Joanna, Veronica / Veronika
5 = Adelheid / Adelhajda, Agatha, Albin, Ingrid, Vitus
6 = Amando / Amandus, Dorothea / Dorothy, Ksenia, Paul, Svetlana, Titus
7 = Eugenia / Eugenie, Helena, Richard, Romuald, Ronan, Theodorus / Todor
8 = Corintha, Honorata, Jacqueline, Jerome, Laina, Zachariah, Zoja
9 = Anna-Katharina, Apollonia, Nicephorus, Raisa, Savin
10 = Charalambos, Ella / Ellen, Elvira, Gabriel, Scholastica, William, Zoticus
11 = Desiderius, Euphrosyne, Inge, Lourdes, Theodora, Theodor
12 = Benedict, Elma, Eulalia, Evelina, Felix, Julian, Lidia / Livia
13 = Béatrice, Benignus, Castor, Catherine (di Ricci), Christina / Kristina, Roger
14 = Cyril, Liliana, Valentine / Valentin, Voitto
15 = Faustinus / Faust / Faustyn, Giorgia / Georgina / Jirina, Jordan, Jovita, Sigfrid
16 = Daniel, Elias, Isaias, Jeremy, Juliana, Kai, Onesimus, Samuel
17 = Alexandra, Alexis, Donatus, Finnian, Fintan, Miroslava
18 = Bernadette, Colman, Concordia, Constantia, Frida, Simon, Tyra
19 = Conrad, Gabinus / Gabin, Susanna / Zuzanna
20 = Aimée, Eucharius, Leon, Ulrich, Vivianne
21 = Damian, Daniel, Eleonora, Peter, Samuel
22 = Ariana, Hilda, Isabella, Margaret, Peter
23 = Polykarpos, Romana, Severinus, Torsten
24 = Ethelbert, Gerard, Matthias, Modeste
25 = Caesarius / Cesario, Tarasios, Victor, Walburga
26 = Alexander, Inger, Justus, Nestor, Pastor, Sebastian
27 = Honorina, Gabriel, Leander, Torsten
28 = Justus, Kyra, Maria / Mariana, Oswald, Roman
29 = Auguste, Casianos, Oswald