The Interesting Evolution of Month Names in Slovene

Winter time at Lake Bled in Slovenia

When I first began learning Slovene, I was overjoyed to learn that the name of the months would be fairly easy to learn. Januar for January, februar for February, and so forth. Easy right?

If you have been in a Slovenian home then you might have noticed that calendars have two names for each month. The modern Slovene name along with the archaic Slovene name.

These archaic Slovene month names are primarily of Slavic origin. Wikipedia does a fantastic job with an expansive chart documenting these old names of the month across Slavic languages.

They first appeared in the Škofja Loka manuscript in 1466.

The Škofja Loka manuscript can be seen in the Loški Museum. Which is a lovely day trip from Ljubljana for those looking to avoid the crowds and learn about Slovenia’s history.

Now, what I find the most fascinating is that Slovene doesn’t have just one set of these archaic month names. No, that would be too easy! Different regions of Slovenia sometimes had their own name for the month.

January – januar prosinec

Winter time at Lake Bled in Slovenia
Wintertime at Lake Bled in Slovenia

January’s archaic Slovene name first appeared as prosinec. Some believe this refers to an old Slavic word prosinoti means ‘to shine through’ and today that is often translated to ‘sun shining through’. Others believe it is in reference to prosen kruh, a bread made from millet at that time of the year. A final theory on the name claims it comes from prositi – to ask for something or to beg.

Other names for January across Slovenia included

  • brumen – from Italian bruma ‘depth of winter’
  • ledenec or lednikled means ‘ice’ in Slovene.
  • mali božičnjak – referring to Epiphany celebrated by Eastern Christians
  • prvnikprvi means ‘first’
  • zimeczima means ‘winter’
  • sečen – from suh ‘dry’ or sek ‘cut’ – was used in Prekmurje region.

Cultural Events in January

Snow Castles for King Matjaž – is an annual event that takes place in Koroška. Teams gather to build snow castles and carve ice. The air may be cold, but the music and wine are flowing at this event. Dress warm and bring a camera!

February- februarsvečan

Natural icicles hanging on the pipe
An icicle in Slovene is ledena sveča which literally means ice candle.

The archaic Slovene name for February is svečan. There is no confirmation on its origins, but it is presumed to mean ‘dry’ or ‘cut’ in reference to Candlemas (svečnica). This is a Christian holiday that falls 40 days after Christmas and involves bringing candles (sveče) to the local church where they are blessed.

Variations of svečan such as sečan, sečen, or sečni mesec have been used across the country. In 1775, the New Carniolan Almanac used svičan which experienced changes until 1824.

In 1848, a proposal suggested talnik (taliti – to melt) but lacked support to stick.

Fun Fact: The names of months and days of the week are written in lowercase in Slovene.

Cultural Events in February

Slovenian Carnival (Pust) – takes place over the entire month of February with local variations in celebrations.

Kurentovanje – the most famous celebration for Pust and a UNESCO-protected intangible cultural heritage of humanity. Every year in Ptuj, there is a huge parade with hundreds of kurenti and other characters for one impressive event!

March – marec – sušec

pruning work
Sušec refers to the dry conditions in March.

March, which is now marec in Slovene, was once sušec. It is said to refer to the earth being dry enough for cultivation and first appeared in the Škofja Loka Manuscript. Slovenes have historically been farmers, so many time tracking/seasonal vocabulary revolved around this theme.

Today, it is common during this time of the year for people to prepare their gardens, trim their fruit trees, and prune their grapevines. This results in huge piles of dry sticks and branches later burned.

Some other regional archaic names for March:

  • brezen or breznik – from breza which means ‘birch’ (tree)
  • vetrnik – literally windy.
  • ebehtnik – from a German word meaning ‘equinox’
  • gregorščak – after Saint Gregory Day (March 12th)
  • postnik – after Lent
  • traven – from the word trava which means ‘grass’
  • tretnik – for tretji, meaning ‘third’, as in the third month of the year.

April – aprilmali traven

April’s archic Slovenian name was mali traven, meaning ‘small grass’, and was first used in the Škofja Loka manuscript. Archaic Macedonian uses treven, while Croatian uses travanj, referring to the season of growing grass. Around Slovenia, a few variations existed until april replaced them.

  • brezen – from breza mening ‘birch’
  • jurijevščak – after Saint George’s Day on April 23rd.

Cultural Events in April

Radovljica Chocolate Festival – Every April in the charming town of Radovljica (near Bled) is a two-day festival celebrating everything chocolate.

May – maj – veliki traven

Dogwood flower
Dogwood flower

The archaic name for May (maj) was veliki traven, meaning ‘big grass’. It first appeared in the 1466 manuscript. Other Slavic languages like Belarusian, Russian, Ukrainian, and even archaic Bulgarian and Polish also had variations on the word for grass. .

Other old names for the month of May in Slovene:

  • cvetičnik or cvetnar – from cvet which means ‘flower’
  • majnik – in reference to May (maj)
  • mlečen – which means milky or lacteous referring to the birth of new mammals. (some texts claim mleč means chicory but I found no confirmation of this)
  • risalščak, rusalščak – some texts state this is in reference to Pentecost coming from risale/rusale. It was used in the Prekmurje dialect.
  • rožni mesec – meaning flower month.
  • sviben – refers to sviba the flowering of dogwood. I believe that this variation came from Croatia where May is called svibanj in reference to dogwood.

Read More | 11 Slovenian Words with Hilarious Literal English Translations

June – junijrožnik

Rožnik comes from roža meaning flower.

  • bobov cvet – literally broad bean blossom
  • ivanjščak/šentjanževec – referencing Saint Johns Day used in Prekmurje
  • klasen – from klas ‘head of grain’
  • kresnik – comes from kres meaning ‘bonfire’. In reference to Midsummer (Kresna noč) and was once associated with Kresnik, the Slavic god of fire, but has since been replaced by St. John the Baptist.
  • prašnik – literally ‘stamen’
  • rožencvet/rožni cvet – referring to ‘flowers blossoming’.
  • rženi cvet – literally ‘rye blossom’

Cultural Events in June

Jurjevanje – The oldest folklore festival in Slovenia that takes place every June in Bela Krajina.

July – julijmali srpan

A woman cutting the grass with a sickle, gardening
Mali srpan means small sickle.

July was once known as mali srpan, meaning ‘small sickle’. This is in reference to harvesting (reaping) that begins in July.

  • jakobnik/jakobščak – in reference to St James Day (July 25th)
  • pšeničnik – comes from pšenica meaning ‘wheat’
  • žetnik – from the word žetev meaning ‘reaping’

August – avgustveliki srpan

Paired up with July, August was once referred to as veliki srpan in Slovene. This literally means ‘large sickle’ but is often translated to ‘grand sickle’

  • kolovožnjakkolovoz means ‘cart track’, from kolo = ‘wheel’ and voz = ‘wagon’
  • medmašnikmed is ‘honey’ and mašnik is ‘priest’
  • mešnjak/velikomašnjak – meša ‘ maša ‘ a mass
  • otavnik – dried grass (after mowing)
  • porcijunkula – the day you get a pardon/indulgence (odpustek)
  • vršenj – vršenj = vršenje/vršeti separating seeds

Cultural Events in October

Idrija žlikrofi festival – A yearly festival held in the UNESCO World Heritage town of Idrija celebrating žlikrofi. These are small folded pasta that is stuffed with potato, onion, and pork fat mixture. It can be served plain or with a meat sauce

September – septemberkimavec

Kimavec referred to ‘nodding fruit’. As that sounds a bit silly, it was to signify the heavyweight of fruit on trees, and that it is time to harvest. Today the word ‘kimavec/ka‘ refers to a person who is a pushover.

  • jesenik/jesenščak jesen means ‘autumn’ while jeseni means ‘in the autumn’.
  • kozoprskkozo is ‘goat’ in proto slavic. Slovene texts say this is in reference to a type of goat cheese.
  • miholščak – a reference to St. Michael’s day, with Croatian origins, but also means ‘falling leaves’
  • poberuh – possibly from pobrati meaning to collect/pick up as in picking mushrooms in the woods – but we have no confirmation.
  • šmihelščnik – in reference to St. Michael’s Day September 29th.

October – oktobervinotok

October is the lucky month that was once named vinotok which literally translates to ‘wine flow’.

  • kozoprskkozo is ‘goat’ in proto slavic. Slovene texts say this is in reference to a type of goat cheese.
  • listopad – ‘falling leaves’
  • lukovščak – Croatian for ‘falling leaves’
  • moštnik – referring to ‘must’ (mošt) in winemaking.
  • obročnik – ring shaped
  • repar/repnik – referring to ‘turnip’ which is repa
  • vinec/vinščavino is wine in Slovene, so we got another wine reference!
  • vsesvéšček – from the Prekmurian dialect. No translations were found, but I believe it has to do with “vse več” meaning more and more. October is a big harvest time in Slovenia.

Cultural Events in October

Koline is a long-standing traditional practice in Slovenia which is still done to this day and involves the slaughter of a pig and making of sausages which can often include entire families, communities, and the public (depending on the event).

November – novemberlistopad

Listopad is a fun month name for November. List is ‘leaf’ in Slovene and padati means ‘to fall’ so literally translated it means ‘falling leaves’.

  • andrejščak – St. Andrews Day celebrated on November 30th.
  • gnilolist – gnilo is ‘rotten’ and list is ‘leaf’ so rotten leaf.
  • listognoj – list, again is ‘leaf’ and gnoj is ‘manure or pus’ which leaves some vivid visuals.
  • martinščak – in reference to St Martins Day (Martinovanje) celebrated on November 11th.
  • vsesvečnjak/vsesvečak – while I don’t have confirmation, this may be in reference to November 1st, Day of the Dead (dan mrtvih)

Cultural Events in November

Martinovanje – also known as Saint Martin’s Day or Feast of the Saint Martin is celebrated in a handful of countries and usually marks the end of Autumn and the slaughtering of farm animals. In Slovenia, it is the celebration of “new wine” and often involves a traditional meal and lots of wine!

December – decembergruden

December in Slovenian was once called gruden. The word gruda in Slovene means ‘clod’ in reference to lumps of soil. I found variations of this word used in other Slavic languages referencing the same thing. Some texts also claim that gruden can also refer to ‘biting cold’ in Slovene.

  • kolednjak – a kolednik (kolednica) is a carol singer
  • veliki božičnjak – božič means ‘Christmas’
  • božič – literally meaning Christmas
Sources:

Samorastnik št. 1: Literarno glasilo učencev in učenk predmetne stopnje

Wikipedia: Slovene months, Oktober, Slovanski koledar

Planinski vestnik: Glasilo Planinske zveze Slovenije (januar 1999)

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