The months of the Jewish calendar in the Tanakh or Hebrew Bible are numbered in relation to the Exodus from Egypt of B'nei Yisrael I.E. the Hebrews, which occurred in the month of Nisan or Nissan (I.E. Nissan or Nisan is referred to as the "first" month with reference to the Exodus from Egypt, the next month, Iyar or Iyyar, is referred to as the "second" month with reference to the Exodus from Egypt, and so on), however, there are a few exceptions to this month numbering system. Four months of the Jewish calendar are also mentioned by name in Pre-Exilic times I.E. before the exile of most of the Jews from the Kingdom of Judah to Babylonia in 587 B.C.E. or 586 B.C.E. These months are: (1) Aviv, (2) Ziv, (3) Eisanim or Ethanim, and (4) Bul. In Post-Exilic times, when the Jews were allowed to return from Persia after the Persians conquered the Babylonians in 539 B.C.E. (alternate date claims: 538 B.C.E., 537 B.C.E., and 536 B.C.E.), the above-mentioned four months in the Jewish calendar were known as: (1) Nisan or Nissan, (2) Iyyar or Iyar, (3) Tishrei or Tishri, and (4) Marcheshvan or Cheshvan or Marheshvan or Heshvan, respectively.
The first table of Jewish calendar months traces the origin of each Post-Exilic Hebrew month name to its Babylonian and ultimately, Sumerian roots where possible as well as stating the original meaning of the month names chosen by the Hebrews for use in the Jewish calendar. The table also outlines some rabbinical interpretations pertaining to the meaning of each Jewish calendar month name. Early Babylonia was divided into two separate areas: Akkad in the northern part of Babylonia, and Sumer in the southern part of Babylonia, the latter which was established before the former. Babylonia itself was located in the region of Mesopotamia, between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in what is now Iraq. A note about the numerical subscript in some Sumerian month names, for instance, "nisag(2)". This numerical subscript is part of various numerical systems created and used by Assyriologists to determine the particular homophone being used.
The second table simply outlines the Pre-Exilic month names and their descriptive meanings, first in Hebrew and then in English.
Note: Regarding all aforementioned dates on this Months of the Jewish Calendar web page, see the footnote near the bottom of this web page.
|Babylonian Month Name||Month Number||Meaning/Theme and Origin of Babylonian Month Name (Babylonian and Biblical)||Hebrew Month Name(s)||Month Number||Meaning/Theme of Hebrew Month Name (Babylonian and Biblical)|
|Nisanu||1||- Babylonian name: Nisānu = Sanctuary or First Month.
- Akkadian name: nissanu, Nisannu
- Canaanite meaning: move, start
- Sumerian name: nisag(2)
- Sumerian meaning: firstfruits (offering)
|- Nisan / Nissan / Niy an (Post-Exilic)
- 'aviyv / Aviv (Pre-Exilic)
|1||The word "Nisan" or "Nissan" is a cognate to the word "nissim", meaning "miracles"./Miracles, redemption|
|Ayaru||2||- Babylonian name: Āru or Ayaru = Bull or "Herd" and "To Prosper".
- Akkadian name: Ajaru, Ajjaru
- Canaanite meaning: to be bright, flowers
|- Iyar / Iyyar (Post-Exilic)
- Ziv (Pre-Exilic)
|2||Kabbalah: Hebrew acronym for "Ani Hashem Rof'echa": "I am the L-rd your healer". The initials of these three Hebrew words, Ani Hashem Rofe'echa, are Aleph-Yod-Resh, the letters of the word Iyar./Month of Divine healing. The month of Iyar is about healing or refining ourselves.|
|Simanu||3||- Babylonian name: Simanu = Brick-making.
- Akkadian name: Simanu, Sivanu
- Canaanite meaning: appoint, mark
- Sumerian name: zib(2)
|Sivan / iyvan / Si'-van||3||(1) Kabbalah: Rabbi Yizchak Luria (The "Ari", 1534-1572) opinion: the sense associated with Sivan is the power to "walk", meaning to move and accelerate in our service of G-d. During Sivan, Jews receive the ability to walk, strongly and steadily, on two legs. They receive the Halacha, Jewish Law, whose name is derived from the word for walking, 'halicha'; (2) The Vilna Gaon s Opinion (Rabbi Elijah ben Solomon Zalman or Rabbi Eliyahu the Gaon of Vilna, 1720-1797, The "Grah"): Sivan is the month of "vision". In Sivan everybody saw the revelation on Mount Sinai./The Giving of the Torah to Moses on Mount Sinai by G-d.|
|Du'uzu||4||- Babylonian name: Du'uzu, Dumuzi, Dumuzu = Tammuz or "taking (i.e. scattering) seed".
- Akkadian name: Tamuzu, Enkidu
- Canaanite meaning: from Akkadian, meaning "vegetation G-d"
- The name "Tammuz" seems to have been derived from the Akkadian form "Tammuzi", based on early Sumerian "Damu-zid". The later standard Sumerian form, "Dumu-zid", in turn became "Dumuzi" in Akkadian (An ancient and Eastern branch of the Semitic languages). In Babylonia, the month Tammuz was established in honor of the eponymous god Tammuz, who originated as an Akkadian shepherd-G-d. Tammuz became known as an ancient nature deity that was worshiped in Babylonia. A G-d of agriculture and flocks, he personified the creative powers of spring.
|Tammuz / Tamuz / Thammuz / Thamuz||4||(1) Kabbalah: Rabbi Yizchak Luria (The "Ari", 1534-1572) opinion: the sense associated with the month of Tammuz, is "vision". The main part of the spies' trip to see the Land of Israel took place during Tammuz; (2) The Vilna Gaon s Opinion (Rabbi Elijah ben Solomon Zalman or Rabbi Eliyahu the Gaon of Vilna, 1720-1797, The "Grah"): in Tammuz, the spies "walked" in the land of Israel. Another meaning for Tammuz is that it is a corruption of the name Dumuzi, the Akkadian sun-god. Scholarly commentaries also explain that the root of Tammuz means "heat". The idol was called this because it would be heated so that its eyes would appear to tear (they were made from a material which would melt). Also, another explanation is that the month of Tammuz, the main month of the summer, is connected to "heat"./Heat, Sin of the Golden Calf.|
|Abu||5||- Babylonian name: Abu = Torches or "Fiery" Month.
- Akkadian name: Abu
- Canaanite meaning: 'ab, hostile, bulrushes
- Sumerian name: ab-ba
|Av / 'av||5||Kabbalah: The word "Av" literally means "father" (or "Menachem-Av", the "consoler of Av") in Hebrew. It derives from the root which means "to will" or "to desire."/This name is used to express the understanding that even before we are ready to think of the approaching "Days of Awe," our "Forgiving Father [read Parent]" is already forgiving us.|
|Ululu||6||- Babylonian name: Ulūlu = Purification or the "Mission Of Ishtar".
- Akkadian name: ululu, Ululu, elulu
- Canaanite meaning: to shout for joy
- Sumerian name: a-la, la-la, ul
|Elul / 'Eluwl||6||One rabbinical interpretation is that the word "Elul" means "search." Elul is a time to search our hearts. During the month of Elul we "search" our hearts for evil and repent in preparation for Rosh Hashanah. The Targum on the words 'losur osah' (to search it [the land)] Bamidbar (13:32) translates "Le'allelah yas ar'ah". From this it is derived that the word "Elul" means "search" or "inspect", alluding to the nature of our task during this month. Another rabbinical interpretation of "Elul": "Elul" means "returned with," specifically with those Jews who returned to Israel after the 70-year Exile in Babylonia./Repentance|
|Tashritu||7||- Babylonian name: Tashritu, Tišritum = Beginning or Beginnings (ie. the start of the 2nd half-year) or the "Resplendent Mound" (The 'mound' is a reference to the temples which were erected on natural or artificial eminences.).
- Akkadian name: tasritu, Tashritu
- Canaanite meaning: begin, dedicate
- Sumerian name: a...ru, -u4-sar
- Sumerian meaning: new moon.
|- Tishrei / Tishri / Tisrei / Tisri (Post-Exilic)
- Eisanim / 'Eythaniym / Ethanim (Pre-Exilic)
|7||One opinion says that "Tishrei" means "to begin", for the beginning of Tishrei meant that it was the beginning of an agricultural year or farming year. Another opinion states that the word "Tishrei" means apparently derives from the root word "seru", which means "to begin". This "beginning" is in reference to the beginning of the autumn harvest and the commercial year. Still another opinion states that "Tishrei" derives from the Akkadian word "Tashritu" or from the Aramaic word "sherei" meaning "to begin". The Chassidic founder, the Baal Shem Tov, noted that the word "Tishrei" has the connotation of forgiveness, and so he avoided mentioning the word "Tishrei". Chassidic Sages also stated that the word "Tishrei" also means "released" and they explained that the month was so named because in it G-d "releases and lets go all the sins of the Jewish people". However, since Shabbos is a time when we transcend totally above sin, to the point where it is not proper to even request its forgiveness or atonement, therefore the Baal Shem Tov who was speaking in the context of "Shabbos Mevorchim" (the Shabbat before the new month; literally, a Shabbat in which we bless the upcoming month.), referred to the month as the seventh month. The Kol Bo ("Kol Bo" means "All is in it". The "Kol Bo" is an important anonymous work on Jewish law, first printed in Naples, Italy, in 1490.) states that the word "Tishrei" is the Arama'ic word for "You will forgive", a clear enough hint as to the essence of the month.|
|Arach-Samna / Arakhsamna / Arachsamna||8||- Babylonian name: Samna, Arach-Samna / Arakhsamna / Arachsamna = Laying Foundations or Eighth month or Opening Of Dams (for the irrigation of the fields.).
- Akkadian name: arahsamnu, Arachsamma
- Canaanite meaning: drop or rainy season
|- Cheshvan / Marcheshvan / Heshvan / Marheshvan / Heshwan / keswan (Post-Exilic)
- Bul / Buwl (Pre-Exilic)
|8||Kabbalah: The root of the word Cheshvan is "chash", which in Hebrew means "quiet". The very name of the month commands us to be still, to be quiet. After the building up of the dramatic events of the past two months, Elul and Tishrei, to the "Day of Judgement", Rosh Ha-Shanah, when the entire world stands at attention in front of G-d, the next month of Cheshvan is a period of quiet from all the tumult. In Tractate Sanhedrin of the Talmud, it is explained that Cheshvan or Marcheshvan means "the movement of the lips". During the month of Tishrei, when a Jew is consumed with praying and intense study of the Torah, his mouth becomes a conduit for G-dliness. The impact of these holy vibrations of the lips are still felt in the month of Cheshvan or Marcheshvan, and G-d willing, throughout the year to come.|
|Kislimu||9||- Babylonian name: Kislimu = name is of uncertain origin; possibly: "Copious Fertility".
- Akkadian name: kislimu, kisliwu, Kissilimu
- Canaanite meaning: uncertain
|Kislev / Kiclev / Chisleu||9||One opinion states that the word "Kislev" shares the same root as the Hebrew word "kislah", which means, strangely enough, both folly and trust. In other words, the meaning of kislah depends upon whom you trust. Another opinion states that the name Kislev derives from the Hebrew word for "security" and "trust." There are two states of trust, one active and one passive, both of which are manifest in the month of Kislev. The miracle of Chanukah reflects the active trust (I.E. "Bitachon", meaning "confidence" in Hebrew) of the Hasmoneans or Chashmonaim (I.E. Maccabees or Maacabim) to stand up and fight against the Hellenistic empire (and its culture). Kislev's sense of sleep reflects the passive trust that G-d's providence always guards over Israel. The Kabbalistic view is similar: The word "Kislev" derives from one of the Hebrew words for "trust". Trust can take both an active and passive form, and Kislev embodies both these aspects. Another opinion states that the month of Kislev has always been associate with much joy and happiness, for it is in that month that we celebrate the festive Holiday of Lights - Chanukah. This opinion states that the word Kislev has many meanings, and one of them is to give charity with a full heart , teaching us that the best way to realize the joy of our holidays is to share our blessings with others. A Reform-Jewish opinion states that Kislev, the eighth month, is thought to mean the season of mud and rain, being one of the rainiest months in Israel.|
|Shabatu||10||- Babylonian name: Shabatu, Šabaṭu = Rain or "Destructive Rain".
- Akkadian name: Shabatu
- Canaanite meaning: uncertain
- Sumerian name: a...d
|Shevat / Se'-bat||11||Kabbalah: The word Shevat itself transforms to Shabbat (since the two letters tet and tav, both letters of the tongue, are phonetically interchangeable). Another Kabbalistic opinion states that the word "shevat" is related to the Hebrew word for a staff or rod. A staff can be used as a symbol of power, or as a cane to lean on. It serves a master. This is an underlying theme of the month. Still another Kabbalistic opinion states that the word "shevat" means a branch or a stick, yet there are many other words in Hebrew that express the same thing: makeil (staff), mateh (rod), eitz (a piece of wood), etc. Sheivet, by contrast, refers to a branch that is soft. According to this opinion, it is obvious that their Kabbalistic Rabbis chose this name for the month because on the Fifteenth of the month all Jews will celebrate Tu B'Shevat, the New Year for Trees. And another Kabbalistic opinion states that the word "Shevat" is also related to the concept of a royal rod or staff. In the same way that a king is blessed with riches and all of life's pleasures are accessible to him, so too is every Jew considered a prince or princess, deserving of the very best. This is reflected in the delicacy and assortment of fruits we eat on Tu B'Shevat. Also, just as Moses disciplined the Jews with love and compassion rather than severity, we must always temper our authority (our "royal scepter") with kindness and concern. This opinion also notes an interesting connection that exists between the month of Shevat and the mezuza. Every letter in Hebrew has a numerical value. If you add up the letters of the word Shevat (shin-veit-tet) it equals 314, the same as Sha-dai (shin-daled-yud), one of G-d's Names. This Name is found on the outside of the mezuza, our protection from harm. In the month of Shevat, when we are blessed with a great deal of affluence (as demonstrated on Tu B'Shevat), we must ask G-d for special protection to guard us from taking our good fortune for granted. A Jew must always recognize his special mission in life, that G-d has put him here to refine and elevate the world for a higher purpose. When we live up to this responsibility and take up our "royal scepter," we will indeed serve as a "light unto the nations" and have a positive influence on all our surroundings.|
|Tebetu||11||- Babylonian name: Tebetu, Ṭebētum = (the) Forthcoming of Water or violent rains.
- Akkadian name: tebetu, Tebetu
- Canaanite meaning: sink, dip
|Tevet / Teveth / tava' / taval||10||Tevet means "ten" in Hebrew; Tevet shares the same root as the Hebrew word "tov", which means "good." However, in this month, we commemorate many sad events, including the Tenth of Tevet. A Kabbalistic opinion states the following: The letter ayin means "eye" in Hebrew. The month of Tevet is the month of the rectification and nullification of the "evil eye". The word Tevet itself comes from the Hebrew word "tov", meaning "good," and referring to "tov ayin", "the goodly eye" (the source of the power of blessing, as it is said: "the goodly eye shall bless"). This rectification starts with the gazing at the Chanukah candles. All destructive process begins with the "evil eye" of hatred, the hatred of the profane to the holy (the secret of ten, the holy number).|
|Adaru||12||- Babylonian name: Adār or Adaru or Addaru = Adar = Threshing or "grain-cutting".
- Akkadian name: adaru or Addaru
- Canaanite meaning: to be dark
- Sumerian name: e
|Adar / Addar / Ataroth-Adar / se'or||12||Kabbalah: The word Adar is cognate to the Hebrew word "adir", meaning "strength". Adar is the month of good fortune for the Jewish people. According to this Kabbalistic opinion, their rabbinic sages say of Adar: "Its mazal (fortune) is strong". Another Kabbalistic opinion says that "Adar" means "exalted", "praised", "power", and "strength". It refers to Tehillim 93:4, where it says: "the L-rd is (Adir) mighty on High". This opinion goes on to further quote the Talmud in Beitzah 15a: "He who desires his property to be preserved for him should plant therein an Adar (type of tree), for it says: 'The L-rd is mighty on High.'". This opinion states that just as we decrease our joy because we are separated from the Shechina in the month of Av, so too in Adar we rejoice because the whole month is a time when the Shechina is close to us. The Midrash says that when Hashem Yisbarach (a name for G-d) commanded Moshe Rabbeinu (a name for Moses) to construct the Mishkan (tent), He made the following request: "asei Li kiton echad v'edor beineichem" (make for Me a small chamber (I.E. the Mishkan) so that I may live in your midst). The Sefas Emes, quoting his grandfather (the Chidushei HaRim), points out that the word "v'edor" ("and I will dwell" in Hebrew) is related to the word "adar" - the very name of this month implies that it is a time when the Shechina dwells among us "v'edor beineichem". Another opinion, that of Rashi, explains that the reference to Adar in Beitzah 15a means "continuity and strength" in that context. A Reform-Jewish opinion states that the word "Adar" means "beauty", as in the beauty of the season contained in Adar, Spring.|
|Biblical Month Name||Month Number||Meaning of Biblical Month Name (Descriptive)|
|Aviv||1||Chodesh Ha-Aviv ["month of Spring" in Hebrew (Exodus 13:4, 23:15, 34:18, and Deuteronomy 16:1)]|
|Ziv||2||Chodesh Ziv ["month of Radiance" in Hebrew (I Kings 6:1, 6:37)]|
|3rd month||3||3rd month in relation to the month of Aviv|
|4th month||4||4th month in relation to the month of Aviv|
|5th month||5||5th month in relation to the month of Aviv|
|6th month||6||6th month in relation to the month of Aviv|
|Eisanim or Ethanim||7||Yerach Eisanim ["month of Natural Forces" in Hebrew (I Kings 8:2)]|
|Bul||8||Yerach Bul ["month of bountiful harvests" in Hebrew (I Kings 6:38)]|
|9th month||9||9th month in relation to the month of Aviv|
|10th month||10||10th month in relation to the month of Aviv|
|11th month||11||11th month in relation to the month of Aviv|
|12th month||12||12th month in relation to the month of Aviv|
Footnote regarding the aforementioned dates on this Months of the Jewish Calendar web page: all dates discussed on this website are based on the modern Gregorian calendar, however, these dates are but one secular scholarly deduction; there are many other secular scholarly deductions as well as traditional Jewish chronological dates in addition to modern Hebrew/Jewish calendar dates regarding the timeline of events in Jewish history. To see a table of some important events in Jewish history discussed on this website and their various dates deduced from traditional Jewish sources, the modern Hebrew/Jewish calendar, and secular historical timelines, check out our Jewish History Timeline web page.