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Month Names in Japanese

Wednesday, March 8, 2017
The names of the months in Japanese are not like the names of the months in English. In English, we have these very name-like names: January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November and December. In Japanese, however, they are literally just numbers.

Yup, you heard that right.

In Japanese, the names of the months are more like "month 1" and "month 2." The Japanese numbers, from 1 to 12, are: ichi, ni, san, shi, go, roku, shichi, hachi, ku, jyuu, jyuu ichi and jyuu ni. These numbers can be written as kanji or as Arabic numerals like we do in English. See:

ichigatsu 一月 (or 1月) is "month 1," January in Japanese.
nigatsu 二月 (2月). is "month 2," February in Japanese.
sangatsu 三月 (3月) is "month 3," March in Japanese.
shigatsu 四月 (4月) is "month 4," April in Japanese.
gogatsu 五月 (5月) is "month 5," May in Japanese.
rokugatsu 六月 (6月) is "month 6," June in Japanese.
shichigatsu 七月 (7月) is "month 7," July in Japanese.
hachigatsu 八月 (8月) is "month 8," August in Japanese.
kugatsu 九月 (9月) is "month 9," September in Japanese.
jyuugatsu 十月 (10月) is "month 10," October in Japanese.
jyuuichigatsu 十一月 (11月) is "month 11," November in Japanese.
jyuunigatsu 十二月 (12月) is "month 12," December in Japanese.

As we can see above, every Japanese month name, if you can call it a name, is just a number followed by the kanji for month: gatsu 月.

There are no kanji for each individual month, so if you want to write the months in kanji, the closest thing you can get is using the kanji for the numbers. Note that people do write 3月 instead of 三月, with Arabic numerals instead of kanji. Just because there are kanji for numbers doesn't mean they are always used, sometimes they are, sometimes not.

(by the way, name of the anime 3-gatsu no lion 3月のライオン means literally "Lion of March")

Not The Moon

The word for "moon" in Japanese is tsuki 月. It has the same kanji, but a different reading. (see kun'yomi and on'yomi readings of kanji). I can't really say the moon has nothing to do with the months, but take care not to mistake one word with the other, because they are not the same.

Also, the words for the moon phases in Japanese include stuff like "new moon," shingetsu 新月. That is not "new month," it's "new moon."

Difference Between 月 and ヶ月 (Gatsu And Kagetsu)

Now, if you're familiar with the Japanese counters, you might have noticed the names of the months look like we are actually saying "six months" and not "sixth month" when we say something like roku gatsu 6月.

This is normal to think, because it's confusing as fuck.

What happens is that to say "six months" in Japanese you actually say rokukagetsu 六ヶ月 (6ヶ月), not rokugatsu 六月 (6月). Note it''s kagetsu かげつ not gatsu がつ. Here's a list:

The names of the months in Japanese: "January" ichigatsu 一月, "February" nigatsu 二月 "March" sangatsu 三月 "April" shigatsu 四月 "May" gogatsu 五月 "June" rokugatsu 六月 "July" shichigatsu 七月 "August" hachigatsu 八月 "September" kugatsu 九月 "October" jyuugatsu 十月 "November" jyuuichigatsu 十一月 "Dezember" jyuunigatsu 十二月

So if something happens in June, it happens in roku gatsu 六月, but if something takes 6 months of time to happen, then it's roku kagetsu 六ヶ月.

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