And kanji with manga
Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Months in Japanese - Names & Counting

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 "two months" and not "second month" when we say something like ni-gatsu 2月.

What happens is that to say "two months" in Japanese you actually say ni-ka-getsu 二ヶ月 (2ヶ月), not nigatsu 二月 (2月).

To make matters more confusing, the words for certain numbers of months aren't what you'd expect. For example, ichi-ka-getsu 一ヶ月 is actually ikkagetsu. Likewise, rokkagetsu 六ヶ月, and jukkagetsu 十ヶ月 or jikkagetsu 十ヶ月. For 8 months, both hachikagetsu and hakkagetsu 八ヶ月 are valid.

This happens because of a change in pronunciation called sokuonbin 促音便 that joins some syllables by a small tsu.

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, plus counting months: "1 month," ikkagetsu 一ヶ月, "2 months," nikagetsu 二ヶ月, "3 months," sankagetsu 三ヶ月, "4 months," yonkagetsu 四ヶ月, "5 months," gokagetsu 五ヶ月, "6 months," rokkagetsu 六ヶ月, "7 months," nanakagetsu 七ヶ月, "8 months," hachikagetsu 八ヶ月, "9 months," kyuukagetsu 九ヶ月, "10 months," jukkagetsu, 十ヶ月, "11 months," juuikkagetsu 十一ヶ月, "12 months," juunikagetsu 十二ヶ月.

So if something happens in February, it happens in ni gatsu 二月, but if something takes 2 months of time to happen, then it's nikagetsu 二ヶ月.

By the way, the small ke that's pronounced ka か instead is actually a lazier abbreviated way of writing a counter kanji: nikagetsu 二箇月

The ヶ of ヶ月, coming from 箇月, with an example diagram of the word nikagetsu 二ヶ月.


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  1. Genki shows the pattern as 1,6,8,10 ろっかげつ not ろくかげつ。 tae kim shows the pattern as 1,6,10. Might want to double check.

    1. Thanks. You're right, I had made a mistake.

  2. Japanese dates and months system are pretty logical, which makes me as a learner happy ) Though they had some interesting names for months long before, like "mutsuki" - month of harmony, or "hazuki" - month of laves. Poetic...

    And they had japanese numerals over 10 too. Like, 千まり二十まり四 (1024 - chimarihatamari yottsu). But seems like they were too lazy to pronounce 'mari' everytime, so they prefered chinese instead.