 In Egyptian mythology, Month is an alternate spelling for Menthu.
The month is a unit of time, used with calendars, which is approximately as long as some natural period related to the motion of the Moon (i.e. "Moonth"). The traditional concept arose with the cycle of moon phases; such months are synodic months and last ~29.53 days. From excavated tally sticks, researchers have deduced that people counted days in relation to the Moon's phases as early as the Paleolithic age. Synodic months are still the basis of many calendars.
Astronomical background
The motion of the Moon in its orbit is very complicated and its period is not constant. Moreover, many cultures (most notably those using the Hebrew (Jewish) and Islamic calendars) start a month with the first appearance of the thin crescent of the new moon after sunset over the western horizon. The date and time of this actual observation depends on the exact geographical longitude as well as latitude, atmospheric conditions, the visual acuity of the observers, etc. Therefore the beginning and lengths of months in these calendars can not be accurately predicted. Most Jews currently follow a precalculated calendar, but the Karaites rely on actual moon observations.
Sidereal month
The actual period of the Moon's orbit as measured in a fixed frame of reference is known as a sidereal month (\sīdir'ēǝl, sǝ \), because it is the time it takes the Moon to return to the same position on the celestial sphere among the fixed stars (Latin: sidus): 27. 321662 days or about 27 1/3 days on average. This type of "month" has appeared among cultures in the Middle East, India, and China in the following way: they divided the sky in 28 lunar stations , characterized by asterisms (groups of stars), one for each day that the Moon follows its track among the stars.
Tropical month
It is customary to specify positions of celestial bodies with respect to the vernal equinox. Because of precession, this point moves back along the ecliptic. Therefore it takes the Moon less time to return to the equinox than to the same point amidst the fixed stars. This slightly shorter period is known as tropical month; cf. the analogous tropical year of the Sun. This type of month is not used much.
Anomalistic month
Like all orbits, the Moon's orbit is an ellipse rather than a circle. However, the orientation (as well as the shape) of this orbit is not fixed. In particular, the position of the extreme points (the line of the apsides: perigee and apogee), makes a full circle in about nine years. It takes the Moon longer to return to the same apsis because it moved ahead during one revolution. This longer period is called anomalistic month, and has an average length of about 27 1/2 days. The apparent diameter of the Moon varies with this period, and therefore this type of month has some relevance for the prediction of eclipses (see saros), whose extent, duration, and appearance depend on the exact apparent diameter of the Moon.
Draconic month
The orbit of the Moon lies in a plane that is tilted with respect to the plane of the ecliptic: it has an inclination of about five degrees. The line of intersection of these planes defines two points on the celestial sphere: the ascending and descending node. The plane of the Moon's orbit precesses over a full circle in about 18.6 years, so the nodes move backwards over the ecliptic with the same period. Hence the time it takes the Moon to return to the same node is again shorter than a sidereal month: this is called the draconic (\drācŏn'ĭk\) month, which has an average length of about 27 1/5 days. It is important for predicting eclipses: these take place when the Sun, Earth and Moon are on a line. Now (as seen from the Earth) the Sun moves along the ecliptic, while the Moon moves along its own orbit that is inclined on the ecliptic. The three bodies are only on a line when the Moon is on the ecliptic, i.e. when it is in one of the nodes. The "draconic" month refers to the mythological dragon that lives in the nodes and regularly eats the Sun or Moon at an eclipse.
Synodic month
The cause of the moon phases is that from the Earth we see the part of the Moon that is illuminated by the Sun from different angles as the Moon traverses its orbit. So the appearance depends on the position of the Moon with respect to the Sun (as seen from the Earth). Because the Earth orbits the Sun, it takes the Moon extra time (after completing a sidereal month, i.e. a full circle) to catch up and return to the same position with respect to the Sun. This longer period is called synodic month (\sĭnŏd'ĭk\) (from Greek syn hodô or σὺν ὁδῴ, with the way, i.e. the Moon travelling with the Sun). Because of the perturbations of the orbits of the Earth and Moon, the actual time between lunations may range from about 29.27 to about 29.83 days.
Month lengths
Here is a list of the average length of the various astronomical lunar months [1]. These are not constant, so a firstorder (linear) approximation of the secular change is provided:
Valid for the epoch J2000 (1 Jan. 2000 12:00 TT):
sidereal month: 
27.321661547 + 0.000000001857×y days 
tropical month: 
27.321582241 + 0.000000001506×y days 
anomalistic month: 
27.554549878 − 0.000000010390×y days 
draconic month: 
27.212220817 + 0.000000003833×y days 
synodic month: 
29.530588853 + 0.000000002162×y days 
Note: time expressed in ephemeris time (more precisely Terrestrial Time) with days of 86400 SI seconds. y is years since the epoch (2000), expressed in Julian years of 365.25 days. Note that for calendrical calculations, one would probably use days measured in the time scale of Universal Time, which follows the somewhat unpredictable rotation of the Earth, and progressively accumulates a difference with ephemeris time called ΔT.
[1] Derived from the ELP200085; see: M.ChaprontTouzé, J. Chapront (1991): "Lunar Tables and Programs from 4000 B.C. to A.D.8000". WillmannBell, Richmond VA; ISBN 0943396336
Calendrical implications
Continued fractions of the decimal value for the synodic month quoted above give successive approximations for the average length of this month in terms of fractions of a day. So in the list below, after the number of days listed in the numerator, an integer number of months as listed in the denominator have been completed:
 29 days
 30
 59/2
 443/15
 502/17
 1447/49
 25101/850
This is useful for designing purely lunar calendars, where months of 29 and 30 days occur in some pattern that repeats after some number of months. A recently invented pure lunar calendar called the Yerm Calendar [1] makes use of all of the above approximations.
More importantly, in lunisolar calendars, an integral number of synodic months is fitted into some integral number of years. The average length of the tropical year divided by the average length of the synodic month, i.e. the number of synodic months in a year, is (for epoch J2000):
 12.368266392
Continued fractions of this decimal value give optimal approximations for this value. So in the list below, after the number of synodic months listed in the numerator, an integer number of tropical years as listed in the denominator have been completed:
 12
 25/2
 37/3
 99/8

235/19 Metonic cycle
 4131/334
The last three have actually been used in calendars.
Months in various calendars
the Julian and Gregorian calendars
The Gregorian calendar, like the Julian calendar before it, has twelve months:

January, with 31 days;

February, with 28 days, 29 in leap years, or 30 on 3 rare occasions;

March, with 31 days;

April, with 30 days;

May, with 31 days;

June, with 30 days;

July, with 31 days;

August, with 31 days;

September, with 30 days;

October, with 31 days;

November, with 30 days;

December, with 31 days.
For the rationale behind the unusual day lengths, see February and August.
One of Wikipedia's sister projects, Wiktionary, provides translations of each of the Gregorian/Julian calendar months into a dozen or more languages. Monthbymonth links are provided here: January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December.
Months existing in the Roman calendar in the past include:
One mnemonic for remembering the lengths of the months is to hold up your two fists with the index knuckle of your left hand against the index knuckle of your right hand. Then, starting with January from the little knuckle of your left hand, count knuckle, space, knuckle, space through the months. A knuckle represents a month of 31 days, and a space represents a short month.
Another one is:

 Thirty days hath September,
 April, June, and [dull] November;
 All the rest have thirtyone,
 Excepting February alone,
 Which hath but twentyeight, in fine,
 Till leap year make it twentynine.


 or, an alternate ending:

 Which has eight and a score,
 Until leap year gives it one day more.


 or, another alternate ending:

 Which hath twentyeight days clear,
 And twentynine in each leap year.
The Hindu Calendar
The Hindu Calendar has various systems of naming the months. The months in the lunar calendar are:
 Chaitra
 Vaishaakha
 Jyaishtha
 Aashaadha
 Shraavana
 Bhaadrapada
 Aashvayuja
 Kaartika
 Maargashiirsha
 Pausha
 Maagha
 Phaalguna
These are also the names used in the Indian National Calendar for the newly redefined months.
The names in the solar calendar are just the names of the zodiac sign in which the sun travels. They are
 Mesha
 Vrishabha
 Mithuna
 Kataka
 Simha
 Kanyaa
 Tulaa
 Vrishcika
 Dhanus
 Makara
 Kumbha
 Miina
the Islamic calendar
There are also twelve months in the Islamic calendar. They are named as follows:

Muharram ul Haram (or shortened to Muharram) محرّم
 Safar صفر
 Rabi`ulAwwal (Rabi' I) ربيع الأول
 Rabi`ulAkhir (or Rabi` alTHaany) (Rabi' II) ربيع الآخر أو ربيع الثاني
 JumaadaulAwwal (Jumaada I) جمادى الأول
 JumaadaulAkhir (or Jumaada alTHaany) (Jumaada II) جمادى الآخر أو جمادى الثاني

Rajab رجب

Sha'aban شعبان

Ramadhan رمضان

Shawwal شوّال
 Dhul Qadah ذو القعدة (or Thw alQi`dah)
 Dhul Hijja ذو الحجة (or Thw alHijjah)
For details, please see Islamic calendar.
the Iranian/Persian calendar
The Iranian / Persian calendar, currently used in Iran and Afghanistan, also has 12 months. The Persian names are included in the parentheses.
 Farvardin (فروردین), 31 days
 Ordibehesht (اردیبهشت), 31 days

Khordad (خرداد), 31 days
 Tir (تیر), 31 days
 Mordad (مرداد), 31 days
 Shahrivar (شهریور), 31 days

Mehr (مهر), 30 days

Aban (آبان), 30 days
 Azar (آذر), 30 days

Dey (دی), 30 days

Bahman (بهمن), 30 days

Esfand (اسفند), 29 days (30 days in leap years)
See also
Last updated: 09122005 02:39:13